Lane Kiffin threw some gasoline in the fire when the Trojans fell 10-7 against Washington State at home, in the Coliseum. Then ranked 25 USC were 15-point favorites over the Cougars and a win seemed obvious in their home opener. The Trojan loyal were shocked, disappointed, and pissed as a team that once dominated the PAC-10 fell to a team that had won 3 away games in five years. Two words echoed throughout the Coliseum as the clock wound down and the Trojans fled the field-“Fire Kiffin”. Pat Haden has shut out the sounds of Trojan fans calling for Kiffin’s job previously, but he can’t ignore 90,000 chanting for him to be gone.
This time last year, Kiffin was coaching the number 2 ranked team in the country. The Matt Barkley led offense teemed with potential and the Trojans seemed poised to return to their former glory. Then came a loss to Stanford, another to Arizona, then Oregon, UCLA, and Notre Dame. The season culminated in an humiliating loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl were the Trojan players looked undisciplined, uncaring, selfish, and embarrassed. The frustrated players even had a locker room fight post game during which Kiffin probably hid behind his dad. The 2012 Trojans became the first team to be ranked #1 in the preseason AP poll to fall out of the top 25 entirely by season’s end. Kiffin had lost both his season and his the confidence of his team. Despite making history, and losses to rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, Pat Haden said he was 100% behind Lane Kiffin at the start of the 2013 season.
Kiffin’s coaching failures began even before the season started. The guy couldn’t even name a starting quarterback until week 3 of the college football season. It’s not like Kiffin didn’t know that Matt Barkley was leaving and that a new quarterback would need to be ready come this season. Kiffin has had THREE YEARS to decide who will follow Barkley and it still wasn’t enough time. When USC enjoyed success under Pete Carroll, the next quarterback was always ready to take over. The transition was smooth from Carson Palmer, to Matt Leinhart, John David Booty, Mark Sanchez, and finally Matt Barkley. It’s also not a good idea to fail to name a starting quarterback when you have the best receiver in college football on your team. Marquis Lee wanted to be able to establish chemistry with his quarterback before the season started. When asked about the quarterback situation preseason, Lee said that “This is crazy. I am still waiting” and was hoping for it to be decided before the preparation for Hawaii began. Lee began the season as a Heisman candidate but only has 15 receptions for 131 yards and zero touchdowns through two games. Kiffin’s inability to name a starter early has hurt Lee’s campaign and one of the weakest offenses in Trojan history.
One highlight of this season has been the Trojan’s defense under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Pat Haden kicked one Kiffin to the curb and has seen immediate improvement, so why wouldn’t shouldn’t kicking another help? Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was blamed for many of the 2012 problems and was replaced by Pendergast this season, and what a change it has been. USC ranks first in rushing defense (15 yards per game) and sacks (11), and 11th in total defense. The defense has allowed only one touchdown in the two games that they’ve played. Kiffin can put absolutely NO blame on his defense and its looking like it may not have been the main problem last year. The loss to Washington State came from Kiffin’s inability to call offensive plays and properly scheme. USC’s two quarterbacks threw for a combined 54 yards and the rushing game ended with 139 total yards. Boos filled the Coliseum with every bubble screen and the refusal to make plays downfield. The Trojan offense could only get one touchdown on a team that previously allowed 31 points to Auburn. Kiffin’s play calling was more conservative than Dick Cheney and lacked any creativity. The only way he could get the Trojan faithful cheering was when they shouted for him to be fired in unison. The loss to Washington State falls entirely on Lane Kiffin and his seat can’t get any hotter.
It came out today that USC had a players only meeting following the loss to WSU. Kiffin wasn’t told and Marquis Lee said that it was about “staying positive and moving forward.” He said that “Kiffin don’t know nothing about it” and that it was a meeting for the players to discuss the future. There seems to be a lot of things “Kiffin don’t know nothing about,” such as players meetings, coaching, and keeping his team motivated and disciplined. Unless there is a massive turnaround for the Trojans, Kiffin will be left behind as USC moves forward.
Lane Kiffin isn’t the only big name coach moving towards the door. Mack Brown and Texas took a rough 40-21 loss to BYU this past weekend. BYU Quarterback Taysom Hill racked up 259 yards and embarrassed the 15 ranked Longhorns. Rather than take responsibility, Mack Brown deflected attention over to his defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Diaz was fired earlier this week and replaced by Greg Robinson. After their performance against BYU, the new coordinator might want to put an emphasis on tackling. This basic fundamental of football seems absent in Texas right now. Anyway you look at it though, Mack Brown is running out of people to put the blame on and Texas is moving in the wrong direction.
Texas is in the recruiting hotbed of the football world and its head coaching position has long been considered the best in all of college football. Mack Brown seemed destined to remain the Longhorns coach after multiple national championship appearances and his ass had been kissed more by UT boosters than the Blarney Stone. Texas’ mediocre performance these past few seasons have changed all that. The University of Texas doesn’t tolerate mediocrity, they expect to be in the BCS picture every year. Even more damning to Brown and the Longhorns is that they are no longer considered the top dog in Texas.
Texas A&M had long been considered the little brother of UT and a second thought to Texas football. Johnny Football and Texas A&M’s surge in the college rankings have changed all that. Texas A&M even out-recruited Texas in 2013, snagging the #11 recruiting class compared to Texas’ #24 recruiting class according to Rivals rankings. If Texas continues to be outperformed by A&M, all of those talented Texas recruits may look towards becoming Aggies rather than Longhorns. A&M is clearly moving in the right direction while Texas continues to flounder. The University of Texas has a reputation of being the elite Texas college, but that reputation may very well be in jeopardy.
Mack Brown is one of the most respected coaches in all of college football, but no one is irreplaceable (except maybe Saban). Brown is slowly running out of excuses, and he needs to get his team to perform the rest of this season if he hopes to save his job. There’s a sense of desperation in Texas as the Longhorns are reaching for any reason to explain their recent downturn. Eventually, Mack Brown will run out of any excuse beside himself for Texas’ performance. Fans and boosters will start to look for a change at the top in order to regain the prestige UT is accustomed too. However, Brown and Kiffin can turn down the fire that’s warming up their chairs. College football fans have short-term memories-if you win, all is forgiven. Both coaches are playing with fire and the rest of this college football season will show who gets burnt.
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