Matt Barkley missed out on his chance to play Washington last season.
Just a freshman, the quarterback was nursing a separated shoulder he suffered the previous week at Ohio State, leaving then-coach Pete Carroll to start Aaron Corp for the Trojans in a 16-13 upset loss to the Huskies.
"It was tearing me up in the hotel when they put Aaron in that little walkthrough as the starter, but I was trying my best to get out there and it just didn't happen," Barkley said. "That was out of my control but it definitely was weird because I've never been in that position before."
He's got his chance now, entering the game with 12 touchdowns, most in the nation. But Barkley has also thrown four interceptions, two in each of the last two games, and that's what has his full attention.
"When you ask football players usually they'll say looking back over their careers once they are done, they remember the losses more unless it's the Super Bowl or something like that. They remember those ones that hurt more," he said.
"It's the same with an individual game. You remember those picks because they just seem to put a dark cloud over everything. Those touchdowns, it's good that we're scoring points but it doesn't mean anything right now unless we're winning."
USC coach Lane Kiffin said after the win at Washington State that Barkley got caught up in the game, leading to both of his interceptions. With the likes of Washington, Stanford and Oregon on deck, that has to change and soon.
"Those mistakes that happened in the first half can't happen the next couple weeks or they will hurt the team," Barkley said.
Barkley will make his 17th start this Saturday, one more than Mark Sanchez had in his whole college career. But Kiffin said a leap forward could come at any time.
"You never know, and there's so many variables that go into that," Kiffin said. "There's a big difference with a true freshman getting the starts. That's a lot different than a guy (Sanchez) who sat here for two years, 2 ½ years, before he really played. And the variables of who's around you, you're always going to play better if you have a great supporting cast. So we need to continue to build that around Matt."
Flattery Will Get You Nowhere
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian caught many off-guard when he called USC "in my opinion the most talented football team in our conference from top to bottom" during his press conference Monday.
Kiffin, unsurprisingly, didn't take the bait.
"That's a trick he learned from Lou Holtz or something," he said of his former colleague during the weekly Pac-10 coaches teleconference Tuesday.
"To call a team that has the lowest scholarships probably in the country the deepest team in the Pac-10, that's an old set-up trick," Kiffin said later. "We can barely find enough guys to practice. You guys are out here, you see our service team. Our service team is made up of some kids from science class. Half of them never played football before."
When a reporter mentioned that downplaying your team is another old Holtz trick, Kiffin quipped, "We watched the same show."
-DE Wes Horton (back) was limited, while Armond Armstead (shoulder) and Nick Perry (ankle) practiced in full Tuesday.