Kiffin: On UCLA, Notre Dame, coaching staff

USC head coach Lane Kiffin discussed the Trojans’ 38-28 loss to UCLA and the regular-season finale against No. 1 Notre Dame in his Sunday night conference call.


“Obviously, a very discouraging game -- a very tough loss for our fans, for our players and for our staff. I think as you go back over the game, it was a strange game as far as statistics within the game. You know, the penalties are 12-6 ... over 100 yards more than them in less plays ... we sacked them five times, they sack us once. We have over 500 yards on the day, but it comes down to turnovers and missed points.”

“On defense, we played pretty well on first and second down, and we got the 16 third-downs, but then we didn’t play well on third down, and we missed an extraordinary amount of tackles -- we missed 23 tackles. Last week we missed five. We missed 12 tackles/sacks on the quarterback alone. I thought he did a phenomenal job. He was accurate all day, made huge plays for them.”

On the status of Matt Barkley for USC’s game versus Notre Dame:

“Matt is out for Notre Dame.”

On why Barkley will not be playing against Notre Dame:

“It obviously happened with the play that he was down on. [He] has an AC sprain and will be out this week. It’s very unfortunate for his career, you know, now that two times in a row Notre Dame has come into the Coliseum -- he’s gone to South Bend twice and won -- and now twice he won’t be able to play them at home. I feel very bad for him and his family. Obviously this is not the way that anybody pictured the team’s season going, or his season going.”

On whether or not Max Wittek will start in place of Barkley at quarterback:

“Max will start. We have great confidence in Max. I thought he did well yesterday in a very difficult situation -- three-and-a-half hours of standing around and in the rain -- and to go into that game isn’t easy to do. I thought he did a good job. So we have a lot of confidence in him, or if Cody [Kessler] eventually goes in.”

On any potential coaching staff changes following the season:

“I don’t ever think about that or talk about that during the season. So like we do, whether we win 10 games, or seven, or nine -- after the season we always evaluate everything.”

On whether or not he’s ever thought that the responsibility of being the head coach as well as the offensive coordinator is too much for one person to handle:

“Not really. Like I said, we’ll look at everything afterwards. When you look at the offensive production, we haven’t done a real good job of finishing drives here. We get all of these yards, and you start looking at average per play -- I bet that we’re top-five in the country in average per play -- and 36 points a game is still good, but not equating to where we should be with those types of yards. So we’ll look at everything like we always do.”

On the uncharacteristically poor performance by the USC special teams units against UCLA:

“I think it was a combination [of things]. One, they have a great kicker and a great punter -- that’s why you get all of the touchbacks, and we only got one chance to return a kickoff. The punter was crushing the ball as you could see when he was out there, and their players did a good job. One of the few times in our three years of being here that we lost the special teams phase of the game.”

On the psyche of the team right now:

“They’re in the tank, obviously. We’ve always talked about how that’s the rivalry game for the players, because they’re younger and they grow up with so many of the kids. You know, the chance for the older guys to go out of here undefeated versus those guys ... and potentially winning that game and winning the next one and going out 7-0 in your rivalry games, so that was not easy for them ... but we’ll come back, and we’re fortunate to be playing the No. 1 team in the country.”

On whether or not a question from a reporter about Kiffin’s job security following the loss to UCLA caught him by surprise:

“I figured that was probably fair to ask. I figured that it’s your job to ask that. That didn’t surprise me, but I think as you probably saw by my reaction, it wasn’t something on my mind, because I know the support that we have here from our president and from our athletic director. So, that thought had never gone through my mind in any of these games, wins, losses or the way things are going, because I know that we feel a great deal of confidence from them of the big picture here where everything is taken together, of everything we’ve been through, and academics, on and off the field, recruiting…”

On the performance of Curtis McNeal over the last two games:

“Yeah, I think it’s why it’s critical to have depth at that position. It was a big deal of getting Silas [Redd] this offseason because it’s hard for guys to stay healthy. Curtis was banged up there for a couple weeks, and now he’s had two healthy weeks, back-to-back and performed really well. And at the same time Silas has not been healthy, as you can see.”