Matt Barkley knew he wasn’t exactly polishing his personal credentials while Southern California grinded out a win with its dominant defense and a steady running game.
Nobody wins the Heisman by handing off, after all.
The star quarterback wasn’t thinking about his own trophy case, though, while getting the Trojans back on track for much more important rewards.
Barkley passed for 192 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Marqise Lee, and No. 13 USC bounced back from its first defeat with a 27-9 victory over California on Saturday.
Lee had 11 catches for 94 yards, Silas Redd rushed for 158 yards and a score and the Trojans (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) methodically rolled to their ninth consecutive win over the Golden Bears (1-3, 0-1) in the schools’ 100th meeting.
”I’m not looking out every week to get stats or get a flashy game,” said Barkley, who threw two interceptions for the second straight week. ”I think we left a lot of points on the field … but we were moving the ball today. If defenses are going to stay back, play a cover-2 shell and force us to run, that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Did they ever: Curtis McNeal rushed 115 yards for the Trojans, giving them two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time since 2008. USC’s defense also dominated, holding Cal to 250 total yards and sacking Zach Maynard seven times.
A week after the preseason No. 1 team got shut out in the second half of a 21-14 loss at Stanford, USC drained any lingering suspense from this matchup with a methodical 75-yard drive that consumed more than half of the fourth quarter, capped by Lee’s 3-yard TD catch with 5:56 to play.
”I was surprised, because they didn’t have a running attack the previous game, and the previous game before that,” Cal cornerback Steve Williams said. ”They came out here and pounded the ball.”
Barkley, meanwhile, struggled to find All-American receiver Robert Woods, who had only five catches for 30 yards.
Yet Barkley still went 22 for 34 and kept the Trojans moving on several long drives. Center Khaled Holmes’ return to the lineup undoubtedly helped, although the senior limped off the field again in the fourth quarter.
”Obviously, it’s not as fun,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said of his workmanlike game plan. ”It’s fun winning 50-0, but that doesn’t happen every week. Throwing the ball so much earlier in the year … people are trying to take (Lee) and (Woods) out of the game.”
Keenan Allen had nine catches for 93 yards for the Bears, who couldn’t get into the Coliseum end zone. Maynard struggled to 173 yards passing with two interceptions, failing to build on a solid effort last week in Cal’s narrow loss at Ohio State.
The Bears’ three touted tailbacks combined for just 75 yards rushing on 17 attempts. At least kicker Vincenzo D’Amato shook off last week’s struggles at Ohio State to hit three field goals for Cal.
”It’s very discouraging,” Allen said. ”(Finishing drives) is something we talk about all week, and it’s something we have to work on. You can’t win a game with field goals.”
Cal coach Jeff Tedford has never won at the Coliseum, and the Bears haven’t beaten USC since their memorable triple-overtime win in Strawberry Canyon in 2003. Cal lost its conference opener for the fourth straight season.
”The defense made its share of plays, got some turnovers, but also let some big plays get by,” Tedford said.
Stanford shut out USC for the final 41 minutes last week, but the Trojans marched straight downfield against Cal before Barkley threw an end-zone interception to Williams. They ended their scoring drought on their next drive with Redd’s 33-yard TD run, the former Penn State star’s fourth score in four games at USC.
”We hit them in the mouth from the first snap, and we didn’t try to let our foot off the pedal,” Redd said.
D’Amato, who missed three field goal attempts in Columbus last week, missed an early 35-yard try at the Coliseum, but hit his second attempt.
USC appeared to be in position to take control after Lee’s TD catch capped a sharp drive early in the second quarter, but Barkley threw his second interception on a tipped pass deep in Cal territory shortly before halftime. The Trojans added a late field goal for a 17-3 lead – not much considering they outgained Cal 300-98.
Cal pulled within 17-9 midway through the third quarter, and McNeal’s fumble led to a drive deep into USC territory – but Cal burned two timeouts on the drive before T.J. McDonald picked off Maynard’s throw at the 7. After Andre Heidari made his second field goal and the USC defense forced another three-and-out, the Trojans embarked on their clock-consuming drive.
”I think it’s great the way we bounced back,” Barkley said. ”We shut out what people were saying about us.”