Notre Dame v USC

Haden: ‘no reason Lane Kiffin shouldn’t be our coach’


If USC had just lived up to expectations in 2012, issues such as deflated footballs and uniform number swaps and the coaches’ poll imbroglio and media brouhahas would’ve been minor hassles on the way to bigger and better things.

The Trojans didn’t, and those issues were magnified in a six-loss season that culminated with an embarrassing performance in — and after — the Sun Bowl.  It was the worst finish ever for a preseason No. 1, with seemingly everyone calling for the boot to be applied to head coach Lane Kiffin‘s backside.

Everyone, that is, except for athletic director Pat Haden, who very publicly proclaimed back in late November he is “150-percent” behind the embattled coach.  Two months later, Haden’s stance hasn’t shifted much if at all.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Times, Haden once again stood firmly behind Kiffin as USC’s coach, although he jokingly allowed that his support might have dipped into the “137.5 percent” range.

“I understand people disagree with me,” Haden said of his continued support for the coach. “But in my judgment, and I get paid to make the best decisions I can for USC, there’s no reason that Lane Kiffin shouldn’t be our coach. …

“These are things that all can be fixed. And they all can be fixed by Lane Kiffin.”

One of those fixes was “parting ways” with Kiffin’s father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, at season’s end.  Thus far, though, Kiffin is holding onto his beloved offensive play-calling duties, a source of criticism that Haden acknowledges and hints could be hampering the team as a whole even as its considered by the AD to be one of Kiffin’s strengths.

“Sometimes when you’re calling plays… you don’t sense maybe the whole team,” Haden explained. “So I think he has to really sense the whole team and feel and have the relationship with the whole team.”

As for Kiffin’s future with the program, Haden gave a curt “I’m not answering that question” when asked what it would take for the coach to keep his job.  Suffice to say, it’ll take more than a seven-win season to keep the critics at bay.  It also wouldn’t hurt Kiffin if the off-field issues slowed to a trickle in the coming months, although even Haden knows that may be easier said than done given the reputation his coach earned over the past several years.

“His reputation, it’s going to be really hard to sanitize that over time unless he kind of wins a lot of games and does things right, which we plan to do,” Haden said.

“He’s anti-Teflon. I mean, stuff sticks to him that doesn’t even belong on him.”

Lamar Jackson turns in another Heisman-worthy performance as Louisville drubs NC State

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 22:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Send Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson to New York now. Maybe get the nameplate for the Heisman Trophy ready too. Jackson continued to pad his Heisman profile with another stellar performance, this time against NC State (4-3, 1-1 ACC). Jackson and No. 7 Louisville (6-1, 4-1 ACC) blew out the Wolfpack, 54-13 Saturday afternoon.

Jackson wasted little time in having an impact on the game. On the fourth play of the game, Jackson ripped off a 36-yard touchdown to give Louisville a quick 7-0 lead. The Heisman frontrunner ended his day having completed 20-of-34 pass attempts for 355 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson also rushed for a score and 76 yards before getting an early rest in the second half. Jackson completed touchdown passes to Jaylen Smith, Jamari Staples and Cole Hikutini.

Louisville jumped all over NC State in the first half with a dominating start. The Cardinals led at halftime 44-0. The Cardinals had a little more than a 300-yard advantage in total offense over NC State at the half and that continued in the second half. Louisville was so dominant that even 12 penalties for 94 yards didn’t seem to bother them (although it surely is not to be overlooked). Louisville also had a pair of turnovers, but they also recovered three turnovers.

The Jackson Heisman Tour will take to the road the next couple of weeks. Louisville plays at Virginia next week and at Boston College the following week before returning home to wrap up its conference schedule against Wake Forest. It’s hard not to look ahead to the mid-November game at Houston, but Louisville will remain in the playoff hunt as long as Jackson keeps playing the way he has.

NC State will look to bounce back from back-to-back ACC losses next week when they host Boston College.

Kansas State holds off Texas, 24-21

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Jesse Ertz #17 of the Kansas State Wildcats warms up before the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Wolverines 31-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but Kansas State (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) will take it. The Wildcats took control of the time of possession in the first half and held off a bit of a second-half push by Texas (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) to pick up a 24-21 victory Saturday afternoon.

Kansas State certainly gave Texas opportunities. The Wildcats had three turnovers, but Texas followed those Kansas State turnovers with two turnover-on-downs and one missed field goal. Jesse Ertz was efficient in the passing game for Kansas State, completing 20 of 27 pass attempts for 171 yards and a touchdown (one interception). Ertz also accounted for two rushing touchdowns and 78 rushing yards.

Despite missing on a number of opportunities, Texas did still manage to push Kansas State to the end of the game with a pair of second-half touchdowns. Shane Buechele‘s six-yard touchdown pass to Dorian Leonard in the back of the end zone was upheld by a video replay and cut the Kansas State lead to three after an extra-point conversion. Buechele completed 17-pf-24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. D'Onta Foreman led all players with 124 rushing yards, and Tyrone Swoopes added a rushing touchdown. Charles Jones was Kansas State’s leading rusher with 81 yards on 12 attempts.

Texas will return to Austin next week to host Baylor. Entering this weekend, Baylor as undefeated and looking to make a push in the Big 12. Texas stunned a depleted Baylor last year, so Baylor will be looking for revenge. Once again, Texas head coach Charlie Strong looks to be in need of a big win to save his job.

Kansas State hits the road next week for an early kickoff at Iowa State. The cyclones entered this week with a record of 1-6, with a record of 0-4 in Big 12 play.

WATCH: Purdue honors the late Sam Foltz prior to Nebraska game

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Students of the Nebraska Cornhuskers honor deceased player Sam Foltz with a banner before the game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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The Big Ten has fully embraced honoring the memory of Sam Foltz, and Purdue became the latest to do as much.

Like Illinois before them, the Purdue captains presented their counterparts at Nebraska with a No. 27 jersey at midfield as the two teams met for the ceremonial coin toss prior to the Big Ten contest.  The coin used, incidentally, featured Foltz on one side and Mike Sadler on the other.

Foltz, who would’ve been Nebraska’s punter this season, and Sadler, a former Michigan State punter, were killed in a July car accident on their way home from a kick camp in Wisconsin. LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured in the wreck, but is kicking this season for the Tigers and honoring both by wearing special cleats.

Jeff George Jr. will reportedly get the start for Illini vs. Michigan

Illinois athletics

If you’re in the mood to feel old, here ya go.

Illinois has been hit hard by injuries at the quarterback position, with season-opening starter Wes Lunt dealing with a back issue while Chayce Crouch, last week’s starter in place of Lunt, hurt his shoulder against Rutgers.  Neither of those signal-callers are expected to be available for today’s game against Michigan.

So, just who will line up under center against the No. 3 team in the country in the Big House?  According to the Champaign News-Gazette, that honor will fall to Jeff George Jr., the son of former Illini great Jeff George.

The 6-3, 205-pound George was a two-star recruit in 2014 who took a grayshirt that year before enrolling at Illinois in 2015.  He took a redshirt his true freshman season, and has not thrown a pass at the collegiate level.

Obviously, this will mark his first career start, and it will come against a team with which his father had some familiarity.  From the News-Gazette:

George’s dad, who was scheduled to be at today’s game, started twice against Michigan in the late 1980s.

He had 135 yards in a 1988 loss and threw for 253 yards in a 24-10 loss in 1989 at Memorial Stadium.