The Trojans held their third scrimmage of the spring under sunny skies on Saturday at Howard Jones Field. The 99-play scrimmage featured big plays on both sides of the ball and served as an important evaluation period for players looking to move up the depth charts.
"The guys had a really good time today and they played like it," Pete Carroll said. "There's a lot of energy and enthusiasm and we had a good scrimmage."
Freshman Matt Barkley opened the scrimmage as the first team quarterback and led the offense down the field on a drive that was highlighted by a long run by Curtis McNeal and strike to Damian Williams. The scoring drive was capped of by a 23-yard field goal by Joe Houston.
Barkley later connected with Jordan Cameron for a 14-yard touchdown, which was the only touchdown pass of the day by a quarterback.
The strong-armed freshman also tossed the only interception, which came on a botched screen pass that was returned 42 yards for a score by defensive end Malik Jackson.
"I made a bad play by not throwing it into the ground," Barkley said. "That's the stuff you got to do, and I have been trying to work on that, eliminating mistakes."
Besides the interception, Barkley made some really nice throws and finished the day 15-of-21 for 186 yards with a touchdown.
Aaron Corp put together another solid performance and is beginning to make more plays down the field.
"What I'm really fired up about is Jeremy's (Bates) forcing these guys to show what their range of play is with play calling and giving them opportunities," Carroll said. "I thought we did a good job, we were really aggressive with the throwing game for the most part and the guys came through."
The redshirt sophomore's first drive under center resulted in a 22-yard filed goal by Jordan Congdon.
Corp later hit Damian Williams down the sideline for a 46-yard gain that set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Stafon Johnson on the following play.
In total, Corp passed for 170 yards while completing 13-of-18 pass attempts. He also rushed for 33 yards on five carries and has to be pleased with another mistake-free performance.
"I feel comfortable no doubt about that," he said. "I still have another week and hopefully I can finish strong."
Corp admitted that he would be a bit surprised if he wasn't named the starter, but isn't about to ease up.
"It's not over yet so you have to keep pushing," he said.
Mitch Mustain only attempted six pass, completing three for 33 yards.
The running game was much improved over last scrimmage's effort.
"Moody (Curtis McNeal) ran the ball well again," Carroll said. "Curtis McNeal and Stafon (Johnson) did a nice job and it was nice to see Marc (Tyler) get back out there and get some action."
McNeal wowed the crowd once again with his shifty running style and racked up a team-high 62 yards on the ground on 10 touches including a 5-yard touchdown run.
After injuring his hip during the previous scrimmage, Marc Tyler returned to action on Saturday and looked good running tough between the tackles. Tyler rushed for 49 yards on nine carries.
Senior Stafon Johnson added a 4-yard touchdown run.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line continues to blossom under the tutelage of Jethro Franklin. The defensive line was responsible for seven of the eight quarterback sacks on the day, led by Everson Griffen, who recorded 3.5 sacks.
"Everson is really getting off the football like crazy," Carroll said. "He's utilizing his speed.
"I think he and Jethro (Franklin) have really hit it, and have kind of tailored his game to really feature the burst that he has, and it's really showing up on a play to play down and out basis and that's a great asset."
Defensive end Malik Jackson added a sack and came up with the defensive play of the day when he intercepted a pass from Matt Barkley and raced 42 yards the other way for a touchdown.
Carroll was pleased to see so much production out of the two areas that were questionable at the beginning of spring.
"So we're getting a lot of good play in the areas where we had questions, where we lost some guys," Carroll said. "We are getting good play there and it's such a positive."
The special teams also got into the action with a 96-yard kick-off return by Ronald Johnson.
After the action packed scrimmage, the players cooled down at the pool as part of the Swim with Mike event.
"We had a lot of fun today," Carroll said. "This was a day that started out with a big meeting with the team, just getting them pumped up for this workout here, and kind of celebrating the fact that we're out here for the Swim with Mike."
News and Notes
- Middle linebacker Chris Galippo had a team-high 8 tackles and Malcolm Smith added 7. After the scrimmage Pete Carroll said he was very pleased with the effort of the linebackers.
"Malcolm, I think he had 7 tackles in the first half of this thing. He's all over the field," Carroll said. "He's really a dynamic football player for us and it's real positive. Galippo played well, too.
"So we're getting a lot of good play in the areas where we had questions."
- Safety Taylor Mays had two of the biggest hits of the day from his safety position. Mays met Curtis McNeal in the hole and punished the little tailback with a vicious blow. McNeal immediately popped up with a big smile on his face.
Mays also separated Scott Stephens from the ball with a big hit on a pass over the middle.
- Offensive lineman Jeff Byers missed a portion of the scrimmage because he was in class.
Everson Griffen had 5 tackles and 3.5 sacks on Saturday. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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