USC: Greg Smith
September, 25, 2011
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- USC quarterback Matt Barkley turned the ball over three times in the Trojans' 43-22 loss to Arizona State on Saturday, but neither he nor his coach, Lane Kiffin, seemed to think they were the quarterback's fault.
"I thought Matt did some good things at times," Kiffin said after Saturday's game. "The interception was not his fault. It was a screen play. It was a jailbreak screen, and Vontaze [Burfict] made a great play.
"It was just a freak play. It's not really his fault, but I thought he made some great throws and did some great things against a really good defense. He didn't have a lot of time at times."
Sure, the offensive line played poorly for a good chunk of the game, but the pick-six in the fourth quarter that sealed the game and Barkley's earlier pick in the second quarter were not the line's fault. The final-period interception actually came on a holding call where Barkley had plenty of time to deliver a pass -- he simply made a bad decision in trying to get a few yards and delivered it to ASU linebacker Shelly Lyons. And the second-period pick came on an elite play from Burfict, who jumped a basic route and took it back 37 yards. Barkley wasn't overly pressured into throwing the ball. The fumble, too, came on bullrush by Sun Devil defensive end Greg Smith right over tight end Xavier Grimble, not any USC offensive linemen.
Just like USC used a rapid, quick-developing passing attack in its earlier games this year to help a young offensive line, the Sun Devils got the ball moving frequently so that the Trojans defensive linemen couldn't get to ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler, who completed 78 percent of his passes to Barkley's 64 and did not throw an interception.
After the game, Barkley was asked about the team's failure to use consistent outside options other than Robert Woods, and what he still needed to develop with certain receivers.
"I think there's a lot of things that go into a play other than just the quarterback and the receiver," Barkley said. "And we're always trying to get better timing, especially with these young kids, but you can't just put it on us two to make everything happen.
"It's a team and we win as a team and lose as a team."
It's clear Barkley didn't perform to the same standard he had a week before at the Coliseum against Syracuse. In that game, he threw five touchdowns and no picks. Saturday, he threw one touchdown and two picks. Was he disappointed in his own performance?
"Always disappointed when you don't come out with a win," he said, "and then, regardless of numbers, there were just a lot of plays you could have had."
Two plays he could have had specifically stand out: in the first quarter, Barkley overthrew a wide-open Woods streaking down the right side of the field for what would have been a 63-yard touchdown connection had the pass been just a bit later or a bit shorter. And, shortly afterward, Barkley underthrew Randall Telfer on a drive where USC settled for a field goal. Between the two plays, 10 points were left on the table by Barkley's own doing.
Maybe that, above all else, is the takeaway from this game. USC's junior quarterback, a guy coming off such a superb Syracuse game, is still prone to errors -- errors that can and have cost the Trojans games.