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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Top 10 moments, No. 7: Barkley's record-breakers

By Pedro Moura

We’re doing an ongoing series of the top 10 moments of the 2011 USC football season. No. 10 was Robert Woods’ four-yard touchdown grab against Oregon. No. 9 was Curtis McNeal‘s 79-yard touchdown run against Washington. No. 8 was Woods‘ 14-yard catch in the fourth quarter of the Notre Dame game in October.

Here, then, is moment No. 7, which is actually three moments in one: All of Matt Barkley's big record-breaking plays of the year, including a 19-yard scoring pass to Amir Carlisle vs. Colorado, his 41-yard touchdown pass to Woods against UCLA and his completion to cousin Robbie Boyer against UCLA.

Barkley broke a number of records this season. These three plays simply best symbolize his record-breaking year.

The Carlisle pass came near the end of the Friday night game in Colorado, with Barkley still on the field only for the purpose of getting the ever-elusive sixth-touchdown-pass-in-one-game. Matt Leinart was never able to do it, Mark Sanchez was never able to do it, and Barkley was never able to do it for the first 32 starts of his college career. But Barkley got it against the Buffaloes, throwing short to Carlisle and watching the freshman running back motor down the middle of field to get into the end zone.

It was the 19-year-old's first college touchdown and Barkley's 68th.

The Woods pass allowed Barkley to break Leinart's all-time record for touchdown passes in a single season. In 2003, Leinart's redshirt sophomore season and first year as the Trojans' starting quarterback, he threw 38 touchdowns. In 2009, Barkley's freshman season and first year as the Trojans' starting quarterback, he threw 15 touchdowns.

Now, after the Woods throw, he threw 39 in 2011 to set the new USC record.

And the pass to Boyer served a dual -- or even triple -- purpose. For one, it was Boyer's first (and last) college reception, in his final college game as a walk-on senior not returning next season for a fifth year of eligibility. For two, it gave Barkley 35 completions against the Bruins, breaking USC's single-game record for completions. For three, if Barkley ends up leaving for the NFL after this season, imagine how poetically perfect it is that his pass as a Trojan will have gone to his cousin.

It worked out pretty well. And Barkley personally requested to USC coach Lane Kiffin, before the play, the opportunity to throw to Boyer.

The interesting thing about the these three record-breakers: At the start of the year, and even a bit into it, none of them were considered serious possibilities for this season. We thought the Week 3 game against Syracuse was his last chance at a six-touchdown game, and, after his 34-completion performance against Minnesota in the season opener, we thought that'd be hard to top in any of the remaining contests.

And the touchdown mark didn't look anywhere near possible heading into the final two weeks of the season. But Barkley did a lot of things this year that didn't appear entirely possible at the start of the season.

And broke a lot of records.

Check back Friday for moment No. 6, which also happened in the UCLA season finale.