Pac-12: Spartans-Trojans 090509

Barkley gaining reputation as 'special' player

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
9:51
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
AP Photo
Despite Matt Barkley's young age, USC Coach Pete Carroll says his QB is a special talent -- an 'outlier.' .

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Barkley stood near midfield, surrounded by television cameras and tape recorders and breathless questions, a toothy, matinee-idol grin stretched across his face. He seemed completely comfortable, devoid of the nervousness one would expect from an 18-year-old making his "hello world" moment on the big stage that is annually reserved for the USC quarterback.

Over the next hour or so he would be asked about 47 times if he had been nervous before his first start. Each time he patiently said no.

"This was what I was made to do," Barkley explained, sounding more humble than pompous, if that can be believed.

He then slowly walked -- floated really -- toward the tunnel at the Coliseum, a scrum of backpedaling photographers clicking away in front of him.

"Matt Barkley!" the Trojans fans bellowed at him without accompanying words or phrases -- the name was enough -- as the next Big Thing ambled into the tunnel and onto the college football landscape.

Still, it didn't make sense. How could he not be nervous? Sure, he'd just completed 15 of 19 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and no bad plays in a 56-3 bludgeoning of San Jose State.

And, sure, San Jose State at home isn't anything like, say, a visit to Ohio State's Horseshoe.

But everybody gets nervous before a game, particularly a first game, even more so for a guy jumping from high school to USC. Even his teammates, linebacker Chris Galippo, a new starter, and Taylor Mays, a two-time All-American, didn't buy it.

"He says that but I think he's lying," Mays said.

Said Galippo, "Barkley is lying. He had to be nervous."

Pete Carroll gets Barkley, though, even if some players and all reporters do not.

Carroll tries to be patient while explaining, but he's not sure if the hoi polloi can truly understand.

Did getting the San Jose State game under his belt help Matt Barkley prepare for next weekend's blockbuster at Ohio State?

No.

"You're looking for typical things," Carroll said. "This is not a typical kid."

Carroll calls Barkley an "outlier," a term he adopted after reading Malcolm Gladwell's book titled the same. Gladwell describes outliers as people who "for one reason or another, are so accomplished and so extraordinary and so outside of ordinary experience that they are as puzzling to the rest of us as a cold day in August."

Carroll said he started believing that Barkley was beyond-the-pale special five days into spring practices.

"He shouldn't have been doing the things we saw him doing compared to the things we've seen before," Carroll said.

The "things" before being Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez.

(Read full post)

Reload, not rebuild, for USC defense

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
8:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- A no-name defense at USC? Not possible.

But that's exactly what middle linebacker Chris Whatshisname, er, Galippo believes the Trojans are this year.

"We were walking through the Trojan huddle [before the game] and people were like, 'Who are you? Who are you?'" he said. "We're starters! But no one really knows. Taylor [Mays] has a little bit of that, but for the first time in a while the front seven doesn't have a guy who is like the guy."

At least for now. If the Trojans defense keeps holding opponents to just 121 total yards as it did in a 56-3 victory over San Jose State, Mays won't be the only one with his name in lights.

The Spartans had 67 yards in the first quarter, but after that Galippo and company shut things down, giving up just nine yard rushing, forcing two fumbles and recording five sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. Galippo led the way with nine tackles, including three for a loss.

That's not the sort of effort that keeps a guy anonymous for long.

Coach Pete Carroll laughed when asked how the defense played, pointing at the stats. The Trojans have now held opponents to less than 200 yards of total offense in seven of their last nine games.

Said coordinator Rocky Seto, who was promoted from secondary coach after Nick Holt bolted for Washington, "The defense looked really fast. I was really pleased with the way they performed today."

The Trojans only welcomed back three starters from 2008's dominant crew, only one of whom -- nose tackle Christian Tupou -- played on the front seven.

With the loss of four linebackers -- both Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews were hybrid linebacker/ends -- Seto said the Trojans are more "defensive-line focused." He said the Trojans, more of a 3-4 look last year, are now look more like a true 4-3.

But that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a big step back.

"I don't think there is going to be much drop-off," Galippo said.

How does Galippo describe the new-look Trojans?

