Note: Lane Kiffin's post-game presser is always on USCTrojans.com not the blog. Click the link to listen!
10 takes on a wild night at the Coliseum...
10 takes on a wild night at the Coliseum...
- John Baxter was hired for games like this one. In a game decided by a single point, the special teams unit generated two on a blocked PAT, three on a game-winning field goal and two more on one of those "silly formations" that drive the critics nuts. And oh yeah, they blocked two punts. "Coach Baxter did a great job preparing us all week. Hats off to him," said T.J. McDonald, who got his hands on two punts and drew a holding penalty on another.
- Joe Houston may not be a Lou Groza candidate, but he showed courage when it counted the most. After missing two short kicks, he had to be battling inner demons lining up the game-winner. "I'm human. I was anxious," Houston reflected. "I believe in myself and I believe in my teammates. That kick was for my teammates."
- Of course, ASU's kicker Thomas Weber had a chance to trump Houston and provide USC with a "deja vu all over again" moment. "Flashbacks came here and there," Barkley compared the Sun Devils drive to the last second losses earlier this season. Lane Kiffin felt a sense of poetic justice when the kick sailed wide left. "I really kind of felt like 'Finally!'," Kiffin said. "It was really good for our players just to see them have something go their way."
- With all the crazy plays that happened tonight, can we please take one moment to reflect on the ambidextrous punting performance by Jake Harfman? On his first attempt, he rolled right and punted with his right foot. On his second chance, he rolled left and punted left-footed. I could not believe my eyes, but he was unfazed. "I feel comfortable and I can do it again hopefully," said Harfman, who can kick field goals left-footed as well. How many people have ever punted with both feet in a game though? "I have no idea! Probably zero," Harfman laughed.
- Lane Kiffin pointed to Malcolm Smith's interception return for a touchdown as the moment of the game. All week, he had talked to the defense about making more game-changing plays, so he was fired up by Smith's pick and then the convoy of blocking defenders paving his way to the end zone. "The guys threw blocks and I had just enough energy to get in," Smith recounted. The senior enjoyed a much easier pick-six last year against UCLA.
- The night of shocks really started with the starting lineups. Out of nowhere, Dillon Baxter was announced as the lead tailback. "I was hoping that it would give us a spark in our run game that had kind of staled out a little bit," Kiffin explained. Baxter was solid, but unspectacular on the night. He combined for 78 yards from scrimmage, while Marc Tyler shined (12 carries for 119 yards) before leaving the game after injuring his ankle. Baxter never broke the big run, but he secured the ball tightly on all 21 touches, which is the reason that he's passed Allen Bradford on the depth chart.
- Brice Butler is a talented guy. He makes a play per practice to remind everyone that he could be a force. Of course, coming into the game, he had just six catches for 63 yards on the season. With Robert Woods ailing (the freshman was hospitalized earlier this week with a back injury that caused him to vomit repeatedly), Butler led the receiving corps with 49 yards on three catches. Kiffin would like to see someone grab a hold of the third receiver role. Maybe tonight was the start of something for Brice Butler...
- While Woods finished with just 18 yards receiving, he could have had a whole lot more on one play...the first play. With his man on the ground, Woods had the freedom of the Coliseum to run under Matt Barkley's deep ball, but the quarterback overthrew it. "I think it took him awhile to get over the first play of the game whether he admits it or not," Kiffin assessed Barkley's performance as "roller coasterish." Of course, the sophomore leader delivered the winning drive when the game was on the line.
- I apologize to Rey Maualuga. All week, I compared ASU LB Vontaze Burfict to the former USC middle backer. While Maualuga struggled with anger issues early in his career at Troy, he never behaved like Burfict did tonight. I'm not sure that I have ever seen anyone act like that on a football field. From picking fights to "airplaning" down USC's sideline to taunting the crowd, he was a one man band of negative karma. The Sun Devils paid their karmic debt at the worst time. Burfict's personal foul for a late hit on Butler sparked the game-winning drive for the Trojans.
- At 2-5 in 2001, Kris Richard's pick-six against Arizona propelled the Trojans to a galvanizing victory in Pete Carroll's first season. USC would go on to run the table in the regular season. Lane Kiffin told this story to the team and then the media after the game. Tonight, fortune favored the Trojans. Now, Kiffin wants to see his team take that momentum and streak to the finish.
- Here is my player of the game, T.J. McDonald, who dominated on defense (12 tackles) and special teams (two blocked punts and one punt downed inside the five-yard line)...