Kiffin was quite critical of the Trojans front five much of last season, only to soften and ultimately praise their performance by Pac-12 Media Day.
And on an evening when USC had only 26 net rushing yards at the half, Kiffin actually went out of his way to defend their performance.
The Trojans finished with 175 yards on the ground and the only sack allowed came late in the fourth quarter on a play where there was rampant miscommunication.
"You take all that into account, for a group that I got on pretty hard last week, I'm probably most proud of our offensive line," Kiffin said. "I'm really proud of those guys and how they responded to criticism."
Freshman Marcus Martin made his first career start at left guard and came away pleased with his performance, aside from a two-play sequence when he was flagged for holding and then committed a false start.
"Overall it was great," he said. "It was amazing and I loved it."
Martin became the first freshman to start on the offensive line since center Kris O'Dowd started three games in 2007.
Lee One-Ups Woods
It took four games for Robert Woods to catch his first career touchdown.
Needless to say, there was some friendly ribbing about it.
"I always kept that in mind. I just wanted to let him know I was going to come after him," said Lee, who caught two passes for 63 yards. "It felt great. I couldn't stop smiling."
Dawson Leaves In Boot
Linebacker Lamar Dawson saw his most extensive action, recording two tackles, but the freshman from Junction City (Ky.) Boyle County left the Coliseum in a walking boot.
Dawson said he tweaked his ankle on the final series, but did not believe the injury was serious.
Big East, For Now Anyway
Syracuse became the first Big East team ever to play USC in the Coliseum, not counting a 1965 visit by Pittsburgh that predates the conference.
Ironically, those two schools are now set to change conference affiliation and start another round of expansion.
Pete Thamel of the New York Times first reported that the Orange and Panthers are set to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, with a formal announcement perhaps as soon as Sunday morning.
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone was asked about the pending move and said, "I'll let other people handle those decisions."
Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross, a former senior official in the USC athletic department, was not made available to the press.