Now that the dust has settled…
USC’s loss to Arizona State incited a storm of second-guessing about Coach Lane Kiffin’s play calling, quarterback Matt Barkley and the Trojans’ inability to stop the Sun Devils.
Kiffin said Sunday there was “some good and some bad” after watching tape of the Trojans’ 43-22 loss, which dropped USC to 3-1 going into Saturday’s game against Arizona at the Coliseum.
The good: USC overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to take the lead.
The bad: The offense committed four turnovers and converted only one third down, and the defense missed tackles, allowed Sun Devils running back Cameron Marshall to get outside and gave up too many easy completions.
“We just have to coach better and play better,” Kiffin said.
As USC players left their locker room Saturday night, they spoke of missed opportunities.
“This was the first time we were really challenged,” senior linebacker Chris Galippo said. “Younger guys made mistakes; older guys made mistakes.”
Barkley overthrew receiver Robert Woods for what appeared to be a certain touchdown on the Trojans’ first series. He also lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted when he was hit by pass rushers.
“I was moving around and feeling good, but when we’re in max protection, we can’t let guys through like that,” said Barkley, who was not pressured when he threw a ball right into the hands of Sun Devils linebacker Vontaze Burfict. “We just need to do a better job.”
Senior tailback Marc Tyler gave USC a 22-21 lead with a touchdown run in the third quarter but fumbled on the Trojans’ next possession.
“I felt like we were wearing them down — they weren’t talking as much and they… didn’t have the energy they had in the first half,” Tyler said. “I felt like we had all the momentum and then I fumbled and turned it around.”
Junior safety T.J. McDonald was penalized three times for personal fouls.
“I apologize to my defense for making them pay for 45 yards worth of penalties,” he said. “I was just being aggressive. The only way I know how to play football is fast and aggressive.”
Kiffin said he did not fault McDonald for the first two penalties.
Walk the walk
USC players and coaches had talked all week about Arizona State’s propensity for late hits, Barkley telling the Times’ Baxter Holmes that, based on his experience playing against Burfict in high school, the Sun Devils linebacker was a dirty player.
“If you are going to say something, you better watch what you say, and that is kind of what happened,” Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson said.
Burfict intercepted a pass from Barkley in the second quarter and returned it 36 yards.
“That was one of those plays where he was doing his own thing and he made a good play,” Barkley said. “When the ball was snapped, I was in the [shotgun formation] and he was blitzing and so I pumped to the left and I didn’t see him drop back into that zone, so I just looked around not thinking he was there and he made the play.”
Barkley tackled the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Burfict to end the return. Burfict got to his feet and then extended a hand to help Barkley up off the ground.
A goodwill gesture?
“He didn’t say anything, but I think he was just trying to indicate ‘We’ve got the ball now,’” Barkley said.
The Trojans were caught off guard by the first-quarter dust storm that swirled into the stadium.
USC was penalized for a false start and Barkley was sacked for a six-yard loss, forcing USC to punt.
“At first, I thought the fans just started throwing things and then a huge gust of wind just blows out one of the tunnels and trash is flying everywhere and then it started raining,” he said. “That was weird.”
Freshman running back Amir Carlisle, who played for the first time, reinjured his ankle, Kiffin said. … Kiffin would not specify whether there would be personnel changes this week but said the coaching staff would “definitely” examine possibilities heading into Tuesday’s practice.