A USC season already marked by several distracting controversies for coach Lane Kiffin and school administrators added more intrigue Thursday...

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LOS ANGELES — A USC season already marked by several distracting controversies for coach Lane Kiffin and school administrators added more intrigue Thursday.

The Pac-12 Conference announced it had fined USC $25,000 because a student manager intentionally deflated footballs used by the Trojans during their 62-51 loss to the Oregon Ducks on Saturday at the L.A. Coliseum. Deflated footballs presumably can be easier to throw and catch.

USC, in revealing the reprimand on its website Wednesday night, also announced that the unidentified student manager had been relieved of all duties.

“I want to assure you here that we had no institutional knowledge of this — none of us,” USC athletic director Pat Haden said Thursday. “The coach didn’t. The quarterback didn’t. This young kid did it for whatever reason.”

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Said Kiffin: “Obviously, as head coach, everything falls on you.”

Kiffin was left to explain why the Trojans’ latest brush with questionable tactics was an isolated misdeed by an overeager student, not an indication of a somewhat sleazy culture building around a program still attempting to emerge from the clouds of heavy NCAA sanctions in 2010.

“I was just disappointed, because it was just a distraction,” Kiffin said. “It was a distraction that nobody knew about here, that had no effect on the game. If anything, it had a negative effect to be throwing two different types of balls for a quarterback.”

With two straight losses, the preseason No. 1 team can’t afford to waste much thought for anything other than the salvage of its season. USC (6-3, 4-3 Pac-12) hosts Arizona State (5-4, 3-3) on Saturday before finishing against No. 17 UCLA and No. 4 Notre Dame, hoping to earn a probable rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

No. 8 Seminoles rally

BLACKSBURG, Va. — E.J. Manuel hit Rashad Greene with a slant pass that Greene took 39 yards for a touchdown with 40 seconds to play as No. 8 Florida State survived a scare to beat Virginia Tech 28-22.

The Seminoles (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their fourth straight and moved within a victory against Maryland on Nov. 17 of securing a spot in the ACC championship game Dec. 1.

The Hokies (4-6, 2-4) lost for the fifth time in six games and will have to beat Boston College and Virginia in their final regular-season games to qualify for a bowl game for the 20th straight year.

The Hokies had gone ahead 22-20 on Cody Journell’s 21-yard field goal with 2:19 remaining.


• Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden remained hospitalized in “stable, yet critical” condition after tearing a large vein in his leg in a collision with a teammate during practice. Team physician Walter Lowe said that type of injury is fatal “95 percent” of the time. He said such an injury is usually linked to high-speed car accidents. “This injury has never been seen or reported in association with a football injury,” Lowe said.

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