Following on the most lackluster third quarters in the Lane Kiffin era, Pat Haden and the entire USC Football program has moved in a different direction at the top and have relieved Lane Kiffin of his duties. Opting to buy out the remaining $10 million left on his deal that would have ended after the season, the Trojans are officially moving forward from a four-year Kiffin reign filled with extreme lows and some shocking highs along the way.
The immediate man placed in charged will be Ed Orgeron, USC's only assistant with head coaching experience dating back to his days in Ole Miss. But back to the current state of affairs for just one brief moment.
Who witnessed Lane Kiffin firing? I'm told administrators were Steve Lopes, Mark Jackson and J.K. McKay along with Pat Haden #USC— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) September 29, 2013
At a time when the Lane Kiffin Era was entering its darkest hour, dropping to 0-2 in Pac-12 play and allowing 62 points on Saturday, change has finally arrived. And to that broader point, outside of an impressive win over Oregon on the road and a grinding battle with Stanford back in 2011, the Trojans have struggled mightily when it matters most.
Lane Kiffin ends his second run on the coaching staff with a much-maligned 28-15 record through three-plus seasons for Troy. In the last two seasons alone, USC is 5-6 in the Pac-12 and 0-4 against ranked opponents. Beginning with his hiring for the 2010 season attempting to salvage the Trojans out of complete bombardment for NCAA Sanctions, then-USC AD Mike Garrett brought in Kiffin for the purposes of rallying the troops and working through difficult times on campus.
And while the 2011 season (10-2) was rather impressive in terms of quality victories and dominating performances over UCLA, the fact remains that the flash in the pan which is Lane Kiffin as head coach just never really panned out.
Kiffin had been retained by Haden for this season, the final year of his contract, despite the Trojans' three-game skid to end last season while losing five of their last six. That included a 38-28 loss to crosstown rival UCLA, a 22-13 defeat to then-No. 1 Notre Dame and a Hyundai Sun Bowl setback to Georgia Tech, 21-7, on New Year's Eve to cap the season.
That being said, the USC program still has the location, resources and commitment to win big in college football. Sustained mediocrity really isn't tolerable, but as you can tell by fans reaction, not winning games (and also struggling to win convincingly) life becomes extremely difficult in the big USC Football town if things go array beyond repair.
Going off that note for a second, Kiffin actually served the program somewhat well by bringing in top recruiting talents over the last few seasons. The problem was and always has been that Kiffin could never develop those players into elite-level players by finding ways to undermine their skills and talents on the field. And these stats through two games in conference speak wonders about the horrendous woes USC was suffering under Kiffin's watch.
USC Total Pac-12 rank PPG 26.0 Last Yards PG 380.4 Last 3rd down 27.7% Last Pass YPG 189.8 11th -- ESPN Stats & Information
Looking at the current USC roster, you see a program crunched by injuries and scholarship reductions by carrying just over 50 scholarships players for the Tempe trip. Cody Kessler emerged as the Trojans starting quarterback, and if fans have forgotten, started the game 8-8 passing in the first quarter, finishing the game 20-29 throwing for nearly 300 yards.
The two-headed tandem of Justin Davis and Tre Madden (250 combined yards rushing vs. ASU) continue to punish the opposition in the ground-n-pound attack. Yet unfortunately, the pass protection has been rather porous even under the tutelage of co-offensive line coach Mike Summers early on this season which in part, has stifled the vertical game.
Defensively meanwhile, after limiting opponents to under 50 points in their first four games, the Trojans were gashed to record heights in Tempe allowing Taylor Kelly to rush and pass for over 400 yards of total offense. All of that coming in a major chunk of the third quarter when USC was outscored 28-0 after taking a 21-20 lead in the opening minute.
Entering as one of the bright spots on this team, USC's defense under Clancy Pendergast looked slow and quite unable to adjust on the fly sweeps and read options that they performed so well against vs. Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton.
The leaders of this defense in Hayes Pullard, Lamar Dawson, Devon Kennard and Dion Bailey will also be called upon to regain their top-ten ranking in rush defense, sacks, turnovers and yards allowed following a fortuitously placed bye week. The time for excuses has come and gone out the door just like Lane Kiffin's quick departure from LAX terminal.
The future is now. No more sideline antics, random coaches poll moments or even Lane being Lane deflated ball scandals. USC Football has taken a harsh stance, one that fans would hope results in a more inspired team on and off the football field, because lets face the facts that underperforming to that degree will never cut it in Los Angeles.