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Monte Kiffin To Resign: USC's Four Worst Defensive Performances During His Tenure

James Santelli |
November 29, 2012 | 8:13 p.m. PST

Sports Director

Monte Kiffin will look to return to the NFL after a disappointing stint at USC. (Shotgun Spratling/NT)
Monte Kiffin will look to return to the NFL after a disappointing stint at USC. (Shotgun Spratling/NT)
It was natural for fans to have high expectations with Monte Kiffin calling the shots for the Trojans' defense.

Kiffin came with his son, Lane, to USC sporting a résumé few defensive minds could match. He was the architect of the "Tampa 2" defense that led to so much success in his 13 seasons as defensive coordinator for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of his final 11 seasons with the Bucs, his defenses finished the season 10 times in the NFL's Top 10 in least points allowed. And of course, he had that Super Bowl ring to show off in recruiting talented young players to Los Angeles.

After three seasons in charge of USC's defense, though, the results did not match Monte Kiffin's legendary pedigree. The Trojans ended up in the middle of the "pac" in scoring defense this season, finishing sixth in the Pac-12 Conference with 24.6 points allowed per game. And giving up an average of 396 yards per game placed Kiffin's defense seventh in the Pac-12.

Following the Trojans' bowl game, Monte will resign from the coaching staff to pursue opportunities in the NFL, where he coached for 26 seasons. Finishing the season at about league average did not satisfy USC fans, and neither did several performances by the defense under Kiffin. Rightly or wrongly, there were four defensive outings in particular under Kiffin that frustrated the Trojans' faithful.

4. Arizona State: Sept. 24, 2011 (43 points) -- This one comes with an asterisk, as the last ASU touchdown came on an interception by Shelly Lyons of the Sun Devils. But the USC defense made plenty of mistakes on their own in Tempe; the Lyons pick-six merely put it out of reach.

Penalty flags have been a bugaboo for USC in recent years. (James Santelli/NT)
Penalty flags have been a bugaboo for USC in recent years. (James Santelli/NT)
The Trojans could not force any turnovers of Arizona State, and safety T.J. McDonald committed three personal foul penalties en route to USC's first loss of the season. The Sun Devils were able to extend drives with relative ease, converting 6 of 12 third-down opportunities and putting it in place for RB Cameron Marshall to score three touchdowns.

3. Arizona: Oct. 27, 2012 (39 points) -- It may seem like a long time ago that USC still had a legitimate chance to reach the National Championship, but they entered Tucson with only one loss and the opportunity to build it case to go to Miami. And getting 345 receiving yards from Marqise Lee would be a good start.

The spread offense of the Wildcats had different plans. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott threw for 369 yards, including 259 of those to receiver Austin Hill. One interception of Scott was the only takeaway for the USC defense. Arizona scored touchdowns on four of its final drives of the game, leaving any championship hopes for the Trojans out to dry in the desert heat.

2. Oregon: Oct. 30, 2010 (53 points) -- Everyone knew Oregon's offense would be tough to stop. It was. But USC couldn't have expected the Ducks would run up and down the field to rack up 599 yards. LaMichael James ran over the Trojans for 239 yards on 36 carries, and quarterback Darron Thomas passed for 288 yards and added four touchdowns through the air.

Though USC kept it close through the first half, it really was just holding back the floodgates of the Ducks offense. The Ducks converted 11 of their 17 third downs to stay on the field. And those 53 points were the most Oregon had ever scored against the Trojans... until the record was set again two years later.

1. Oregon: Nov. 3, 2012 (62 points) -- USC started playing football in 1888. Over that century-plus, the Trojans never gave up 62 points in a game and they never gave up more than 700 yards. Oregon shattered both those marks en route to a victory at the Coliseum. Ducks running back torched the Trojans for 321 yards and five touchdowns, with quarterback Marcus Mariota adding 400 total yards (304 yards passing, 96 yards rushing). USC couldn't slow down Oregon's attack, and they only took the ball away once.

The Trojans' offense held up its end of the bargain with 615 yards and 51 points. But the defense's inability to contain the Chip Kelly's offensive attack left many USC fans to point their finger directly at Monte Kiffin.

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