Tuesday also means the weekly Pac-12 coaches teleconference, a chance for reporters to ask questions of each of the coaches.
USC’s Lane Kiffin and UW’s Steve Sarkisian happened to go one after the other, so I’ll combine this entry with a few notes from each.
— Kiffin, asked about the USC-UW series becoming more competitive in recent years, agreed and said it was a credit to Scott Woodward and Sarkisian “for getting that done and making this a very competitive matchup.”
— Kiffin and Sarkisian have been close since their days working together at USC as assistants. Kiffin said they still talk often but that “obviously this week that slows down.”
— Kiffin, asked about the high expectations that greeted USC this season, said that does add a different dynamic to a season and that “the biggest issue that comes with that is what they hear from everybody else” and that initially they hear how great they are and then when they lose they hear “what’s wrong with you. … that can take a toll on you.” He said as coaches they try to concentrate on preparing for each game and that “it’s always about you and your preparation” and not what is being said outside the program.
— Asked about USC’s offense against Utah, he said the key was limiting “negative plays” particularly after the first two series when two turnovers led to 14 quick utah points. He noted from there, six of the next seven USC drives were either TDs or field goal attempts.
— Asked about the running game, he said USC has run well in every game except Stanford, which he said was a combination of Stanford having a good scheme and playing great and USC being without center Khaled Holmes, who is now back. “He is obviously very valuable to us, so hopefully we will keep improving,” Kiffin said.
— Asked about Lakes High OT Zach Banner, Kiffin sasid he is redshirting this season but is doing “a great job academically for us” and on the scout team. Banner is expected to be part of the travel roster this week even though he is redshirting. Kiffin said Banner’s father, Lincoln Kennedy, attended USC’s practice Monday and joked “it was weird to have a Husky here at Husky week.”
— As for Sarkisian, he was initially asked his thoughts on Oregon and said the biggest difference in the Ducks this year from the past few seasons is the mobility of QB Marcus Mariota. “That was a big change for us, how fast he is at the quarterback position,” Sarkisian said.
— Asked about Keith Price, he agreed with the premise of the question that a quarterback gets too much credit or blame and said Price “is still a fantastic football player.” He reiterated the theme of Monday’s press conference that Price “at times maybe he’s pressed a little bit” and maybe gotten frustrated, in part at having so many moving pieces around him with all the different personnel at receiver, running back and the line. He said he had a long talk with Price on Monday in which he talked with Price about the need to “play football. Right now he’s working football, and working is not fun, as we all know. … He needs to play. When he is at his best, he is playing football and not working it. So we need to get him back to that.”
— And asked about the matchup of cornerback Desmond Trufant with USC WRs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, Sarkisian said that Trufant is “playing at an extremely high level.” He said Trufant has “always been a fantastic player” but more than ever is taking what is being practiced during the week on the field on gameday. He noted that Trufant had the interception that sealed the Stanford game and made the play that resulted in the interception last week (getting the initial pass breakup). He said Trufant “likes the opportunity and the challenge” presented this week in facing Lee and Woods.