Trojans ready to 'bel13ve'

The stage couldn't be bigger for redshirt freshman Max Wittek as he prepares to make his first career start at USC. The Trojans host undefeated and top-ranked Notre Dame in their regular season finale on Saturday.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- When USC quarterback Matt Barkley was sacked late in the game against UCLA the entire Rose Bowl watched, waiting for the Trojans' senior signal caller to get back up.

Backup quarterback Max Wittek was no different.

"Matt usually gets up a little slower," Wittek explained after practice this week. "So I was like ‘Alright, here we go Matt'."

But Barkley stayed down and Wittek quickly understood it was time to warm-up as he strapped on his helmet and started taking snaps from center Khaled Holmes.

The redshirt freshman learned later that evening via text message from Barkley that he would be taking over the USC offense and making his first career start against the Trojans next opponent.

Undefeated and top-ranked Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are just one win away from playing for a BCS National Championship.

At 7-4, USC was once thought to be a national championship contender. Now, the Wittek-led Trojans biggest hope is to play spoiler.

"I think sometimes what's good is to be so young that you don't know," Coach Lane Kiffin explained of the quarterback's first start coming in a high-stakes environment. "It's almost good because it doesn't apply the pressure so I think he's just going to go out and play. It doesn't matter who you are playing or the rivalry, it will be about him executing really well regardless of who the opponent is."

Wittek, appearing in six games for the Trojans this season, has only passed the ball in three of those contests, including late in the game against both Hawaii and Colorado. His first meaningful time came in the Trojans' loss to UCLA on the final two drives of the game.

He's 8-of-9 for 95 yards. He threw his first career touchdown against Colorado, finding tailback D.J. Morgan in the end zone.

"I've been ready all season for this to happen if it did," Wittek said. "Obviously the circumstances aren't the greatest with such a great quarterback being hurt but I've been ready for this all year."

"I'm so excited for this opportunity," he continued. "To get out there, play in front of the Coliseum, all of our fans, the No. 1 team in the country, you really can't ask for a better opportunity to show what you got."

Ready to go and nothing to lose.

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