Improved passing game has USC feeling confident

LOS ANGELES — In the aftermath of the loss that featured one of the most abysmal offensive performances in school history, USC head coach Lane Kiffin wanted to remind everyone “the sky’s not falling.”

The Washington State defeat was one of the lowest of lows in program history. Regardless of what happens for the Trojans the rest of the way, that home loss will be looked upon as a major black eye for 2013.

It almost seemed like the point of no return.

A players-only meetings occurred only to be denied by the coaching staff and then retracted by players. What was originally thought to be a meeting turned out to be just a gathering of sorts with just a few members of the team.

Last wee,k leading up to the 35-7 win over Boston College, was tough, the USC head coach says.

“It was hell week, but I kept telling them don’t stop,” Kiffin said. “Keep going.”

He was especially proud of the play of the passing game. While many were throwing in the towel on Kiffin and the 2013 Trojans, the head coach contended, “the sky’s not falling.”

They, simply, need to throw the ball better.

“I tried to keep saying we had one problem last week — our passing game,” Kiffin said. “We played lights out on defense — pass defense, run defense. We ran the ball really well last week. We just were really bad throwing the football. To me it was if we can just fix this one thing (we’d be OK).

“Where you get in trouble (is) when you have the games where you just get blown out and you say we ain’t very good on offense and we’re not very good on defense running or passing. Then you got a lot of problems. (The credit goes) to the players, they fixed it.”

Perhaps last Monday was a sign of things to come — Nelson Agholor caught an 80-yard pass on the first play of practice as they began preparations for Boston College.

By the time Saturday rolled around and the Eagles stood opposite the Trojans in the Coliseum, Cody Kessler walked into the stadium with a renewed confidence to help fix the problem. The Trojans starter, at one point, completed 14 in a row against the Eagles in a 15-of-17 day. He finished with 237 yards and two touchdowns.

For the first time this season, Kessler felt like he could just play his game without anyone looking over his shoulder.

“I’m not making any excuses at all for how I played the first two weeks  but you can’t really take control during the week and step up and be that guy to lead the whole time when you’re sharing reps,” he said. “(Knowing I was the starter) gave me the whole week to get prepared like I know I can and take control of this offense.”