Penalties finally catch up to Trojans

BY foxsports • October 29, 2012

USC's Matt Barkley set a school record for passing yards at Arizona on Saturday, finishing with 493 yards. Marqise Lee had 345 yards receiving, which was fifth-best single-game total in NCAA history. His 469 all-purpose yards were the second most in NCAA history. Lee combined with Robert Woods to have 438 receiving yards which is the most in school history.

Flat out ridiculous numbers, especially from Lee. It's silly to think a team could put up those types of numbers and lose. Lane Kiffin was subjected to a chuckle when thinking about it.

"We actually lost," said Kiffin with a chuckle during his weekly Sunday night teleconference. "A lot of records for a loss."

USC has to look no further than turnovers and penalties for their demise at Arizona. The penalties are nothing new. They've been a problem all season long.

Kiffin took all of the major penalties his team has accumulated through the first eight games of the season and put them on tape to show his team when they met on Sunday.

The film session likely was on the lengthy side considering just how many penalties the Trojans have committed this season.

For Kiffin, it was about driving home a point that his team just hasn't been able to get this season.

"(I was) just trying to put them all together so they see the magnitude of what these things do. It's hard to overcome when you go to second and 25's and giving up explosive plays on defense by 15-yard penalties," Kiffin said. "I think seeing all that together (helps them see) we're not protecting the team with our decision making. There's some selfishness in there and a lot of it is over aggressiveness towards the opponent."

Kiffin wanted the team to see the "story behind" each penalty. He didn't focus on the wins and losses as a result, but how the penalty affected the game at that particular time.

He pointed out a fourth quarter late hit at Syracuse on third and 19 that extended an Orange drive and eventually led to a Syracuse touchdown to make the score 35-22. As a result, the USC starters had to stay in the game, and center Khaled Holmes was injured later in the quarter.

Even though USC came away with a win against Syracuse, that penalty not only affected that game but also the next game as the Trojans were forced to play without Holmes at Stanford.

At Arizona last Saturday, USC committed 13 penalties for 177 yards, continuing their pace of 10.25 penalties per game which is last among FBS schools - 120th out of 120 teams.

And 18 of USC's penalties this season have been of the 15-yard variety and that doesn't include two of the personal fouls they committed defensively inside their own 30-yard line last Saturday.

The Trojans have certainly won games despite their undisciplined play. You can point to last Saturday as the first time this season penalties have actually cost them a game.

The situation needed to be corrected a long time ago, and as recent as last week, Kiffin thought he had the situation resolved saying he felt his team hit "rock bottom" with their penalties in the first half against Colorado.

At Arizona, they reached a new low. Kiffin said USC could "very easily" be 8-0 right now but in their eight games, they "screwed two of them up." Following the loss to Arizona, the team feels like they beat themselves - 177 yards in penalties will leave you feeling that way. So what now?

"We do the hard things," Kiffin said. "They practice really hard. They prepare really well. The easy things are the decision making on the penalties and those are the ones we're not doing and it definitely cost us again."

With upcoming games against an Oregon team that can score at will, leading the nation in scoring offense, Arizona State who's third in the country in pass defense and Notre Dame, who's 11th in the country in total defense, self-inflicted wounds will only cut deeper.

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