"Fast, smart and disciplined," he said. "Obviously young. But I really don't think we have a big ego."

Mays, the senior and two-time All-American, didn't think the performance was perfect, but he was already thinking ahead to the visit to Ohio State on Saturday.

"We didn't tackle well," Mays said. "A big quarterback like Terrelle Pryor can breaks some tackles."

USC Trounces San Jose State, 56-3

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
6:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- Quarterback Matt Barkley and the USC defense answered many questions Saturday with a 56-3 win over San Jose State.

A bigger question, of course, is can they do the same on the road at Ohio State?

Barkley, the first true freshman to start a season-opener for the Trojans, completed 15 of 19 for 233 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

There was nothing to suggest he can't handle being the USC starter, even though he turns 19 on Sept. 8.

As for the Trojans defense, which was replacing eight starters, it gave up a first-quarter field goal and then lowered the boom, throttling the Spartans.

The Buckeyes figure to be far more taxing, but this performance suggested the Trojans will be ready to go.

USC's Corp in for Barkley at QB

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
6:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- Aaron Corp has taken over for Matt Barkley at quarterback.

But Barkley established that he will be the man next week at Ohio State, whatever Corp does in the fourth quarter.

After a shaky first quarter -- which could describe the entire USC effort -- Barkley found his range and rhythm and was smart and efficient and flashed the potential that the Trojans coaches have been raving about.

Barkley finished 15 of 19 for 233 yards passing with a touchdown and no interceptions.

He also had a long passed dropped by tight end Anthony McCoy. He didn't throw a bad ball all afternoon.

USC's Barkley gets first career TD pass

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
6:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- Matt Barkley's 4-yard dump to tight end Rhett Ellison becomes the first of what a lot of folks believe will be many career touchdown passes.

USC has scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions while the defense has pitched a shutout during the same span.

The Trojans lead total yards 450-131. We're starting to see some backups -- true freshman Devon Kennard just recorded a tackle for loss.

Who did McKnight just resemble?

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
5:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- Joe McKnight is making up for his first-quarter fumble.

When he rumbled and stumbled and sliced for a 54-yard touchdown -- always seemingly just out of reach of defenders -- did he remind you of anyone?

Not that we want to bring up the whole second-coming of Reggie Bush thing again.

At 35-3, this one has a fork sticking out of it.

Wonder how much throwing we'll see from Matt Barkley going forward. Or will be see Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain?

At the half: USC 28, San Jose State 3

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
5:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- After a sloppy first quarter, USC exploded for 28 points in the second quarter, ending just about all the mystery in this one.

Turning point: San Jose State went up 3-0 late in the first quarter. The Trojans then scored on their next four possessions, while their defense took over the line of scrimmage.

Stat of the half : USC had two first downs and 77 yards in the first quarter. They had nine first downs and 207 yards in the second quarter.

Best player in the half: When USC quarterback Matt Barkley found receiver Damian Williams, good things happened. Williams caught two passes for 50 yards -- the second a 33 yarder that was mostly him slicing through the San Jose State secondary -- on the Trojans second touchdown drive. That seemed to be the moment when the Trojans asserted themselves. Williams finished with three receptions for 67 yards and should be the first guy Barkley looks for.

Trojans finding rhythm

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
5:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- Just like that, USC asserts itself.

Matt Barkley completes two passes for 50 yards to Damian Williams, which sets up Stafon Johnson's second TD run.

Then defensive tackle Jurrell Casey put an exclamation point on a three-and-out with a sack, forcing the Spartans to punt from their endzone.

And then Allen Bradford goes 43 yards a touchdown, a career-long run that made it 21-3.

It appears that USC's backfield has a big three: Joe McKnight, Johnson and Bradford. They've combined for 131 yards rushing. C.J. Gable is the most obvious guy not getting carries.

And the USC defense is starting to dominate the line of scrimmage. The Spartans only have 20 total yards in the second quarter.

Barkley finds his range, USC goes up 7-3

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
4:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- It wasn't just that USC went 45 yards in seven plays to take a 7-3 lead. It was that Matt Barkley made his first "real" completion.

That would be his 10-yard throw to David Ausberry on second and 9 that gave USC a first-and-goal on San Jose State's 4-yard line.

Barkley rolled to his left and rifled the pass to Ausberry. It wasn't perfectly on target, but it was the first time Barkley seemed to really heave it. He had an open man short in the flat, but he looked for a bigger play and made it.

A forgettable first for Trojans

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
4:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


USC had as many first-quarter fumbles as first downs: two.

The Spartans are starting to gang up on the run, daring Matt Barkley to throw.

Any thoughts that Pete Carroll would allow Barkley to come out flinging it are gone: He's playing it close to the vest.

Keep it in mind that Carroll is not just holding the true freshman back. He's also keeping things fairly vanilla in advance of Ohio State. Not like the Buckeyes opened things up against Navy today -- or looked good in the process.

Still, there was little to get excited about offensively in the first.

San Jose State draws first blood

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
4:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- A 3-0 lead that comes after a fourth-and-9 conversion can only help San Jose State gain confidence.

As will a fumble from Anthony McCoy that killed a nice completion from Matt Barkley. That's two first-quarter fumbles for the Trojans.

It seems like the Spartans see some gaps in the USC secondary. The new Trojans linebackers, meanwhile, are making plays.

Sloppy start for USC

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
4:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- No finely tuned machine just yet for USC.

A Joe McKnight fumble -- wasn't he supposed to be over that? -- killed a Trojans opportunity on San Jose State's 32, field position supplied by a Spartans fumble.

As for Matt Barkley, he's 1 for 2 for negative-2 yards.

McKnight is concern. Sure he broke away for 22 yards on his first carry. But fumbling is a no-no. No surprise Allen Bradford is now in at tailback. USC obviously wants to establish the run while Barkley gets his freshman legs under him.

The defense, meanwhile, has given up a couple of nice gains to San Jose State.

Now a 24-yarder from new punter Billy O'Malley.

Not a sharp start.

Watching Matt Barkley warm up

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
3:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- Let it be known that Matt Barkley's first pass as USC's quarterback fell gently into the hands of Damian Williams 15 yards downfield along the far sideline.

Of course, it was his first warm-up toss coming from under center, but the true freshman is so under the microscope, we might as well take the temperature of everything he does.

For example, he has yet to levitate, which was mildly surprising. It's early, though.

The reason to watch warm-ups is simple: Will the seemingly unflappable Barkley show any cracks of flappability?

Like tossing a pass into the turf during warm-ups?

Not yet.

So the next step is to see what he does when guys are trying to earhole him.

What will Barkley, USC show us today?

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
1:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


LOS ANGELES -- Heard the first "Tribute to Troy" of the day outside the Coliseum a half hour ago.

USC's players are swaggering out onto the field in their warm-ups, gathering at midfield at this moment.

The 2009 season is upon us (if only someone had told Oregon).

It's sunny and warm in southern California, with only a slightly more dense than usual haze in the distance reminding us that the area is suffering through a trying time with wildfires still burning in the Angeles National Forest not too far away.

So, you wanna hear analysis about how the USC offensive line matches up with the San Jose State defensive front (favorably)?

Or do you want to hear about why we are really here?

Two reasons.

First, super-hyped true freshman Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley makes his debut today and everyone wants to know if lightning will flow from his fingertips while he hurls whizzing spiral after whizzing spiral into the firmament.

Second, when the final bell sounds, what will the whole mess of it mean for next weekend's marquee showdown with Ohio State in the Horseshoe?

There's a sidebar, perhaps, about how good a rebuilt -- and injury-riddled -- Trojans defense will look.

But really this is about Barkley and Next Weekend.

All this is to say that San Jose State is expected to play the role of the Washington Generals, an opponent that is incidental for the Big Show on the other sideline.

That should give at least a moment's pause. USC is only a 34 1/2-point favorite. You may remember that the Trojans went rear-end-over-tea-kettle here against a 41-point dog in 2007.

In the age of Appalachian State winning at Michigan and Stanford stunning the Trojan colossus, there are no gimme games.

And Spartans coach Dick Tomey can do some tricky things on defense, though a lack of experience in the secondary will limit his options.

Still, this scene-setter is, ultimately, about a scene-setter.

What will Barkley and the new-look Trojans do today? And will it convince us that they are -- again -- national title contenders?

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