Kiffin, Barkley resolve issue over late runs

LOS ANGELES -- There was a mini-controversy within the USC Trojans' program this week.

It started when coach Lane Kiffin indicated he called mostly run plays in the second half of the win over Washington to keep quarterback Matt Barkley off the ground. That comment was then relayed to Barkley, who reacted negatively to the sentiment that he needed special treatment.

"I can take any hit," Barkley said. "That's surprising."

Asked again three days later about Kiffin's comments, Barkley said he and his coach still needed to talk over the issue privately.

Apparently they did that since. Because it's all resolved now, according to Kiffin.

"It had nothing to do with whether Matt could take a hit," he said Thursday of his initial comments. "That wasn't the point at all. I think that was relayed to him as if that's what the point was."

Here's what Kiffin said after the game Saturday when asked if a big early hit on Barkley influenced his decision to run the ball over and over later in the game: "That had nothing to do with him. That was simply playing to win. I wanted to sit here in this press conference at 5-1, not 4-2. And we did that."

He continued to add the following, which was relayed to Barkley minutes later as he left CenturyLink Field: "Also, in those situations, why go back and get him hit again? Play to our defense and get on the plane and go home."

Kiffin added more context Thursday to his adoption of a ground-and-pound mentality against the Huskies.

"You're ahead in the game," Kiffin said. "Your defense is playing great. You're playing great on special teams. You're running the ball really well. We had a lot of penalties on offense that put us in a lot of third-and-long situations.

"It's not about who is the quarterback. I think the smarter thing is to not get your quarterback hit on the road and get the crowd back into it."

USC only makes offensive players available for comment on Tuesdays, so Barkley could not address the issue following Thursday's practice.