Matt Barkley missed arguably the two most important throws in USC's 32-31 loss to Washington, leading to concerns about his development from fans.
Even though the Trojans lost their next game at Stanford, 37-35, there were no such complaints regarding the sophomore quarterback's performance.
Barkley threw for a career-high 390 yards with three touchdowns, leading USC coach Lane Kiffin to proclaim the Mater Dei standout has made the progression "from a good quarterback to a great quarterback."
Kiffin called out Barkley after back-to-back two interception games at Minnesota and Washington State. He had responded by not committing a turnover in the last eight quarters.
"I took it as a challenge and I knew regardless of what he was going to say, I knew it was coming and something needed to be changed," Barkley said Tuesday. "I like the way he has pushed me so far and not really satisfied with anything because I'm not satisfied. I'm doing better because of it."
Now Barkley, who has thrown the same number of touchdowns in six games as he has all last season, has to help the Trojans respond in similar fashion after back-to-back losses as time expired, something that has never happened before in the program's long and storied history.
"I was really happy with the energy guys brought our here today and it's important that we carry that through this weekend," he said. "Obviously the losses are real disappointing, we didn't expect this, but it will show the character of our team whether we can bounce back from these. It will really show us who we are."
The next challenge for Barkley comes from a Cal defense that leads the Pac-10 in total defense, pass defense and sacks, but runs a 3-4 scheme similar to Stanford.
"Cal is probably the best defense that we've faced thus far," said Barkley, who threw for 283 yards and one interception against the Golden Bears last season. "They are a very aggressive defense, especially up front. Their linemen, especially No. 97 (Cameron Jordan), really get after it, really aggressive.
"It's going to be a challenge, but it's an easy transition from last week because structurally on defense, they are really similar to Stanford. Knowing that, we just have to be on point with what front it is, what checks need to be made."
Due For One
The Trojans have struggled through both of their home games at the Coliseum this season, struggling to put away Virginia, 17-14, then losing on a last-second field goal to Washington.
Now as USC starts a three-game home stand, Holmes said the team knows it has a chance to give its fans a better effort.
"We owe them, that's for sure. We're definitely due for a good performance," he said.
Up and Down
Freshman running back Dillon Baxter saw his most extensive playing time to date against Stanford, rushing for 22 yards and a touchdown mostly working as Wildcat quarterback, only to suffer an injury to his left big toe on his final carry.
"I was pretty jacked. To get hurt and miss the next game really sucks," said Baxter, who did not practice Tuesday.
Results of X-rays taken on Baxter's foot were expected late Tuesday evening.
-LB Malcolm Smith, DE Wes Horton, LB Shane Horton and OT Tyron Smith did not practice Tuesday.
Holmes, DE Nick Perry, CB Shareece Wright, OT Matt Kalil, OL Butch Lewis and WR Brice Butler were limited.
Chris Galippo worked at weakside linebacker in place of Smith (knee), who is likely to miss this week's game.
-With Jordan Cameron dealing with a knee injury, freshman Christian Thomas has moved back to tight end. Thomas had been playing tight end on the service team while working at defensive end.