Defenses give Barkley glimpse into the future

Matt Barkley’s Heisman hopes were supposedly left somewhere on The Farm with USC’s 21-14 loss to Stanford two weeks ago.

If they weren’t lost there, they were sucked up in the 296 yards on the ground the Trojans churned out against Cal, allegedly. Barkley finished with 192 yards through the air.

Clearly, Barkley’s stats –or anyone else’s– aren’t at the forefront for the Trojans or head coach Lane Kiffin. He said so himself.

“We’re about winning and we’re going to do things to make sure that we’re winning games and that we’re not worried about somebody’s individual stats,” Kiffin said. “It’s going to happen and we’re not going to force things just to get people numbers.”  

When it comes to stats in general, Kiffin addressed the situation with Curtis McNeal, Silas Redd, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Barkley before the start of the season, just to make it clear where the emphasis was going to be.

Not that Barkley needed reinforcements.
 
“He doesn’t have to tell me that,” Barkley said.  

However, the senior quarterback’s patience has been “absolutely” tested with the way defenses are now playing the Trojans. As Kiffin puts it, defenses are showing up to face the Trojans playing defenses they’ve never shown before on film. A lot of it includes two safeties over the top to prevent Barkley from hooking up with Woods and Lee on any big plays.
 
It’s serving as a learning lesson, not just for this season but for what he has to look forward to on Sundays as well.
 
“If team’s are going to do that, drop two-deep and drop into coverage, than we’re going to run the ball,” Barkley said. “You see that in the league here and there. If they’re playing a two-high shell, you’re almost going to check to a (run) all the time. It’s just something to get prepared for, for next year.”
 
Last Saturday’s win against Cal could’ve been problematic for Barkley. If he were consumed with his numbers and Heisman candidacy, he would have forced a lot of balls. Instead, he was content handing off the ball.
 
“This is not a year for me to start complaining about stats or anything like that,” Barkley said. “If we’re winning than I’m perfectly happy. If we’re running the ball for 300 yards than I’m perfectly happy.”

It was pleasing to his head coach.
 
“(His patience) is being tested and you’re seeing him do a great job with it,” Kiffin said.  “We’re not going to be ignorant and just keep trying to throw to them into double coverage.
 
“You saw what happened in the last game, 7.5 yards a carry, we’ll win a lot of games that way.”

Through four games this season Barkley has completed 61.5% of his passes for 1,005 yards, 12 touchdowns, and five interceptions. However, four of those have come in the last two games.

Through four games last season, Barkley had completed 67.1% of his passes for 1,119 yards, while throwing 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

By time the year was done, he’d entered Heisman conversations.

Kiffin doesn’t believe talks of Barkley’s Heisman candidacy are done, nor should they be. In a radio interview during the current bye week, Kiffin said a way for Barkley’s bid for the Heisman to be dismissed would be if the Trojans lose three or four games. In his eye’s USC simply has to win.
 
If USC proves they can run the ball effectively, there could be a return to form for Barkley with defenses forced to adjust to try to stop the run.  
 
“Those numbers will come back if defenses play us normal,” Kiffin said, “but if they’re going to play us the way they are, he’s not going to have those huge numbers that we’ve seen before.”