Let me be clear...I like this team. I like everything they have stood for. I like how they have banded together during the difficult times in the wake of the NCAA.
I also like Lane Kiffin. In the face of what was coming he seemed to be the best option to keep this program on track knowing that USC was going to be carpet bombed by the NCAA. I do not think he was most qualified coach in terms of what we want to see on the field but the program needed stability off the field.
No coach is perfect, they all have little flaws that come back to bite them so the trick is minimizing those flaws.
Kiffin has done a great job at changing the culture of the program, that is obvious. He has recruited some of the best talent this program has ever seen. Once again though, it is still difficult to manage a team that has had so much hype placed upon them from all corners of the CFB world.
These kids have to put up with a million distractions as it is so Kiffin's misguided war on Scott Wolf (deserved or not) was a big distraction. This was a lose/lose. Pissing off the press only only puts a target on your chest... issues like the Wolf controversy also takes away from game prep.
So much for prep over hype.
I think we can dispose of that saying for the rest of the year.
Getting kicked in the teeth will take the attention elsewhere so hopefully the pressure will be taken off this team and they can refocus.
- - -
More troubling to me...Kiffin still has issues in managing the game. There is no question that Kiifin is feeling the pressure of the expectations that have been put out there. You could see it in his dealings with the press this week. Kiffin doesn't look like he is as aggressive as he has been in the past. We saw it last week with Syracuse...this week reinforces it.
The 4th and 2 call on the fake field goal was mind boggling. Heck, it wasn't even a fake, Stanford knew what was coming. Why not just take the points or get the two yards? Going for the home run play to Vainku just wasn't smart, if you want to do that, get the ball to Woods or Lee. The bigger issue there is that Kiffin has no faith in his back-up kicker.
Not going deep more was an issue as well, I would have liked to see the Stanford secondary challenged more, if Woods and Lee are the best tandem in D-1 then they should have been used to keep Stanford on their toes. That might have taken the pressure off the O-Line. No slant routes, no play action and I can't remember if I saw any bootlegs last night either. We couldn't even use the shotgun effectively with a number of poor snaps I saw last night. Because the O-line wasn't giving Barkley the time he needed I could see why the quick dump WR screens were the only weapon Barkley could use and there were issues there as well. But you still have to try...
Calling the draw play to McNeal with one minute left is mind boggling. I mean, really? With the way Stanford was blasting the line there was no need to drop guys back into coverage so the call was a gift to Stanford. I have no idea what Kiffin was thinking there.
That is just the offense.
The defense kept us in this game but they had a couple of issues also.
Once again the cover-2 allowed Stanford to make plays. I really thought Monte would bring more man coverage into play...I mean its not like Stanford has great WR's. Didn't see a lot of D-line rotation so the gents got gassed and you saw it towards the end of the game.
Why Kiffin didn't blitz more is a head scratcher as well. When pressured, Nunes had trouble making plays. I liked USC's aggressive tone last night but once again guys were going for the big hit instead of wrapping the player up. There were also time that Stanford took advantage of USC when they were a little over aggressive...I can live with that...better to go down fighting.
I could go on.
Managing expectations is tough in the 24-hour news cycle...I get it.
But for all the talk about Prep over Hype, Kiffin didn't make his job easier with the Wolf and injury distraction and it showed, he got schooled yesterday and at times it seemed like he couldn't get out of his own way.
This team will bounce back I'm sure, but now I could care less less about the post-season. We still have two years left of reduced schollies and it only gets tougher with rest of the conference spending freely on coaches without having scholarship reductions. the negative recruiting will get worse.
Kiffin said he had a plan to manage the program during these dark days...he needs to stick to that plan so when the program comes off the scholarship reductions they can hit the ground running.
All other successes to me will be gravy.