Lane Kiffin conference call highlights

Here are some selected quotes from USC head coach Lane Kiffin’s Sunday night conference call following the Trojans’ 17-14 victory over Utah State.

On USC’s defense and special teams:

“I think that the highlight of the game was the play of our defense and our special teams at times. We had relentless pressure on a great quarterback. … I thought Devon Kennard was relentless all day in his pursuit of Chuckie [Keeton], [and] Leonard Williams had some outstanding plays, Morgan Breslin also. I’m pleased with our progression on defense with the new challenge that was presented to us this week with a different offense than we had gone against.”

On the performance of the USC offense:

“On offense we left a lot of yards and points out there. It became a day where, after the beginning of the game, they committed to stopping the run, and when you get into a man-to-man game like that at that point, we’ve got to make our plays when they’re there to be made, especially in the passing game, and we did not do that. We had four drops on the day, after a game of having no drops the week before. And credit them too. That’s a stingy defense that plays well, and a tough team that plays really well. Remember, they were 11-2 last year, and five points away from being 13-0. … So, we’re 3-1, back to work, and getting ready for a very good team, and a big challenge for us to go on the road this week.”

On whether Kiffin has thought about going in a different direction offensively:

“We’re always looking at those things. … You know, up-tempo is the way to go for a majority of college teams nowadays, but we’re not in the same position as everybody else. To go up-tempo, for us, with our scholarship limitations and the players that we have, it would be very difficult for us to lengthen games. Our defensive players basically played every snap … last night it was 70 plays. That’s going to go up to 85 to 90 plays, [and] you know, we’re playing last night with four scholarship receivers in that game. … I think it would be very difficult to move to an up-tempo offense with our scholarship limitations.”

On the status of Cody Kessler, who had ice on his hand following the game, as well as Marqise Lee, who briefly went to the sideline with an apparent ankle injury:

“We expect both guys to be fine. Cody’s [injury] did happen early in the game. I think you do see a difference after that happened in his accuracy and his ability to grip the ball.”

On the play of the offensive line, and whether there’s any one common denominator that he’s picked up on in regard to their struggles against Utah State:

“I’m not going to get into any specific players, we were just playing extremely inconsistent up front yesterday.”

On his initial impressions of Arizona State, and whether he thinks that having gone up against the Utah State offense will help the defense in their preparation for the Sun Devils:

“I think that it was good to have a no-huddle, hurry-up offense to line up against because we know we’re going to have to do that next week. Arizona State really rallied versus a great team in Stanford, and ended the game with a really good fourth quarter … they’ve got great players on that team on both sides of the ball. The quarterback is playing really well, and they have the defensive player of the year [Will Sutton].”

Is Arizona State’s defensive front, headlined by Sutton, a concern considering that the performance of the USC offensive line was inconsistent against Utah State?

“Yeah, we’re going to play against some really great players throughout this year on the defensive line -- some of the best in the country. We just played one yesterday -- No. 9 [Kyler Fackrell]. We’ll play Sutton and there’s a bunch more to come, so we’re going to have to improve.”

On whether Kiffin thinks that Chad Wheeler, who is in his first year as a starter at left tackle, will have a tough challenge on his hands given who is coming up:

“Sure, he just had a war on his hands last night. And obviously when you screw up as a left tackle, you get seen a lot … you know, on the sack, caused fumble, but there’s some really great plays in there too where those two guys battled against each other. He obviously got beat on the play, but for a lot of the time he held his own.”

On the Trojans’ struggles on third down this season -- USC has successfully converted on just 14 of 51 third downs:

“We’ve been inconsistent on a number of third downs. Third downs come down to one-on-one matchups and doing the right thing, and some kind of freak things have happened too. You know, in the Wildcat, which has been 100 percent for us, [Tre Madden] unfortunately dropped the snap, which has never happened before with him. And we were very inconsistent in the passing game on third down. So, we’re going to have to improve.”

On the fact that USC has only scored one third-quarter touchdown in the last seven games:

“That’s not a good stat. We haven’t done real well in the third quarter for some reason this season, but we’ve done really well in the second quarter on offense. We’ve done great in the first quarter on defense -- we haven’t given up a point all year in the first quarter. … So, for whatever reason in the second quarter and fourth quarter we’ve been better on offense, so we have to play better in all four quarters.”