Friday, September 21, 2012
Barkley, Maynard are seeking positives
By Ted Miller
USC's Matt Barkley and Cal's Zach Maynard are both aiming to get back to winning on Saturday.
California's visit to USC on Saturday features two quarterbacks looking for redemption. Bears QB Zach Maynard wants to redeem himself for a three-interception performance in last season's 30-9 loss to the Trojans.
And Trojans QB Matt Barkley? He's looking to redeem a more recent performance.
You might have heard: The then-No. 2 Trojans went down 21-14 at Stanford last weekend, with Barkley throwing a pair of interceptions and no touchdown passes while getting sacked four times.
You could make a case it was the worst performance of his career, but he had a lot of help. Or, rather, little of it. His offensive line was overwhelmed by the Cardinal, so he had no support from a running game and little time to pass. A Stanford defender seemed to be in his face just about every play.
"No matter how great the quarterback is, that will affect you," USC coach Lane Kiffin said.
You also might be able to at least partially excuse Maynard for his woeful performance against the Trojans last year. Cal rushed for just 35 yards -- 1.3 yards per carry -- amid a flurry of five total turnovers.
And Maynard is not the same QB he was last year. In fact, at sixth in the Pac-12, he ranks just one spot behind Barkley in pass efficiency at present.
"I think he feels the speed of the game a little bit better," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said when asked about how Maynard is different this season. "I think he manages the game better."
USC has won eight straight against California, the Bears last winning a triple-overtime classic in 2003. They haven't won in Los Angeles since 2000. And just about all of those games were much like last year: Blowouts.
There is pressure on Tedford as the Bears try to avoid a 1-3 start. Many fans in Berkeley are frustrated with the recent mediocre turn of the program. And there is pressure on Kiffin as he tries to right a team that a week ago was viewed as the top potential foil for the SEC to win a seventh consecutive national title. Kiffin showed his stress this week when he stomped out of a post-practice news conference, apparently peeved over an innocuous question.
Health -- the improving variety -- is notable for each. It appears the Trojans will get back starting center Khaled Holmes, who sat out the Stanford loss with an ankle injury. Cal certainly should benefit from the potential return of right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, tight end Richard Rodgers and defensive end Mustafa Jalil.
While Cal's recent history in this rivalry, particularly on the road, isn't good, the Trojans shouldn't feel safe by any stretch. The Bears showed they can go toe-to-toe on the road with an A-list foe at Ohio State last weekend, a game that included a breakout performance from speedy RB Brendan Bigelow. Further, the Bears have a tough front seven, particularly if Jalil is indeed ready to go.
If it's close, it will be interesting to see how things might stack up at kicker. USC's Alex Wood, the Trojans' backup, has yet to be allowed to attempt a field goal, while Cal's Vincenzo D'Amato missed all three of his attempts last weekend.