Lane Kiffin laments excessive flags

Updated: November 1, 2012, 10:51 AM ET
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- USC coach Lane Kiffin's team doesn't just lead the FBS in penalties per game. The Trojans are committing 20 percent more penalties than any other team in the country.

And one of Kiffin's players, star wide receiver Robert Woods, attempted to explain the flags this week by saying they come from a source of "too much pride."

Kiffin indicated that he agreed with Woods following Wednesday's practice but said he doesn't understand why pride is leading to the penalties.

"It's not a street fight," Kiffin said. "It's a game. And there's rules within that."

USC hasn't followed the rules very well. Through eight games this season, the Trojans already have committed 82 penalties, more than all of last year. No other team with eight games under its belt has committed more than 68.

The flags include 18 personal fouls. USC is squandering about 85 yards each game on penalties alone -- nearly three times the amount Pac-12 South rival Arizona State is losing.

That's because of the misguided pride, Kiffin said.

"A lot of them have the mentality where they're trained to protect their brother," Kiffin said. "Unfortunately, that's cost us in a lot of these situations, where we get retaliation off of something that happened to somebody else."

Woods, a junior, said his teammates are playing the game too emotionally. If an opponent hits one of the Trojans after a play is whistled dead, players will make it a point to go back and do the same.

"I feel like this team has too much pride," Woods said Tuesday. "When you're making the penalties, you don't really know the situation, because emotions are up. Once we actually settle down and watch the film and see all the penalties that happen and see the situations, it's just dumb mistakes."

On Sunday, the day after USC's 39-36 loss to Arizona, Kiffin showed the players a video of big penalties from the entire season, hoping to impress upon them the extent and result of their mistakes.

He said he was hopeful the video would make a difference in this Saturday's game against Oregon, which also commits nearly eight penalties per game.

In fact, six of the Pac-12 Conference's teams rank in the bottom 20 of the FBS in penalties. Eleven of the 12 rank in the bottom half. Only Arizona State is better than the average FBS team in penalties.

Kiffin said that was evidence that USC's worst-in-the-nation mark was influenced by Pac-12 officiating.

"Obviously, those type of numbers have to point to the officials calling games tighter in the conference," Kiffin said. "That doesn't mean that's bad or good. It just is what it is."

USC safety T.J. McDonald, who committed two penalties against Arizona, said he and his teammates have resolved to change their ways going forward to put out a better product.

"We represent a lot of people out there on the field," McDonald said. "The players that came before us, all the people that are watching us. We don't want to display an undisciplined team."