On Saturday, after the Trojans lost to Washington by a point, Lane Kiffin sat in the news conference room in the Coliseum and listened as a reporter asked him whether he was still set on Joe Houston as his starting placekicker.
Houston, of course, had just missed a 40-yard field goal with less than three minutes to go that would've made the Huskies' two-minute drill that gave them the victory a lot harder to complete. Kiffin looked politely at the reporter as he began with the question and -- maybe a second or two after it started -- appeared to make up his mind, resolutely.
But he kept looking at the reporter, as if he were waiting for the precise moment the question ended to speak. As soon as it did, he opened his mouth.
"Definitely," Kiffin said.
Tuesday, he did as he said he would and gave both Houston and punter/kick-off specialist Jake Harfman a shot to kick field goals in a team setting at the end of practice. Harfman made four of six attempts; Houston made just two of six.
Kiffin wasn't pleased.
"Basically all we got out of that," he said after practice, "is that we’ll be going for it a lot in the red zone."
Harfman said he got the word that he would again be competing for the spot at the start of practice and immediately began to prepare. Harfman hadn't attempted a field goal in what he said was two or three months -- since the decision was made to start Houston at kicker during fall camp in mid- to late-August.
All four of his attempts that went through cleared the uprights by a solid distance. His kicks were, altogether, significantly stronger than Houston's, but Houston did stay after practice and work with special teams coach John Baxter on his kicking motion. His kicks seemed to sail left when he attempted them alongside Baxter.
Harfman was the designated long-distance kicker last season, when the Trojans used Nebraska transfer Jordan Congdon as their kicker. He attempted only one kick in that role all year, a 50-yarder at the end of the first half against UCLA that he missed.
See what Harfman had to say after practice about his readiness for the spot, Houston's miss and other topics in a one-on-one video interview: