Kiffin credits guards for strong run game

Trojans used only 45 scholarship players in its win against Notre Dame, good preparation for impending scholarship reductions, USC head coach Lane Kiffin said.

LOS ANGELES – While USC shifts its focus to No. 4 Stanford, a team head coach Lane Kiffin declared "maybe the best team in the country" Tuesday, there was still time to look back on its 31-17 win at Notre Dame.

Kiffin was especially pleased with the Trojans' running game, totaling 219 yards on 44 carries.

Tweaking its normal offensive approach, they used spread looks to limit plays by Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te'o.

"If we had to deal with running downhill at him all day it was going to be tough," Kiffin said. "If you look back at those first two drives, we forced him outside the box with formations so we didn't have to run against him."

Te'o had just three solo tackles, as redshirt senior Marc Tyler and redshirt junior Curtis McNeal ran wild.

The offensive line controlled at the point of attack, Kiffin quick to credit freshman left guard Marcus Martin and right guard John Martinez.

"Our guards were actually probably the biggest key to that game," Kiffin said. "Marcus played his best game by far, and John played his best game by far."

They will be tested this week by a Stanford defense that ranks third nationally in rush defense and fourth in scoring defense.

"They'll be a lot of challenges up front with certain fronts that they do, a lot of confusion, try to mix us up," quarterback Matt Barkley said. "Just another one of those games where we have to be on point."

Another takeaway from the intersectional rivalry victory is that USC used only 45 scholarship players, a preview of sorts for impending scholarships reductions.

"I feel really good," Kiffin said. "We're already getting practice at it. It's good to see that we can perform at a high level with those type of numbers. We've been dealing with stuff like that for two years already."

Woods Absent
Sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods did not practice because of "a couple of" injuries, Kiffin said.

Woods was dressed and in good spirits, coming off a 12-reception, 119-yard, two touchdown performance at Notre Dame.

Farmer Injured
Freshman running back George Farmer suffered an apparent left ankle injury after being tackled by safety Jawanza Starling.

Farmer was helped off by trainers and unable to put any weight on his leg. He later carted off Howard Jones Field with his ankle wrapped in ice.

Kiffin could not immediately update Farmer's status.

A converted wide receiver, Farmer has carried five times for 15 yards, caught two passes for 23 yards and returned three kickoffs for 59 yards in two games.

Another freshman, Amir Carlisle, was injured during service period, leaving Tyler, McNeal and redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan as the only available running backs.

Tyler practiced in a yellow no-contact injury as he deals with a dislocated shoulder and hyperextended knee.

No Comment
Kiffin declined to answer questions regarding running back Dillon Baxter, who is no longer with the program because of academics per a statement issued earlier in the morning.

"This is all about no distractions," Kiffin said. "That's why we're not answering questions. We don't want our players or coaches dealing with it. Our team has had great focus over the last couple weeks on the road. The last thing we want to do is get distracted."

Kiffin did not say if Baxter, a highly touted five-star recruit from San Diego (Calif.) Mission Bay, would be eligible to rejoin the team.

Baxter was a non-factor as a sophomore this season, carrying the ball nine times for 29 yards and catching three passes for one yard.

Quick Hits
-Kicker Andre Heidari (ankle) said he would be able to practice fully tomorrow.

-Corner Torin Harris (shoulder) did not practice. Top Stories