LOS ANGELES -- The Trojans were back at practice in full pads on Wednesday morning in preparation for Saturday’s matchup with Arizona State, and it was the defense that dominated conversations following the workout as the unit looks to move past a subpar performance against Oregon.
“I think really I can see our defense is excited to get back out on the field,” USC head coach Lane Kiffin said. “We really obviously don’t feel that we’ve played very well really for five-and-a-half quarters. So any time that you feel like that, much like the offense did after the Stanford game, you get excited to get back out on the field and play again, so Saturday can’t come fast enough.”
Taking the blame
On Wednesday, Kiffin once again fielded question and after question regarding the defense’s inability to stop the vaunted Ducks’ offense, as the Trojans gave up a 62 points and 730 total yards of offense, both school records. And for the second day in a row, the USC head coach took a portion of the blame, stating, “The blame is on all of us.”
It was a common theme after practice as both defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, and in particular, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin shouldered more than their share of the responsibility for the Trojans’ defeat.
“It starts with the coordinator, no doubt about it,” the elder Kiffin said. “And that’s why you can’t start pointing fingers and things like that. You can talk -- it doesn’t matter. We’ve got good position coaches here too, but when it’s all said and done, the coordinator controls it, you know? That’s just the way it works. You’ve got to step up -- you’ve got to go back and you talk to your squad, get them back, and you can’t be talking about last week -- you’ve just got to move on to the next game. You can’t sit around and mope around. You’ve got to go. I think that’s the tough part about coaching. I think that’s when you’ve got to step up as a coach.”
Another high-powered offense on tap
The next test for the Trojans’ defense is yet another spread offense led by a talented dual-threat quarterback in Taylor Kelly -- who currently sits at No. 19 in the nation with a pass efficiency rating of 156.8 -- and a talented trio of running backs in Cameron Marshall, D.J. Foster and Marion Grice.
“They present issues because the quarterback’s playing very efficient, look at his quarterback rating,” Kiffin said. “[They have] three different backs in there that make plays, not just in their running game but also in the pass game -- they throw to the backs a lot. And then the quarterback [has the] ability to make plays when things break down.”
Lee’s Heisman campaign underway
USC released a Heisman Trophy campaign highlight video featuring Marqise Lee on Tuesday, as the star wideout continues to put up phenomenal numbers each week. The Gardena [Calif.] Serra product has compiled a nation-leading 88 receptions for 1,286 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, not to mention 2,007 all-purpose yards -- the No. 1 mark in the FBS.
Over the course of the last two games Lee has been particularly productive, making 28 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns with 877 total all-purpose yards.
“It would be hard to argue that he’s not playing as well as anybody in America,” Kiffin said. “The dynamic plays that he makes, he does not get as many touches as a running back would or a quarterback would, so it’s unusual for a receiver to have the types of numbers that he’s having combined in total offense over the course of the last two weeks.”
But Kiffin isn’t the only one who has taken notice of Lee’s stellar play. Earlier this week Stanford head coach David Shaw called the USC sophomore, “the best receiver I’ve seen since I scouted Randy Moss,” a statement that has since made it’s rounds throughout the internet.
“He did text me, he didn’t realize it was going to get so much play, but that he meant it,” Kiffin said. “That’s a pretty big statement. I think when other people are saying that -- as a head coach you’re always going to say good things about your stars -- but when other people are making statements like that, I think that should be even more powerful than a video being sent out or numbers being sent out.”