Lane Kiffin conference call highlights

Some selected quotes from USC head coach Lane Kiffin’s Sunday night conference call following the Trojans’ 10-7 loss to Washington State.

Opening comments:

“I’m extremely disappointed by the final score of the game last night. Having watched the film, and all three phases of the game, there were a ton of opportunities for us to win that game that we left out there. Credit to Washington State … they played extremely hard, and as the game went on, they seemed to get more confident defensively and played really well down the stretch.”

Kiffin on the performance of the USC defense:

“We have played great defense through two games … phenomenal effort by our players … very aggressive. I’m really glad we have fixed what we set out to do last January, which was to change our defensive structure [and] to be more attacking to deal more with the different offenses that we face.”

On the performance of the USC offense and special teams units:

Tre Madden really ran extremely hard and took care of the football in the game. Our offensive line played well in the run game at times. The glaring thing, by far, was we were horrible in the passing game. And on special teams, surprisingly, we did not play to our standards. At the end of the day we lost by three points. We attempted two field goals and missed our two, and they made theirs. So, with all of the other stuff going wrong throughout the game, just one play that we make on offense or special teams would have been the difference in the outcome of the game.”

On the situation at quarterback, where both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek have split time at the position through the first two games:

“We are in the process of finalizing our quarterback position, so now after two games of playing with both guys, it’s time for us to make our decision. And we gave the players the day off, so we will meet with the players in the morning, and then we will have that decision for you after we meet with them.”

On what exactly has happened to the USC passing attack, particularly after what appeared to be a strong fall camp for both quarterbacks:

“I’m completely shocked at what’s going on in our passing game because of the spring and the fall of going against our defense, which we know is really good. We had some really big days throwing the ball with both quarterbacks … the receivers, tight ends and everybody involved in it. Unfortunately, in two games that hasn’t been the case, especially last night.”

Kiffin on what needs to happen to get the passing game turned around:

“We go back to work. We analyze what we’ve done in the first two games. What now do we know going forward? And that’s what we’ll work on all week in practice with our guys to get back to being effective in the passing game, like we’ve been here for years.”

On whether Kessler and Wittek are trying too hard to avoid making mistakes:

“There’s always a balance with the quarterback … taking care of the ball and not turning it over, but also making throws as well, and not playing scared. It’s obviously something that we’re looking at to make sure that we improve.”

On the booing and the general reaction from the fans at the game on Saturday:

“I think it just speaks to how passionate the SC fans are about wanting great success on the field, and I feel the same way with them. That was not a product that anybody should have been happy to see. … I’ve got to do a better job of what product is out there on the field.”

Does the move by Texas head coach Mack Brown to fire Longhorns’ defensive coordinator Manny Diaz at this point in the season surprise Kiffin, and could he ever imagine something like that happening in his program?

“Clay [Helton] is still here today. … I didn’t even know that happened, so I probably couldn’t even comment on that. I think, as you know, I’m focused on our own problems, and getting us better.”

On the potential of freshman Max Browne seeing any time at quarterback this season:

“The backup quarterback is always every fan’s favorite when the other guys aren’t playing well. … I think Max has a great future here. Ideally, we would like to redshirt him as he continues to progress in our offense, and we look forward to him competing for the starting job this spring.”

On what is happening on first and second down that is putting the USC offense in such a hole on third down (the Trojans are just 6-of-27 on third-down conversions this season):

“Negative plays, where we get in those situations because we’re not having efficient plays right away. … We’ve lost 64 yards rushing through two games -- obviously sacks count in that -- and that really gets you off balance.”

On what Kiffin has to do to avoid a repeat of last year where the team went into a downswing:

“Every year is different … we’ve played two games. We have a long season ahead of us. We’ve got to go back to work, and we’ve got to improve on the things that we’re not doing really well, and obviously that starts with the passing game.”

On whether he’s talked to USC athletic director Pat Haden since Saturday’s loss:

“Sure, I always talk to Pat. He always calls the next day after a game … a win, loss, tie … whatever it is.”

Did Haden offer any advice?

“No, it wasn’t that type of a conversation.”