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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lane Kiffin Coaches USC Like They’re the ’04 Trojans

USC football has a problem on its hands and the head coach needs to recognize it. As stated in the title, Lane Kiffin coaches his current team as if they’re the 2004 squad. That team went 13-0, blistered Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl, and outclassed many of its opponents. They had the sixth-highest scoring offense in college football and third-best scoring defense. They were loaded with future pros. Lane Kiffin coaches his current Trojans team as if they’re that loaded, but they’re not.

USC squeaked by Minnesota 19-17 in its home opener Saturday. A win is a win so I won’t take that away from them, but let’s be real: the Pete Carroll golden age teams would have plastered Minnesota by at least 30 points. That’s what Kiffin is used to with the Trojans, so he coached them accordingly.

Kiffin went for two following his first two touchdowns. Both failed. He went for it on 4th and 6 at the Minnesota 35 in the 3rd quarter and a disastrous fumble ensued. Granted, they were in a tricky territory where going for it makes sense, but the play-calling was strange.

Knowing where he was on the field, why didn’t Kiffin run the ball on 3rd and 5 to set up a shorter attempt on fourth down? It’s probably because he’s overconfident in his offense. That’s the same reason why he went for two after his team’s first two touchdowns.

Going for two is not a bad coaching decision. If you’re converting more than half the time, the move makes sense. But what’s the key to converting at a high rate? Having good players who can execute regularly. The teams Kiffin coached throughout the past decade would have converted those plays all day against Minnesota. This one will not.

Kiffin is a coach who is full of hubris, regardless of his denials. He was born on third base and thinks he hit a home run. He thinks that because he was on the staff of the historically-good teams Pete Carroll coached that his teams are on the same level. If he doesn’t adjust his coaching style, the cocky attitude will catch up to him against a better opponent. His team is not as good as he thinks and he needs to play somewhat more conservatively.

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