Notes and quotes from Lane Kiffin's Sunday evening conference call after the Trojans' 38-17 win over Syracuse:
A last look back at the contentious call on USC's final drive against the Orange, where Matt Barkley tried to throw the ball out of a timeout on first and five at the Syracuse five-yard line and was sacked on the play for a loss of 10 yards. The call was very peculiar -- Barkley hadn't thrown the ball in more than 10 minutes and 10 offensive plays, yet the Trojans asked to him throw once into the end zone. The natural assumption was that they wanted him to break the school record for touchdown passes in a game, but Kiffin denied that afterward, joking about the play and saying that offensive assistant Justin Mesa simply signaled in the wrong call from the sideline.
Asked shortly afterward, Barkley said that was not the case and added that he wanted to give the ball to running back Curtis McNeal the whole time; Mesa said only there had been a "miscommunication" between he and the head coach and did not add any further context. Sunday, Kiffin took responsibility for the play but was still very vague about what exactly happened. "As the head coach, I'm accountable for that," he said. "That's not what I was hoping would happen in that situation. That's really all I got on it." He did add that he would've elected to pass when he was an offensive coordinator but not anymore.
On the topic of Barkley, Kiffin said his junior signal-caller was "awesome" Saturday. And he noted, as we did, that five-touchdown games are becoming so commonplace for him that people barely talked about just how good he really was against Syracuse. Kiffin said Sunday he could've focused his entire 10-minute postgame news conference on how good Barkley was, but he only ended up talking about him for a total of about 30 seconds. "I think we have become accustomed around here to seeing those types of performances," Kiffin said. "Those types of days don't happen very often around the country. It's pretty cool that we expect that around here, that those are our standards."
Kiffin spotlighted the play of McNeal, who ran hard late and finished as USC's leading rusher, as well as redshirt freshmen linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard. Pullard "played as well as anybody" on the team against Utah and followed it up with another good game against Syracuse. Bailey's success at strongside linebacker -- he had nine tackles and a sack on Saturday -- has validated the coaches' decision to move him down from safety in the offseason and start him right away despite no in-game experience. "You get excited as a staff when experiments work," Kiffin said.
Kiffin said he talked a "little bit" with defensive tackle Armond Armstead and his family, and plans to talk with them one more time in the next couple of days. He said there'd be "something" of an update on the senior's status Tuesday, which could be a final determination as to whether he'll play this season.
Injury update: Linebacker Lamar Dawson sprained his left ankle on his final series in the fourth quarter and was wearing a walking boot as he exited the Coliseum on Saturday night. Kiffin did not rule out the possibility that he could play this week. There were no other serious injuries, Kiffin said.