USC Football: Did Lane Kiffin Mismanage Offensive Substitutions vs. Hawaii?


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USC’s offense moved the ball through the air with ease against Hawaii, as evident with Matt Barkley’s 377 passing yards and four touchdowns. Yet, despite a five touchdown lead in the second half, head coach and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin decided to not rest his offensive starters until midway through the fourth quarter.

All camp, the big position battles were as the third receiver position and the role of backing up Matt Barkley as the No. 2 quarterback. For a team with four potential All-Americans on offense, it would have made sense for the reserves to get extensive work during the second half, since players like former Mater Dei teammates Max Wittek and Victor Blackwell had yet to play at the collegiate level.

Instead, Kiffin called three Barkley passes in the fourth quarter, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Randall Telfer. The play finished off a 14-play, 75 yard drive for the Trojans that ate up a lot of clock, but considering that the drive began with 4:40 left in the third quarter, you can’t help but wonder why Kiffin opted to keep the first team offense in the game, up 42-10.

There’s restrictions on scholarships that USC has to overcome, and numerous players on the offensive line and and at skill positions that needed work. Considering that Barkley threw a total of eight passes on the aforementioned drive, it would have been more beneficial to the Trojans to have Wittek getting those reps. Had Kiffin intended to work Silas Redd or Curtis McNeal as a featured back on the drive, then keeping in the ones would have a been a plausible agenda. Yet, the Trojans passed the ball more, and Redd got just four carries on the drive, despite the running game really needing work and a rhythm.

By no means was Lane Kiffin running up the score, he was just carrying out his offense. If he was looking to score more points on Chow, he wouldn’t have had Trojans kill nearly seven minutes of clock. But those are seven minutes and 14 plays would have gone a lot farther in the progression of the young players, than the reps of the Trojans’ known offensive threats. Had the reserves not scored, they would have likely gotten another possession, and Cody Kessler could have began his college career, albeit as the Trojans’ third string quarterback.

Also worth noting, is that until Max Wittek found George Farmer midway through the fourth quarter, only Robert Woods and Marqise Lee had catches as wide receivers. For a team with a camp dominated by headlines as to who the third receiver would be, it says a lot that Kiffin’s playcalling did not draw up targets for Farmer, Nelson Agholor or De’Von Flournoy earlier in the game.

Agholor had plenty of playing time early and Farmer got his fair share of reps, so it’s not like they were waiting until late to see the field. Considering that Hawaii’s gameplan was clearly aimed at taking out Robert Woods and then isolating Marqise Lee, there’s no reason why Agholor or Farmer couldn’t have been targeted.

Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron really mixed in the two-deep players all night on defense, and given the score that offense put up, there’s surely a case to be had that Kiffin waited too long to do the same on offense.