Big win brings some relief
Trojans finally get to enjoy a game, much like they did all of last year
LOS ANGELES -- There could have been no better tonic for the USC Trojans than to get the kind of victory they got Saturday night. It was all USC from the start, with the Trojans scoring on the second play from scrimmage and never looking back.
For a team that was growing tired of hearing questions about what was wrong with its offense, it was just what the doctor ordered.
It doesn't matter that it came against a Colorado defense that is, to put it kindly, not good. What mattered is that the Trojans felt that joy of success again, that excitement of playing the game that seemed to be such a critical part of their success in 2011.The fact that some pretty impressive records fell along the way only added to the positive feelings from the game. When the Barkley touchdown record fell and the video board showed a tribute from Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, it was a pure Cardinal and Gold moment. The stadium cameras then captured Barkley on the sidelines, and he smiled and gave a Fight On salute.[+] EnlargeRuss Isabella/US PresswireMatt Barkley was nearly perfect in setting a Pac-12 record for touchdown passes in USC's 50-6 win over Colorado.
It was a smile that hadn't been seen from Barkley in recent weeks. After the loss to Stanford and the increasing struggles of the offense, the shine on the Trojans from the national media had dimmed. Barkley was no longer the center of Heisman talk, and you didn't sense the same upbeat spirit that he had shown throughout his USC career. That smile, that sense of joy that he and the team showed on Saturday was a sign that the Trojans were having fun again, and that might end up being the most important thing that could have happened in this game.
Speaking of the Heisman: After his near-perfect performance on Saturday, Barkley once again should be on the short list of Heisman favorites this week. The fact that he set a high-profile record like the Pac-12 touchdown mark is something that should really resonate with voters. The good news for his hopes also is that nobody else seemed to leap too far ahead in recent weeks, even though West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith gave it a good shot.
At this point, you can't really say that Smith is ahead of Barkley. If anything, Collin Klein from Kansas State is probably the slight leader, and you also have to throw linebacker Manti Te'o into that mix as the face of an undefeated Notre Dame team. Te'o is probably the rare defensive player who could get serious consideration if the Irish keep winning. What a showdown it could be at the Coliseum if Barkley and Te'o are two of the leading candidates heading into that game.
Blowout equals reserves: One of the best things about a big win is the opportunity to see extend playing time for reserves who normally don't get a lot of game action.
Both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler got some pass attempts, going a combined 4-of-5, and Wittek even completed a pretty touchdown pass to D.J. Morgan (who ended up leading the team in rushing with 10 carries for 52 yards). Buck Allen, another reserve back, had a nice 14-yard run which showed some good burst. De'Von Flournoy got the first catch of his career and was promptly mobbed by teammates when he got to the sidelines.
"It was neat when we watched film of the game with the team on Sunday," Kiffin said. "There were so many big plays in the game, but the biggest cheer from the guys was when Flournoy's catch came up."
On the defensive side of the ball, there were plenty of noteworthy performances. Drew McAllister had an interception and a forced fumble. Anthony Sarao led the team in tackles with nine. Ryan Henderson had five tackles, Will Andrew had a fumble recovery and Gerald Bowman had four tackles to go along with an interception. The most productive reserve stat line belonged to Kevin Greene, who had three tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a recovered fumble.
Trivia question: Who was second on team in tackles with six, had a sack and three tackles for loss?
Old-school corners: USC cornerbacks Nickell Robey, Josh Shaw and Torin Harris all wore black cleats during the game. The Trojans are wearing new multi-colored shoes this year as opposed to the traditional black shoes the program has worn through the years. Several players have elected to wear black shoes at different times this year.
Misleading stats: Colorado ran 85 plays and scored six points, the Trojans ran 48 plays and scored 50 points. The Buffs held a large edge in time of possession -- 37:10 to 22:50 -- and also had more first downs while committing fewer penalties.
Blind side update: Kiffin said Aundrey Walker -- who left the game on a trainer's cart -- was in team meetings on Sunday and that "things seem to be very positive." Kiffin also praised true freshman Max Tuerk for his play during extended action once Walker went out of the game.
BCS update: The Trojans are at No. 9 in the latest BCS rankings.
Getting serious on penalties: USC has 69 penalties on the year, which is No. 120 in the country out of 120 teams. The next closest team, Rutgers, has 62 penalties. Kiffin said he has never seen a locker room halftime before like the one that took place on Saturday, one that was devoted entirely to penalties and composure.
"Hopefully that fixed it and we'll move in a right directions," Kiffin said. "I don't know if the players have ever been talked to like that, especially when they are leading a game by 30. We got the leadership of the team involved, I brought them into my room and we talked, they are going to be taking ownership of this issue as of today."
Getting picky: USC has 14 interceptions this year, five more than it had in all of 2011.
Trivia answer: Nose tackle Antwaun Woods
Redshirt plans: Kiffin announced on Sunday night that defensive end Devon Kennard will redshirt the 2012 season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during a summer weightlifting session. There had been the possibility that Kennard would look to come back for the final stretch of the season, but Kiffin confirmed the decision had been made for Kennard to sit out this season and return to the Trojans in 2013.
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