Lane Kiffin

Kiffin: ‘Noisy verbal exchange… nothing physical’ after bowl loss


Earlier today, Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News reported that 10-15 USC football players were involved in a postgame “altercation” following the Trojans’ embarrassing Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech.  Later,, citing its own sources presumably, reported that there was “a flat-out brawl” in the locker room and “haymakers” were thrown.

Quarterback Matt Barkley, who did not play in the game due to an injured shoulder, acknowledged during a radio interview Wednesday that “tempers flared, yeah” but firmly stated that no punches were thrown.

In a statement released initially through the USC athletic department Twitter feed, head coach Lane Kiffin backed up Barkley’s account of the events.

“Contrary to media reports, there was not a brawl or altercation in our locker room after the Sun Bowl,” the statement from Kiffin began. “There was a noisy verbal exchange among a couple players who were frustrated with the outcome of the game.  It lasted less than a minute and was nothing physical.”

“It happens sometimes in football locker rooms after a disappointing loss.”

Trojans offensive lineman Khaled Holmes took to Twitter as well, writing that the “[r]eport of the incident in the locker room is blown out of proportion. Many disappointed, competitive young men, but no punches thrown!”

It should be noted that Wolf’s account never mentioned punches being thrown or that things got physical, although the Daily News writer did state that freshmen questioning the leadership of the team’s seniors “led to an argument that eventually escalated according to witnesses.”  One unnamed player told Wolf that “[i]t was one of the worst things I’ve seen in a locker room.”

Where does the actual truth fall?  Based on the events of this evening, we’re gonna guess it was some very elaborate hoax perpetrated by one of the two sides of the story.

Houston sinks Navy for AAC West Division crown; will host Temple or USF for AAC title

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With a chance to clinch the AAC West Divison and home-field advantage in the conference championship game, Houston (11-1, 7-1 AAC) was led by quarterback Greg Ward Jr. throwing and running the football to take down No. 15 Navy (9-2, 7-1 AAC), 51-31. Houston will wait to see if it will host Temple or South Florida next week in the conference championship game.

Houston’s gameplan against Navy was simple in philosophy and strategy but masterful in execution. Big plays and well-designed ball-control was the key to the game for Houston. The Cougars rolled up over 500 yards of offense and kept the Navy defense on the field for a majority of the game. That led to some big play opportunities for Houston, and with players with the skill and talent of Ward Jr., Brandon Wilson and Demarcus Ayers, it proved to be too much for Navy to handle for 60 minutes. Wilson rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown and Ayers hauled in 161 yards and a score and even got involved with a passing touchdown in the first half, a 29-yard strike to Steven Dunbar. Considering how much Ward Jr. was forced to play through injury, it was a remarkable effort by Houston against a Navy team that has shown some good defense this season. It just was not there today against the AAC’s most talented offensive team.

Houston converted 15 of 18 third-down attempts, and went two-for-two when they chose to go for it on fourth down. Houston was without a turnover and committed just three penalties.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds may have seen his late Heisman Trophy campaign take a dent with the loss, but he may still prove worthy of an invite to New York City for the presentation of the award. Reynolds tied the FBS all-time career touchdown record previously set by Wisconsin’s Montee Ball with his fourth quarter touchdown run. Whether he receives an invite to New York or not, there is no question he is among the classiest of college football players and it was clear he never allowed the Midshipmen to pack it in when Houston started to separate itself from Navy.

Houston will host either Temple or South Florida in the first American Athletic Conference championship game next Saturday, December 5. The game, scheduled to kick off at noon, will see its AAC East representative determined tomorrow when Temple plays Connecticut. If Temple defeats the Huskies in Philadelphia, the Owls will make the trip to Houston for the conference championship game. A loss by Temple and it will be South Florida representing the East thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker over Temple. USF won Thursday night to force Temple to win against UConn to win the division. Houston has not played either AAC East Division contender this season.

Navy is not done this regular season, of course. The Midshipmen will make the trip to Philadelphia for the traditional Army-Navy Game in two weeks. Navy has beaten their rivals from West Point 13 straight times for the longest winning streak in the series.

Miami defense shutting down Pitt; Hurricanes lead 23-3 at half

Brad Kaaya

It may be hard to believe, but Miami is in position to end the season with nine wins. That assumes, of course, the Hurricanes avoid a second half meltdown against Pittsburgh and close out the year with a bowl win. For now, Miami should be feeling pretty good as the Hurricanes have stomped Pitt in the first half of an early kickoff in western Pennsylvania. Miami took a 23-3 lead into the half.

Miami has more than doubled the total offensive production of the Panthers, outgaining Pitt at halftime 248 yards to 102. The Panthers have just 36 passing yards and 66 rushing yards in the half. Pitt also had a turnover with Nathan Peterman having a pass picked off by Artie Burns.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 166 yards, with Rashawn Scott on the receiving end of the touchdown play and leading the team with 50 receiving yards. Miami’s Joseph Yardley leads all players with 64 rushing yards. Pitt’s star receiver, Tyler Boyd, has just one catch for eight yards.

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.

Report: Washington State QB Luke Falk won’t play in Apple Cup

Luke Falk
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Earlier this week it was looking as though Washington State quarterback Luke Falk might be available to play Washington in this year’s edition of the Apple Cup. Now the outlook is not so good.

According to a report from Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times, Washington State will start Peyton Bender at quarterback against the Huskies. Falk, who is recovering form a concussion last week, is not expected to dress for the game. It will be the first start of the redshirt freshman’s career. Bender has appeared in four games this season serving as Falk’s backup. In his limited playing time, Bender has completed 17 of 33 pass attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He has been picked off twice.

The loss of Falk is certainly a blow to Washington State’s offense, although we will see if Mike Leach has a system in place where he can plug in a quarterback and still get the production through the air as has been the case during his career. There is no word on whether or not Falk will be available for the bowl season, although that would seem to look possible given more time to recover from a concussion.