"Our goal has always been to get to this point in the season at 4-0, go back home healthy and knowing who we are," he said.
The Trojans still might not know who they are, but they are undefeated after trouncing the Cougars, 50-16, in a half-empty Martin Stadium.
They also showed signs of figuring out that identity. They grinded out 285 rushing yards, converted 10 of 15 third and fourth downs and didn't punt. There was a season-low five penalties for 39 yards, a blocked punt, key contributions from true freshmen Robert Woods and Nickell Robey and a dominant performance from fullback Stanley Havili.
The redshirt senior actually started at tailback, negating a week's worth of questions over whether Allen Bradford or Marc Tyler would be out there on the first play, as USC planned to use its hurry-up offense.
Havili rendered it irrelevant, taking a handoff 59 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7, which Kiffin called the play of the game.
"They went down the field and scored and that kind of got their crowd into it and all of a sudden, one plays and it's all tied up," Kiffin said.
"I loved it. I told him I was running down the field with him the whole time. Stanley, he's just one of those guys that's already a pro," Bradford said.
Havili's next touch was a 58-yard reception. Before it was all said and done, he had five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, another 80 yards rushing on four carries.
"Here's a guy that never once complained about touches even though he's a senior, kept getting better and it showed today," Kiffin said.
"That came from the film. I seen the checkdown, I already knew what was coming," Robey said.
"He thought I was in zone, but I was baiting him so I just jumped the route."
But behind every bright spot is a glaring concern.
Quarterback Matt Barkley threw two interceptions that let Washington State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-10) hang around. Bradford fumbled. The defense struggled in space once again, allowing Tuel and the wide-open Washington State attack 230 yards in the first half.
It was to be expected given how the Trojans conducted their fall camp. Citing limited numbers, Kiffin eliminated full contact practice and held just two scrimmages, forcing the team to play into game readiness.
"As you looked at the overall picture of everything - the schedule, the way we had to practice with the numbers not being able to be physical and tackle – normally we'd have four preseason scrimmages where we would tackle and play 100 plays and know our team," Kiffin said.
"We didn't have that, so our goal was to get through these four games and not worry about what the score was and then have an idea of our roster."
That approach showed in missed tackles, poor ball security and other lapses.
That all has to get addressed as the degree of difficulty goes way up starting next week with a visit from former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Washington.
"It definitely is going to get tougher and Coach Kiffin just said earlier that we kind of treated like a preseason through game four. Even though this was a great start to our Pac-10, it does seem like it's only going to get harder from here," said Barkley, who was 16 of 25 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Still, the Trojans enjoyed their most complete win to date.
"A couple players are disappointed from turnovers, but other than that we played great," Havili said. "The whole team is happy, ready to get back to LA and get ready for Washington."