Lane Kiffin His Typical Villainous Self Right Off the Bat
Lane Kiffin is the answer.
Not only is Kiffin the most hated man in college football, he doesn't even have a rival for the second-most hated. Honestly, can you even name the second-most hated entity in college football? Maybe the NCAA? The BCS? That's how hated Lane Kiffin is, the NCAA and the BCS might have a higher favorability rating. Even ESPN, the network that created the monster that is Lane Kiffin, seems a bit taken aback by the character they've created. Most of the offseason they've attempted to create a kinder, gentler Lane, rehabilitate his image after the drubbing it took in 13 months in Knoxville.
That's the only explanation for why sideline reporter Shelley Smith began the Hawaii game by saying: "Everything Lane Kiffin does is calculated." Right, and Tiger Woods wanted to get busted with his mistresses, too.
Lane Kiffin coaches football like he's playing a video game. He gives press conferences like he's on X-Box live. How infuriating was Lane Kiffin in his first year as Tennessee's head coach? He could make SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, one of the nicest guys on the planet, boil with rage. Why? Because Kiffin doesn't care about anything or anyone that came before him, anything or anyone that exists around him. No matter how much he tries, Kiffin can't shield the disrespect that he has for his opponents. He coaches with a palpable arrogance, a belief that he's God's gift to the game.
Maybe it comes from Kiffin never having had to work his way up the coaching ranks, so he doesn't have any ability to project what it might be like to not have one of the best jobs. Maybe it's something that's just unique to his personality. Maybe it's just being 35. Maybe it's having a dad who didn't spend enough time with him when he was growing up.
No matter what, Kiffin's an egocentric enigma. For instance, if I told you that only one coach in America was going to go for two the first three times his team scored a touchdown in the opening week of the season, wouldn't you have known it was going to be Lane Kiffin without even having to watch the games?
Of course you would have.
Somehow, some way, Lane Kiffin, a college football villain so delectable we couldn't create him if we tried, is going to find a way to do something ignoble. That's why I was willing to stay up until 2 a.m. Central Time when Kiffin took his show outside the continental United States for the first game of his USC tenure. Here were 10 observations from the game.
1. Mark Jones tries to give Bob Davie a fist pound to open up the telecast.
Davie goes with an open-handed palm touch in response.
It will be the first of many missed signals in Thursday night/Friday morning's broadcast.
If you had to sum up Bob Davie's life in one image without using any words, this would probably be as good an image as any to choose. Everything Davie does is just a bit off. From the decision to use all three buttons on his polo -- is there a draft in the Hawaiian press box? -- to his inability to ever do anything halfway. Davie gushes about every head coach. Perhaps because, to Bob Davie, every coach he watches looks pretty impressive.
Davie is a modest man, with much to be modest about.
2. Lane Kiffin goes for two on his first touchdown.
Of course, he does. You can't even make this up. It's the perfect thing for Lane Kiffin to decide to do. Something that no one else would attempt, an oddly dismissive gesture that has no real substance behind it. What message, exactly, is being sent by this decision? Later Kiffin will probably say something about how this move was designed to show his team they would never quit.
Because, clearly, everyone who kicks extra points is quitting.
ESPN misses this two-point conversion attempt because even the network is shocked by the diabolical evil that is Lane Kiffin.
3. I keep expecting to see Lane Kiffin tweeting insults to Urban Meyer on the sideline.
You know this is happening too, don't you? At halftime of one of USC's games Lane Kiffin is going to criticize the officiating on Twitter.
I'm so sure of this I wish I could place a prop bet in Las Vegas.
4. Hawaii appears to be going with my fourth grade PE offense: go long on every play.
But it bounces back to cut the lead to 6-3 midway through the first quarter.
Amazingly, by sticking with the go long on every play offense, eventually they begin to carve massive chunks of yardage out of the USC defense.
5. ESPN lauds Kiffin for having his scout team perform the Hawaiian dance.
Perhaps this time spent performing the Hawaiian dance could have been spent on some more rudimentary tactics. Such as, I don't know, tackling.
Or constructing a defensive game plan?
6. Shelley Smith reports there are no celebrities on the USC sideline.
Then at halftime, just after a blown call that costs Hawaii a touchdown, she fails to ask Kiffin the only question worth asking: why have you been going for two? Instead she asks Kiffin: "What have they figured out?"
And Lane Kiffin, God bless him, responds: "Nothing. They figured out that we hit the guy late."
Those 16 points -- which should have been 20 -- were clearly a calculated part of the master plan.
7. Matt Barkley is good, really good.
He's going to keep Lane Kiffin from getting fired for two years. Then he's going to go pro and Lane Kiffin will be fired the next season. Go ahead and write this down.
That's the gospel truth.
In the meantime, Barkley will become the next in a storied line of USC quarterbacks to receive a Heisman invitation to New York. He throws for five touchdowns against Hawaii's porous defense.
It could have been 10.
8. The other story from the game is this: USC's secondary is going to get roasted in the Pac-10 this year.
Actually, even UVa might roast it next week.
Having watched him for one season at Tennessee, I think this much is also clear: Monte Kiffin's defensive guru status doesn't translate as well on the collegiate level.
Not with limited college practice hours anyway.
Hawaii's offense moves the ball at will against USC. Bryant Moniz, its quarterback, looked an awful lot like running back Dexter McCluster from Ole Miss. The Monte Kiffin defense had no answer until he's knocked out of the game with a hit of borderline legality in the latter part of the third quarter.
And then once Hawaii brought in its third string quarterback, the Monte Kiffin defense continued to get lit up. How bad was it? Hawaii put up 613 total yards of offense, including 459 through the air.
It got so bad I realized that Monte was never shown on television all night. Was he even there? Was it past his bedtime? Because this looked an awful lot like an Ed Orgeron gameplan.
By which, of course, I mean there was no gameplan.
9. The next-to-last USC touchdown of the night? Lane Kiffin's Trojans line up to attempt, what else, a two-point conversion.
Backup quarterback Mitch Mustain is successful rushing the ball in for the conversion and the Trojans are right back where they would have been if they'd simply kicked the extra points all night long.
10. From here both teams duel well into the night, until just about 3 in the morning Eastern Time, a four-hour slugfest when the score ends 49-36.
As he jogs off the field, Lane Kiffin, a legend in his own mind, has run his career head coaching record to 13-21.
And the first tremors of uncertainty are racing along the USC fan fault line. Uh oh, they're thinking.
Get used to it, say fans from back in the Volunteer state.
He's your problem now.