Injuries and controversies continue to mount for USC as it prepares for the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.
By RAHSHAUN HAYLOCKFS West
As it turns out, Matt Barkley’s career as a
USC Trojan is over. USC fans’ last glimpse of him in action is being helped off of the field at the Rose Bowl after suffering a shoulder injury on a hard hit from UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
When USC (7-5) takes the field on Monday in El Paso against Georgia Tech (6-7) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, they’ll do so without Barkley, it was announced last week.
Barkley finished his USC career having won 34 of his 47 career starts and has more records than he knows what to do with, including being the conference leader in total offense (12,214 career yards) and career pass touchdowns (116).
Since it was announced that Barkley won’t play, there have been more injuries head coach Lane Kiffin has had to deal with.
Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee left the team’s final practice on Saturday with a knee injury. The LA Times reported Lee limped toward the bus following practice and needed to use the handrail to get onto the bus.
As for the severity of the injury?
“It was serious enough that he wasn’t able to return (to practice),” Kiffin told reporters in El Paso following Saturday’s practice.
Lee’s availability for Monday is in question.
“I’m hopeful,” Kiffin said. “That’s for sure. (He’s) the Biletnikoff Award winner but we have other guys who’ll step up if he can’t play.”
If Lee can’t play, freshman Nelson Agholor will start opposite Robert Woods at wide receiver for the Trojans with Max Wittek making his second consecutive start at quarterback.
USC’s head coach is also “hopeful” senior running back Curtis McNeal will be able to play on Monday. McNeal missed consecutive practices on Friday and Saturday with an injury.
McNeal was second on the team in rushing with 696 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season.
It hasn’t exactly been a flawless week for the Trojans in El Paso as they prepare for their first bowl game in three years. From the moment they arrived, things have seemed to spiral downhill.
USC was reportedly 90 minutes late to a Sun Bowl related dinner. USC explained they were late getting from the airport, which delayed the start of practice, which caused them to be late departing for the dinner.
However, it was seen as the Trojans being disrespectful to those that put on the bowl as well as standing up Georgia Tech, who left the dinner and headed back to the hotel before the Trojans arrived.
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams had to apologize for a profanity laced tweet he sent describing the city of El Paso. It was the second time a Trojan had to apologize for a tweet disrespecting El Paso and the Sun Bowl.
This is even more of an indication of how far El Paso is from Miami, home of the national championship - where the Trojans were projected to be at the start of the season - or from Pasadena, site of the Rose Bowl game - a serviceable plan B.
If USC is trying to express just how much they don’t want to be in El Paso, they’re doing a great job.
Kiffin can only hope that doesn't bleed onto the field on Monday.