Notes and quotes from Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin's conference call Sunday looking back at USC’s 40-17 win over Washington at the Coliseum and looking forward to the upcoming matchup against Oregon in Eugene:
Kiffin said he was just as happy with Saturday's win 24 hours after the fact as he was right after the game, mentioning Washington's horrendous 2-for-13 third-down conversion rate and USC's turnover-free day on offense as positives. But he also maintained that he was disappointed with two areas of the Trojans' play against the Huskies. No. 1 was the amount of penalties USC had -- 11 for 78 yards -- and No. 2 was the inconsistency in the passing game.
On the topic of the passing game, Kiffin blamed most of the inconsistency on the condition of top receiver Robert Woods, who he said was probably "70 percent" healthy on the field Saturday. Woods has been bothered by ankle and elbow injuries all season long. Freshman standout Marqise Lee picked up for Woods some with nine catches, but nine total yards from scrimmage from your top player won't net you much, Kiffin essentially said. "Without Robert, that hurts our rhythm a little bit," Kiffin said Sunday. "I think that's what really affected the passing game, Robert not being at full speed.
The question, then, was this: How are the Trojans going to preserve Woods' health as much as possible over the final two weeks of the season? Kiffin said he and his staff are looking into ways to limit his involvement on special teams, because he attributed all of his extra snaps on return teams as one key reason for his nagging injuries.
Injury updates: safety T.J. McDonald spent Saturday night in the hospital with what Kiffin called "severe migraine headaches and blurred vision." He first started to notice the pain in the second quarter, but Kiffin said he was feeling a lot better as of Sunday night and is expected to play Saturday against Oregon. Defensive tackle Christian Tupou's knee sprain was not serious, Kiffin said. The one player who got hurt Saturday who wouldn't be cleared for the Oregon game is backup linebacker Simione Vehikite, who hurt his neck playing on special teams.
Oregon is clearly hot, having won nine straight games after the season-opening 40-27 loss to LSU on national TV. But Kiffin took it a step further Sunday and said that the Ducks are playing better than anybody else in college football right now, including LSU and Oklahoma State. "It'd be hard to argue that they're not the hottest team in the country right now," Kiffin said.
Kiffin also praised the Ducks' defense, which he said he felt was severely underrated in the national scope. They held then-No. 4 Stanford to its lowest point total of the season on Saturday in Palo Alto. Traditionally, or at least over the last several years, Oregon has been an offense-focused team, but Kiffin implied he thought the defense was catching up a bit. "Their defense is really good, probably by far the best it's ever been," he said. "I don't think they get enough credit because their offense is so good and because they play a lot of plays." What do they do that's so good? Kiffin said they're much more confusing than the average Pac-12 defense. "They cause a lot of problems," he said. "They do a bunch of stuff."
Final notes: Because Oregon beat Stanford on Saturday night, USC's game against the Ducks in Eugene on Saturday is now scheduled for 5 p.m. PT. It would've kicked off at 7:15 had the Cardinal beat Oregon in Palo Alto. ... USC didn't move up or down after beating Washington, staying at the No. 18 ranking in the Associated Press top 25. Oregon moved from No. 6 to No. 4. ... USC opened up a 15-point underdog for the Oregon game in Las Vegas.