USC Football Dismantles Crosstown Rival UCLA 50-0 To End The Year
And Matt Barkley broke out that unmistakable grin.
Barkley and the USC Trojans left no doubt who the best team in the Pac-12 South is, completely dismantling crosstown rival and Pac-12 Championship Game-bound UCLA 50-0 in front of a sold-out Coliseum crowd.
It was the final game for USC's senior class, and coach Lane Kiffin wanted to send them out in style.
"This game was very special for our team, for our seniors," Kiffin said. "To go out having never lost to UCLA obviously is a big deal they’ll remember the rest of their lives."
But even Senior Night couldn’t take the spotlight away from Barkley, who played one of the finest games of his career in what could be his swan song as a Trojan.
The junior from Santa Ana completed a school record 35 of 42 passes for 423 yards and tied his own record of six touchdowns without recording an interception.
Barkley finished the year with 39 touchdown passes, breaking Matt Leinart's conference record of 38 set in 2003. His final numbers include 308 completions for 3,528 yards and only seven interceptions.
Kiffin would love to have his signal-caller back next year, as unlikely as that may be.
"Unless he just wants to do it to be a special Trojan, he is not coming back," he said.
Kiffin came out firing in on USC's first possession, dialing up four straight pass plays to open the game. Barkley connected on all four of his throws, including a beautiful 42-yard strike to freshman Marqise Lee to put the Trojans up 7-0.
UCLA marched right down the field on its ensuing possession, with Kevin Prince hitting tight end Joseph Fauria twice for critical first downs. But the Trojans defense held firm in the red zone, turning away the Bruins on four consecutive plays from inside the 10-yard line.
Jawanza Starling and Dion Bailey combined to stuff UCLA running back Derrick Coleman at the 1-yard line to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard.
On USC's ensuing possession, Barkley continued to target Lee, connecting on two throws to get out of the shadow of the goalposts. Barkley nearly gave the ball right back to the Bruins on an interception, but Dalton Hilliard was unable to come up with the pick.
After another stop by the Trojans' defense, Bruins' punter Jeff Locke pinned USC's offense deep inside their own territory.
USC methodically drove down the length of the field, using short passes to Woods and Lee to open running lanes for McNeal and Marc Tyler.
Woods broke former USC star Keyshawn Johnson's record for receptions in a season on a 4-yard pass from Barkley early in the second quarter.
Barkley connected with tight end Randall Telfer on a one-yard touchdown pass later in the drive, and the Trojans' successful two-point conversion pass to Xavier Grimble stretched the lead to 22-0.
Barkley had a streak of 13 passes without an incompletion broken in the second quarter, just overthrowing an open Rhett Ellison in the end zone. Two plays later Barkley connected on a beautiful third-down strike to Brice Butler to keep the drive alive.
However, UCLA was able to force USC into a fourth down after several incomplete passes by Barkley. Kiffin sent out the field goal unit, but Barkley elected to go for it, hitting Rhett Ellison in the back of the end zone. This score pushed the Trojans' lead to 29-0, which they would take into the halftime locker room.
The Bruins appeared to be on the cusp of scoring late in the second quarter, but T.J. McDonald intercepted a Prince pass in the end zone to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard.
Barkley finished the first half 22-of-27 for 215 yards with three scores.
After the game, Barkley insisted that he has not decided whether or not he is going pro.
"Tonight is too special to worry about that," Barkley said. "We deserve to celebrate a little bit."
UCLA received the second-half kickoff and marched to midfield. But USC corner Nickell Robey came up with two huge defensive plays, sacking Prince for the second time and deflecting a 4th-down pass intended for Taylor Embree.
Just two plays later, Barkley again connected with Lee on a picture perfect 52-yard strike to put the Trojans up 36-0.
"We are really pleased with how they responded at halftime," Kiffin said. "The game was over but they came out and made a statement to preserve the shutout."
A week after earning conference offensive player of the week honors, Lee was again fantastic. The electrifying freshman finished with 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
"I knew once I came to 'SC, I would transition all of my energy into football," Lee said. "My teammates and coaches have helped me a lot."
The Bruins again drove the ball close to the 50-yard line, but Wes Horton came up with fourth sack of the season to force another Locke punt.
Facing third and long on the Trojans' next possession, Barkley found Lee on a crossing pattern, which the freshman took 57 yards to the UCLA 4-yard line.
Barkley notched touchdown number five just one play later on a strike to Woods in the corner of the end zone. Woods made a spectacular one-handed snag to haul in the pass.
Barkley broke Leinart's record early in the fourth with a 41-yard pass to Woods, who was left wide open in the middle of the field.
Woods finished the night with 12 catches for 113 yards and a pair of scores. He finished the year with 111 catches for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns.
UCLA again drove nearly the length of the field in the fourth quarter, but the Trojans made another goal-line stand. It was McDonald again that came up with the key plays, tackling Prince for a loss on 3rd down and breaking up a pass intended for Fauria on 4th down.
McNeal received the bulk of the carries on USC's final drive, and his 124 yards on the night put him just over the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the year. He started the season with 33 career rushing yards.
The Trojans limited the Bruins' strong rushing attack to 155 yards. Leading rusher Johnathan Franklin only carried eight times for 55 yards.
Kevin Prince wasn't terrible on the night, completing 21 of 33 passes for 261 yards. But he was never able to generate a scoring drive, and his second-quarter interception essentially ended any chance of a UCLA comeback.
McDonald led the Trojans with 10 total tackles, while Bailey, Starling and Hayes Pullard each pitched in nine.
UCLA was led in tackles by Sheldon Price and Patrick Larimore, who each had eight. Larimore also notched the Bruins' lone sack of Barkley on the night.
Playing in their final game with a bowl ban hanging over their heads, some wondered if beating their crosstown rival was enough for the Trojans. Barkley made it clear his team had plenty of motivation.
"We were playing for each other, playing for (the band), we are playing for the school, the players that came before us," Barkley said. "This place is a special place and there is a lot to play for."
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