Steve Sarkisian explains decision to kick field goal, takes blame for loss

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Friday October 09, 2015

Steve Sarkisian says it was a “natural” decision to attempt a 46-yard field goal trailing Washington 17-12 with about five minutes to play. It was 4th-and-9. He wanted a make and a stop. Instead, USC missed the kick and never got the ball back.

I just felt like, if we kick it and make it, we’re down two, we get a stop — our defense had been playing well — we get good field position, and a field goal wins it for us,” Sarkisian said after the loss. “It was a natural decision, especially after the sack.”

Should USC have run the ball on 3rd-and-6 and be in four-down territory? Running backs Tre Madden and Ronald Jones each averaged more than seven yards per carry, while quarterback Cody Kessler was 16-for-29 passing. With the benefit of hindsight, Sarkisian said yeah, they could have run. It had been discussed.

In the end, it’s Sarkisian’s fourth loss in six Power 5 games as a double-digit favorite. He’s 12-6 at USC, the same record as Lane Kiffin through 18 games. There’s been no common factor in the losses, either. Against Stanford, it was the defense. Against Washington, it was the offense. Against Boston College last year, they couldn’t stop the option.

The roster isn’t an excuse anymore. It’s plenty talented and deep. Sarkisian said as much during the week, and he took the blame Thursday night. He didn't bring players to the press conference, but they were still available to media. Sarkisian also said practice leading up to the game was good.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t coach well enough, and we didn’t play well enough to deserve to win the game,” Sarkisian said. “That’s the bottom line tonight. A lot of credit to Washington, Coach Petersen, but this one, at the end of the day is on me. We didn’t coach well enough. We didn’t execute well enough. We didn’t manage the game well enough or execute well enough at the critical moments to deserve to win the football game.”

USC’s next three games are at Notre Dame, vs. Utah and at California. People are quick to call for coaching changes, but we’re going to find out a lot more about this program in the next three weeks.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to