Kiffin pinpoints the downturn for USC

LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin knows exactly where everything started to go wrong this season.

It was in the third quarter of the USC Trojans' 39-36 loss to the Arizona Wildcats last month, he explained Tuesday. Up 28-13 with six minutes to go in the period, Kiffin tried to go for it all on the first play of a drive back on the USC 13-yard line.

Matt Barkley threw deep to Robert Woods, who ran a double-move steak, and the connection looked good when Barkley released the throw. But Barkley's pass landed a bit past Woods' outstretched arms. Otherwise, it would have been a sure touchdown and the Trojans would have gone up 35-13.

"From that play on, not a lot of good's happened," Kiffin said.

Not only did USC fail to score on that drive, within five minutes the Trojans had punted twice and the margin dwindled to 28-26. Five minutes after that, Arizona took the lead, 32-28, and didn't relinquish it.

Since then the Trojans have imploded, losing two more games to fall to 7-4 on the season. Only a win against No. 1 Notre Dame on Saturday would prevent this year's team from recording the most losses in a single season since 2001.

As Kiffin looks at it, USC really hasn't had a disappointing season. It has been more of disappointing last month, he said.

"It's been a disaster month," he said. "It's not like it's been a bad two, three years. It's been a bad one month."

There have been other turning points for the Trojans this season, such as the failed stop on third-and-13 against UCLA and the terrible three-and-out against Stanford right after the Cardinal tied the game at 14-14.

But Barkley's overthrow against Arizona has always stuck out … at least to Kiffin.