Barkley's success becoming routine
September, 17, 2011
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- Two-thirds of his passes were completed for 324 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, but, for USC quarterback Matt Barkley, it really was another game.
These types of performances are starting to become routine for the junior signal-caller, who's averaging 297 yards and three touchdowns per game this season, with just one interception overall. His performance against Syracuse might have, in the past, been a big deal. But not anymore.
"It just seemed like another normal game for him," said running back Marc Tyler.
Barkley's bests have been upped. He nearly set the school record for touchdown passes Saturday and instead tied it for the third straight time, setting up an expectation for him to break it at some point later this season.
One thing that helped him Saturday: fewer drops from the receivers he was throwing to. Xavier Grimble had one big drop in the first half, but that was the only notable one. USC receivers and tight ends totaled roughly a dozen drops in the first two games. Eight receivers also caught passes, a season-high.
"It was a different experience tonight than the other five touchdown games I've had," Barkley said. "I didn't notice it until I looked up at the board late in the game and I think that was because of how we spread the ball around tonight.
"I think I just have better anticipation of what the defense is going to do this year. Having two years in the system helps a lot and our guys are really making me look good out there."
It's not just about the anticipation, although that clearly plays a significant role. Barkley's arm, truthfully, is better than it was last year. Something's changed with the way he throws a football. He's more in command of the ball, certainly, and he seems more capable of delivering deep balls on target than he was previously.
"His arm is definitely stronger than it was before," said senior receiver Brandon Carswell, who had a career-high five catches for 45 yards in the win over Syracuse. "I don't know what he was doing in the summer, but it's working and i like it."
The summer -- and what Barkley did over it -- has been a bit of a mysterious topic. One day in June, he showed up at USC's summer throwing sessions with an altered motion, a more over-the-top style that allowed him to achieve a better touch on those deep balls. Who taught him that motion?
We don't know. He won't say. But it's clear that it's different, and clear that it's working much better for him. Through three games, Barkley's on pace to throw for nearly 3,600 yards, 36 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Those numbers will change when the tougher Pac-12 opponents enter the picture, but, still, they stand alone. The 21-year-old quarterback is, with the help of Robert Woods and his other receivers, becoming dominant.
"He's trusting us a lot more, he's even more confident in the pocket right now and it's just really showing," Carswell said. "Those stats are amazing."