Jahleel Pinner, Lane Kiffin

Washington State claws way to victory over USC


The first step for USC is to admit it has a problem.

That problem is Lane Kiffin.

How else to explain a very talented Trojan team’s horrid performance in a 10-7 loss to Washington State on Saturday night?

A USC offense filled with elite recruits put up just 192 total yards, including 54 through the air. Mind you, this is an offense that features Marqise Lee, one of the top players in the country. But Lee managed just 27 yards on seven catches.

But it hasn’t been just this game. This is part of a longer term trend for USC under Kiffin. The Trojans have scored just five offensive touchdowns in their last four games. USC hasn’t scored a point in a third quarter since the Arizona State game of last season. It is averaging 9 points per game in its last three home games. The Trojans have lost six of their last eight games.

And USC hasn’t lost to WSU in the Coliseum since 2000, the last year a Trojan head coach was fired.  Will USC athletic director Pat Haden have the guts to pull the trigger this time around? Stay tuned.

For all the talk of USC, though, this was also the first big win for Mike Leach at WSU. The Cougars showed signs of life last week against Auburn and proved it wasn’t a fluke — their mental toughness was the difference against the Trojans.

Still, the path to a WSU win seemed problematic midway through the second quarter. The Trojans were up, 7-0, and driving. The Cougars offense was getting throttled and it looked like WSU was headed for another road loss.

But that all changed when Damante Horton stepped in front of a Cody Kessler pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, the score was 7-7 headed into the half and the game was up for grabs.

Most of the rest of the game was sloppy and it looked like it might be headed to overtime but, once again, WSU made a play. Dom Williams took a Connor Halliday pass 50 yards  down the sideline to set up Andrew Furney‘s 41-yard field goal with 3:15 left to play. The pressure shifted over to the Trojans.

But USC under Kiffin clearly doesn’t handle pressure well. Horton sat on another pass, this one from Max Wittek, and the Cougars ran out the clock. Suddenly, a bowl game seems like a possibility.

Whither USC, though? Given the embarrassing collapse to the Cougars, I’d be surprised if Kiffin lasts the season.

Certainly the fans have made up their minds.

“Fire Kiffin!” they shouted from the Coliseum stands as the seconds ticked down.

Brian Kelly’s decisions see No. 6 Notre Dame fall two points shy of No. 12 Clemson

Brian Kelly

No. 12 Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC) seemed to have No. 6 Notre Dame under firm control as the rain came down Saturday night. A sure win, with Clemson leading the visiting Irish 21-3 in the fourth quarter, nearly washed away, but the Irish rally fell two points shy. Clemson stuffed a two-point conversion attempt by Notre Dame with seven seconds to play to preserve a 24-22 victory in the rain.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled to get a  grip on the football and completed just 11 of his 22 pass attempts for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His counterpart, freshman DeShone Kizer, had a much better day through the wet air after a sluggish start. Kizer ended the game with 321 passing yards and two touchdowns in leading the Irish rally from 21-3. Watson did add 93 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to remind those watching just how effective he can be as a dual-threat.

Clemson’s offense got stuck in the mud after going up 21-3 in the third quarter, but the defense managed to hold on for the win. It was not easy, but forcing four turnovers helped. None may have been more critical than a forced fumble by Jayron Kearse on Notre Dame’s Chris Brown as the receiver was moving inside the five-yard line on a drive that looked to be reaching the end zone for Notre Dame. B.J. Goodson came away from the pile with his hands on the football, but Clemson’s offense would go three-and-out to give the Irish one last chance in great field position. It nearly paid off.

There were two decisions by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly worth second-guessing that may have cost Notre Dame a win, or at least a chance to do something in overtime. Both occurred in the fourth quarter and involved two-point conversion attempts.

Notre Dame had a chance to make it a seven-point game early in the fourth quarter. After C.J. Prosise managed to stay in the field of play down the right sideline for a 56-yard touchdown pass, Kelly opted to go for two points instead of kicking the extra point. Had Notre Dame kicked the extra point, the Irish would have been down 11 points. Instead, after a failed conversion attempt, the Irish were down 12 points. As it turned out, had Notre Dame kicked the extra point, that would have put Notre Dame just one point away from tying Clemson in the final 10 seconds.

Speaking of that last Irish touchdown, Notre Dame obviously needed to go for the two-point conversion to force a tie game. The call was to run the football, and the ball was kept in the hands of Kizer. Kizer did end the game as Notre Dame’s leading rusher, but he had little room and no ability to make any push as the line collapsed on him. Prosise carrying the football may have been too obvious to fool Clemson’s defense must have been the logic in that situation. But this situation never had to happen in the first place.

Behind Kyle Allen, A&M joins LSU atop SEC West with win. vs. Miss. St.

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 03: Kyle Allen #10 of the Texas A&M Aggies avoids the tackle of Beniquez Brown #42 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and throws a touchdown pass in the first quarter on October 3, 2015 at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Prior to the start of the 2015 season, most prognosticators had the SEC West coming down to either Alabama or Auburn.  Five weeks into the season, neither of those teams sit at the top of the divisional heap.

With Kyle Allen triggering the offense and John Chavis orchestrating a virtuoso defensive performance, No. 14 Texas A&M had little trouble dispatching No. 21 Mississippi State in a 30-17 win that, for whatever reason, seemed much easier than the score makes it look.  The 5-0 Aggies carried a 24-10 lead into halftime, and the 3-2 Bulldogs could only get as close as 10 points, 27-17, early in the fourth quarter on a Dak Prescott touchdown run.

As was the case in the first half, the true sophomore Allen was a big reason for the Aggies success.

Allen accounted for a career-high 385 yards of total offense, 322 passing and 63 rushing.  The passing yardage is second only to the 358 he put up in last Saturday’s win over Arkansas, while the rushing yards are the most of his young career.

Tra Carson added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown to supplement the passing game.

The Bulldogs were able to move the ball in the second half — 233 yards in the last two quarters, compared to 173 in the first two — but could never mount much of a scoring threat outside of Prescott’s run that capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive.  Prescott finished with more than 300 yards of offense, 210 passing and 96 rushing.

With the win. A&M moves to 2-0 in SEC play.  LSU, also at 2-0, is the only other undefeated team in league play in the West.  After a bye weekend, A&M will have its hands full the next two games as it hosts Alabama and travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss.