Trojans regain their mojo
On a record-setting day, USC hopes it found its missing offensive rhythm
LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans came into Saturday's game against Colorado hoping to find some momentum for an offense that had, in a nutshell, been struggling to meet their standard. The Buffaloes ranked among the bottom teams in the conference in every defensive category, so it figured to be the perfect opportunity for the Trojans to regain their offensive mojo.
Less than six minutes into the game, USC had three touchdowns on the board on its way to an enjoyable 50-6 victory at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"This was a really good team win today," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "I'm proud of the guys, because we prepared well this week as if we were playing the best team in the world, and it resulted in a historic day where so many good things happened."
The star of the night for the Trojans was Barkley, as the senior signal-caller completed 19-of-20 passes for 298 yards and six touchdowns. The touchdowns gave him the Pac-12 career record -- he now has 102 -- that had belonged to former USC quarterback Matt Leinart. There was a nice video-board recognition of the record with tributes from Leinart, Carson Palmer, Pete Carroll, Keyshawn Johnson and more. The stadium cameras then caught Barkley on the sidelines, and the crowd roared with appreciation, which brought on the mega-watt Barkley smile and a wave to the crowd.
"It was a special night," Barkley said. "It's something I did dream of as a kid, not the records, but to be able to be here for four years and live those dreams out as a senior. I was surprised when I looked up and saw that video, it was pretty special to see Matt and Carson and all those guys."
Barkley also set a conference record for completion percentage in the game. His 95 percent rate beat the mark formerly held by Rick Neuheisel when he was at UCLA, but it fell short of the NCAA record which, coincidentally, is held by USC receivers coach Tee Martin from his days at the University of Tennessee. It also should be noted that the only miss of the day for Barkley came on a dropped pass by running back Curtis McNeal.
Barkley wasn't the only USC record-setter on the day. Woods had eight catches for 138 yards and four touchdowns to move past Dwayne Jarrett to the top spot on the USC career receptions list. Woods now has 220 catches. It was also the first time in school history that a USC player had four touchdown catches in one game.
"I grew up watching USC receivers," Woods said. "I don't see myself above them but more a part of an elite group that I've wanted to be a part of ever since I understood what USC football was all about."
Records are nice and all -- especially career marks such as the ones established by Barkley and Woods -- but there is the obvious realization that they were set against a Colorado team that simply didn't offer much in the way of defensive resistance. There are opponents ahead on the schedule who will provide a much stiffer test, but that is an issue for another day. On this night, it's all about enjoying the performance for an offense that hadn't been clicking on all cylinders lately.
USC came into the season with sky-high expectations, and while the early season results included some highlights, there was the thought that there was still another level left to reach if the Trojans expected to compete for a conference title and BCS bowl berth. The importance of this game is that it gave the offense some confidence, a chance for the players and coaches to feel good about themselves before they move into a much tougher stretch.
"We're not overreacting to one game," Kiffin said. "We still have a lot of work to do but this game showed the sky is not falling and Matt Barkley can still throw the football."
Now the Trojans prepare to head to Arizona next week with the hopes of continuing this offensive momentum, because in two weeks the Oregon Ducks will come calling and the USC offense certainly will need to be clicking on all cylinders for that one.