Notes and quotes from Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin's conference call Saturday looking back at USC’s 42-17 win over Colorado in Boulder and looking forward to the upcoming matchup against Washington:
USC didn't experience a letdown against Colorado -- maybe for about five minutes early on -- but Kiffin is cognizant of the tendency to overvalue a big win against a not-so-good team. With Washington looming, the Trojans have to take many of the same principles they employed against the Buffaloes and bring them into Saturday's game at the Coliseum. "The point is to take it one game at a time," Kiffin said. "In general, we'd love to finish strong, but we are a very young team."
Quarterback Matt Barkley's record-breaking performance against the Buffaloes was tarnished only by his second-quarter interception that led to Colorado's only field goal of the game. But Kiffin said the pick was due to an error in route-running by freshman receiver Marqise Lee, confirming Barkley's comments after the game. Barkley finished with six touchdown passes on 25-of-39 passing for 318 yards.
The decision to start freshman Lamar Dawson over senior Chris Galippo was made well in advance of Friday's game, although the Trojans didn't make any announcements about it during the week. "I talked to Chris Sunday or Monday," Kiffin said of breaking the news. "It's happened to him before here. He's got two choices, I told him. He can practice his tail off and prove us wrong or he could sit around and pout. And he had a great week of practice and came in and made a lot of plays on the field."
And Dawson didn't disappoint Kiffin, proving that he deserves to keep his new starting spot for Saturday's Washington game and probably beyond. "I thought Lamar did well for his first start in there," Kiffin said. "He'll be the starter this week, but we'll continue to evaluate it, though. We're still playing Chris." Galippo played more on special teams against the Buffaloes than he has in other games this season, Kiffin said, which the coach attributed to more rest on the defensive side of the ball.
Safety T.J. McDonald missed the first half because of a Pac-12 mandated suspension and then played cautiously in the second half. He was suspended, of course, for his hit on Stanford's Chris Owusu in the fourth quarter of the triple-overtime loss last week. "I think that’s affecting him,” Kiffin said. “He probably won’t admit it, though.” Meaning, McDonald continues to look for ways to hit hard yet not get called for further penalties.
About McDonald, Kiffin said it was his decision to keep the junior safety in sweats during normal pregame warmups and have him retreat to the locker room early in the second quarter to begin warming up on his own. "That was my idea," Kiffin said. "I didn't want T.J. to get all warmed up and basically sit for two hours, especially with the weather." The coach also praised Drew McAllister for his heady play in McDonald's absence early on.
Running back Amir Carlisle may have had the biggest break-out game of any of the young players who had big opportunities against the Buffs, scoring his first career touchdown and accumulating 121 yards from scrimmage. And he could do even better soon. "Amir did really well," Kiffin said. "He's not 100 percent, and that's what's really exciting about him. It's a good thing to see him play that well and play that physical knowing that he's probably about 80 percent."
Injury updates: Both tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison (knee) and running back Curtis McNeal (thigh) were cleared to play in the second half of Friday's game, Kiffin said. USC chose to keep them on the sidelines because the outcome wasn't in doubt.