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Pac-12 notebook: Change at Troy

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin's run at USC came to an abrupt end Sunday.

USC fell to 0-2 in the Pac-12 Conference for the first time since 2001 with a 62-41 loss at Arizona State Saturday night and Kiffin was fired when the Trojans returned home early Sunday morning.

Kiffin went 28-15 during his four years at USC and lost seven of his last 11 games, including an embarrassing home loss to Washington State earlier this month.

"The team's reaction was great when we met with them this morning," USC athletic director Pat Haden said. "They handled it particularly well. It's never a perfect time to make a change but I thought this was the right time. It's easy to ask why not after last year's 7-6 season. The rationale was that Lane had won 10 games the year before and thought he could rebound. At the end of the day, it became a gut feeling."

Assistant head coach Ed Orgeron was named interim head coach.

"I want our guys to believe and have a little fun," Orgeron said. "One of the things we can do as a staff is get really close to our players, circle the wagons, have fun, and let the chips fall where they may."

Kiffin took over a program that was hit hard by NCAA sanctions after Pete Carroll left for the NFL but the Trojans were considered a contender for the national title last season. Instead USC finished a disappointing 7-6 after dropping its final three games.

Former USC star Jack Del Rio, now the defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos, and Boise State's Chris Petersen are expected to be among the leading candidates to replace Kiffin.

While USC continued to struggle, it was a good week for the conference's top teams as No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Stanford, and No. 16 Washington all won while Arizona State moved back into the Top 25 with its win over the Trojans.

--Jared Goff will remain California's starting quarterback despite being benched in the first quarter of the 55-16 loss to Oregon. Goff averaged 435.3 passing yards per game in Cal's first three games, but was benched after going 3-for-6 for 11 yards with two fumbles in Cal's first five possessions during heavy rains at Autzen Stadium.

"We were really trying to come out fast this game, and it was really disappointing to come out the way we did," Goff said. "That's mainly on me."

Goff fell from first to 17th in the country as his passing yards per game fell to 322.3.

"Jared was just having a really difficult time holding the football," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. "The ball was slipping out of his hand. We're not quite sure why, but it was. So we felt like we were having a hard time getting anything done. Couldn't throw it at all so we needed to make a change and it felt like it gave us a better chance to move the football and score some points."

Redshirt freshman Zach Kline made his collegiate debut and went 18-for-37 for 165 yards and a touchdown.

"I thought he came in and competed at a good level," said Dykes, who added that Goff is still his starter.

--Oregon's all-purpose star De'Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff 27 yards and left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.

"It was slippery out there and I tried to make a move and slipped," Thomas said. "I think I just rolled it."

Thomas was averaging more than 112 yards rushing per game, but that average slipped to 84.5 after he played against the Bears but didn't get a carry. Thomas said his ankle was "pretty sore" after the game and he could not have returned even if Oregon needed him in the blowout.

"I just have to get back on Sunday and see what's going on," Thomas said. "Stay positive and keep working hard."

Thomas said he was unsure if he would be back to face Colorado on Saturday. He was unsure if the ankle was sprained or not and Oregon does not give out injury updates.

"Not really sure," Thomas said. "We'll see throughout the week."

--Arizona State was giving credit for its 62-point offensive outburst to its offensive line.

"Our offensive line brought it," ASU coach Todd Graham said. "They flat got after it and dominated the line of scrimmage. For the first time since I have been here, tempo destroyed the other team. That other defense is one of the best defenses in the nation. They are pretty dang good and our guys just put up 612 yards of offense on them and 62 points. I am really proud of our guys. They got after it. I am particularly proud of our offensive line."

Arizona State passed for 351 yards and ran for 261 behind a veteran unit that includes 6-foot-4, 298-pound senior Evan Finkenberg, 6-3, 290-pound senior Kody Koebensky, 6-4, 301-pound junior Jamil Douglas, 6-5, 289-pound junior Tyler Sulka, and 6-3, 302-pound sophomore Vi Teofilo.

"It started off with those five," ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly said. "They came to work all week and they didn't allow a sack tonight. They're doing a great job. They're starting to come together. I believe in these guys. We're going to keep working, establish our running game, and then our offense starts going."

Graham told the linemen prior to the game how important they would be against the Trojans.

"The whole group, I challenged them and said we have got to come off the football and knock these guys off the ball," he said. "We felt like we could. But that team against the run and the numbers they had put up to this point, we went out and totally dominated them offensively."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is a learning experience. We just have to forget about this game and move on. We have the best team in the country coming next weekend, so we have to forget about this game and re-group as a team to get ready for next Saturday." -- Colorado cornerback Kenneth Crawley after the Buffaloes lost to Oregon State before welcoming Oregon this week.

FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 5 IN THE PAC-12:

1. USC is a mess. Marqise Lee was injured in the loss to Arizona State and coach Lane Kiffin was fired after the game. New coach Ed Orgeron takes over a team without much depth due to scholarship reductions and he will have to hope that the top players that remain don't start to think about themselves over the team with all the chaos surrounding the program.

2. Oregon and Stanford are a close match. The two schools have combined to win the past four Pac-12 titles and look like the favorites again this year with just a slight margin of difference between the two programs. The Ducks are ranked second, Stanford is fifth. Oregon beat Cal 55-16 on Saturday while Stanford beat WSU 55-17.

3. Washington will find out about its conference title hopes during the next two weeks. The Huskies travel to Stanford next week followed by a home game against Oregon. Win them both and UW is the favorite in the North. Split those two games and the Huskies are still in contention, but if Washington is swept, the best it can hope for is third place.

4. Oregon State has the best passing tandem in the nation. Sean Mannion leads the country in passing yards and total offense while Brandin Cooks leads the way in receptions, yards, and touchdown catches. Hard to imagine Mannion was not named the starter until the week before the season and Cooks was Oregon State's No. 2 receiver last season.

5. Arizona State can score on anyone. The Sun Devils scored 32 points against Wisconsin, which was coming off back-to-back shutouts. The Sun Devils scored 28 points against Stanford, which is more than any other opponent has against the Cardinal. ASU added 62 points against USC, which was allowing less than 11 points per game.
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