For Kiffin it's not a numbers game
Lane Kiffin isn’t exactly who we thought he was.
Somewhere along the way over the last year, he’s had a change of heart.
Winning has always been important to the third-year head coach and so has statistics.
In a candid conference call with reporters on Sunday night, Kiffin said stats aren't a focus.
“Everything that we’ve done, the way that we call plays, the way that we do things is about winning here,” Kiffin said. “It’s not getting numbers for certain guys or Heisman races or records. It’s about doing the best thing to win. For instance, (Saturday) that was running the ball.”
Kiffin gave that answer when he was asked what his expectations were for his offense. The question was an ideal follow-up after the head coach mentioned in consecutive days that people wanted to see “high scoring” or “50-0” type games and that won’t always be the case.
Before the season started, the question was how are opposing defenses going to stop the USC offense with Matt Barkley and two 1,000-yard receivers to go along with two 1,000-yard rushers.
Over the last two games, the offense hasn’t exactly been lights out. They were shut out in the second half against Stanford and against Cal, despite piling up nearly 500 yards of total offense, they hardly had the look of a team that could score at will.
In the last two games, Barkley, who entered the season as the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, has thrown two touchdowns and four interceptions after starting the season with a 10-1 ratio.
He threw just seven interceptions in 2011.
During the last two games, both Pac-12 conference games, the Trojans aerial attack has not been sharp, despite boasting the top wide receiver tandem in the nation. Where nothing worked against Stanford two weeks ago, the rushing attack was on track Saturday in the win over Cal after the Golden Bears tried to take away the Trojans star receivers.
“We are seeing people play different defenses to take No. 9 (Marqise Lee) and No. 2 (Robert Woods) out and we see a lot of third down defenses when they are double covered,” Kiffin said. “When their numbers aren’t as big as what we’re used to, that’s not out of them not playing well it’s out of the defense trying to take them away.”
As he’s done on more than one occasion over the course of the last couple of months, Kiffin points to a conversation he had during the summer with New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow.
After a workout on the USC campus, the former Florida Gators quarterback talked to Kiffin about the difficulties that came with being a preseason No. 1 and how that pressure took away the fun.
“(We talked about) his senior year and how they felt like they weren’t enjoying anything and after a game when they win by 10 (points and) everybody (is) down on them,” Kiffin recalled. “I’m going to celebrate these wins with these kids and make sure they feel good because everything written about them could bring them down.
“All of these articles are all wanting to point out what they didn’t do in the games. You’re playing a conference game and you win by three scores.”By enjoying every win, he’s intent on not worrying about how flashy the victory is or the stats put up in the process.
This is the same Kiffin who, heading into the game against Minnesota last season, told Woods that it was time for USC’s single-game receptions record to be broken.
He proceeded to put Woods in position to finish with 17 catches and a new USC record in the Trojans win over the Golden Gophers. In 2012, he’s not that guy.
“By me changing my expectations, I think that’s helping our kids,” he said.