When Allen Bradford ran for 223 yards against Washington, it seemed as if the redshirt senior had laid claim to what fans had been clamoring for, his chance to be the man for USC at running back.
That tally against the Huskies was the 18th best single-game rushing total in Trojans history, capping a three-game span where the former San Bernardino Colton standout rolled up 438 yards and three touchdowns, averaging nearly 11 yards per carry.
Bradford looked like the dominant player he had been in the spring, before a knee injury in fall camp allowed Marc Tyler to claim the starting spot at Hawaii.
But since Washington, the latest in a line of supposed breakout games, Bradford has all but disappeared, running for just 82 yards on 31 carries in five games since. He did not play in two others, the 24-21 win at Arizona and last week's 20-16 loss to Notre Dame.
Ball security and injuries were major factors in that diminished role.
Asked if he ever could have imagined what has transpired since playing the Huskies, Bradford said, "Not in a million years, but sometimes the ball rolls that way."
The running back posted on Twitter that he was "100 percent healthy" Saturday night following the game against the Fighting Irish, leading many to wonder if it was a public rebuke of his coaches.
Bradford said he has not talked with USC head coach Lane Kiffin about his lack of carries, but there was no ill will behind his tweet.
"A lot of people out there wondering if I'm hurt or if I'm alright or what's happening. I just wanted to let everybody know I was 100 percent," Bradford said. "What happened last week happened last week. I'm just worried about beating UCLA this week."
Offensive coordinator Kennedy Pola praised Bradford's work ethic, even as it hasn't resulted in playing time.
"I commend the young man," Pola said. "It's got to be frustrating. He just hasn't had the opportunity. He knows he's working hard and doing all the things that he can."
A highly touted recruit at both running back and linebacker, Bradford has 18 career touchdowns after being swallowed up by injuries and a running back-by-committee approach but expressed no second thoughts about becoming a Trojan.
"Five years just went by like a blur. I didn't have the career that I thought I would coming out of high school but for the most part, when I was given an opportunity I made some plays," he said. "I did good and just hoping to get on to the next level and do better from there."
He's still holding out hope for one more chance to show what he can do.
Bradford may still have that opportunity, as Kiffin refused to name a starter Wednesday.
"Just still going through the motions of practice and nobody has stuck out," Kiffin said. "We've had zero running game for two weeks. We've got to have some rhythm for our play action to work."
"Everyone's at fault, starting with me."
Said Bradford: "This is my last week as a Trojan. We'll see what happens this week."
Barkley Staying Optimistic
As sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley continues to recover from a high ankle sprain, he expressed confidence in his availability Saturday night.
"I felt a lot better than yesterday and was able to do a lot more moving," Barkley said. "Hopefully it (the healing) stays at this rate and three days from now it will be three times better."
"He continues to look better everyday," Kiffin said. "He's throwing the ball fine and his movement is coming around, so I would anticipate him playing."
Secondary In Shambles
With safety T.J. McDonald and corners Torin Harris and Brian Baucham all missing another day of practice and questionable at best to play against UCLA, Kiffin said he would not sacrifice the redshirts of players such as Patrick Hall and Anthony Brown at such a late date.
"We're not here for the immediate future, we're for the long term. I think you've seen that with our roster this year," Kiffin said.
-Defensive tackle DaJohn Harris did not practice Wednesday, while offensive tackle Tyron Smith and fullback Stanley Havili were limited.
-While Kiffin refused comment on the NCAA's decision to reinstate Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, he understood comments made about Kiffin by his former colleague at Tennessee, embattled Volunteers men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl.
"I like Bruce," Kiffin said. "Bruce sent me a text. It's one of those things if I was Bruce, I would have said the same thing. Bruce is in some hot water, so what better way to excite the Tennessee fans than start your pep talk and take a shot at me. I would do the same thing.
"It's called deflection."