That has been the question when discussing who should start at quarterback this season, but it was the almost-forgotten Mitch Mustain that stepped up and was the top performer in the Trojans' first scrimmage of fall camp.
Matt Barkley started at quarterback and connected with David Ausberry and Ronald Johnson for nice gains on the first drive of the scrimmage, which resulted in a 22-yard field goal by Jordan Congdon, but then had his next two drives stall.
Mustain took the reins for the fourth series and led the Trojans on an 84-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by Curtis McNeal's touchdown scamper from 2 yards out.
Mustain picked up right where he left on the next drive, connecting with De'Von Flournoy for back-to-back gains of 15 and 10 yards.
The junior quarterback then connected with Robbie Boyer twice before hitting Flournoy in stride for a 28-yard touchdown strike.
"I felt good with what I did," Mustain said of his performance. "It wasn't anything flashy but I think as far as consistency, I think it was one of the better ones."
Mustain had the hot hand from the start, completing his first eight passes of the scrimmage and finished 14-of-16 for 154 yards and a touchdown.
"Mitch had a heckuva day," Pete Carroll said. "Very smart decisions and controlled the play underneath and had a really nice day for us."
Freshman wide receiver De'Von Flournoy had another impressive day pulling in 3 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.
While Mustain made the most of the opportunity, he didn't receive a single rep with the first-team offense and was never matched up against the first-team defense.
"Matt (Barkley) has done a good job," Mustain said. "I think they want to keep developing him and I am just going to keep taking the reps that I get and capitalize on them."
Barkley returned to action late in the first-half and had a pass intercepted by senior safety Will Harris.
"I sat out in the flats and I kind of hide behind no. 1 and he threw it straight to me," Harris said. "This was the fourth time they have done it. I have been watching film, and I just knew as soon as it came."
Barkley bounced back from the up and down start with a solid second-half.
The freshman signal caller made quick work of the second-team defense, marching 60 yards on the opening drive of the half.
After evading the pass rush, Barkley hit David Ausberry over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown. Barkley was 3-of-4 on the drive with the only incompletion coming off a dropped pass by tight end Blake Ayles.
Barkley later showed some mobility by scoring on an 8-yard run play to end the scrimmage.
On the day, Barkley completed 10-of-17 pass attempts for 120 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
"I thought the tempo was good and we were getting first downs," he said. "It was a little tough on some of the third downs to convert, but I think overall, I felt like I finished the day strong and played pretty well."
Carroll said one of the focuses of the scrimmage was to get Barkley as many reps as possible in a game setting.
"This was a big day to see Matt. We wanted to make sure that he got a ton of plays so he played with the ones and the twos just to keep stacking up plays," he said. "That worked great."
Redshirt freshman Curtis McNeal was the leading rusher on the day, racking up 59 yards on seven carries. Marc Tyler added 21 yards on 5 carries.
On defense, Will Harris came up with the big turnover and Everson Griffen added a quarterback sack.
"The offense was able to make a few big plays but I felt like we tackled pretty well and were able to force a turnover, which is something that we always talk about," defensive coordinator Seto said.
Seto was pleased with the effort of the defense and saw some good things from the newcomers.
"I thought Byron Moore did a nice job coming in as a freshman coming in playing some nickel and some corner," Seto said. "All four freshmen (defensive backs) that we have in camp are really impressive."
Overall, it was a very productive 72-play scrimmage with some bright spot on both sides of the ball.
"I thought all across the board everyone was busting it and playing hard" Carroll said. "We got to see a lot of guys and got a lot of things done today."
Mitch Mustain – 14-16, 154, TD
Matt Barkley – 10-17, 120 yds, TD, INT
Curtis McNeal – 7 carries, 59 yds, TD
Marc Tyler – 5 carries, 21 yds
Joe McKnight - 3 carries,16 yds
David Ausberry – 3 catches, 73 yds, TD
De'Von Flournoy – 3 catches, 55 yds, TD
D.J. Shoemate – 3 catches, 16 yds
Shane Horton – 5
Nick Garratt – 4
Drew McAllister – 4
Malik Jackson – 4
Robert Erickson – 4
Will Harris – INT
Everson Griffen – QB sack
Congdon 22 yd FG
McNeal – 2 yd run
Flournoy – 28 yd TD reception from Mustain
Ausberry – 19 yd TD reception from Barkley
Barkley – 8 yd TD run
- The offensive line had an impressive day protecting the quarterbacks, allowing just one sack on the day.
"The pass protection was very good for the day," Carroll said. "Our guys are well on their way to being a very good unit. All together we have two offensive lines that we are excited about."
- After putting a great deal of pressure on the quarterbacks this fall, Everson Griffen was the only defensive lineman to record a quarterback sack on Friday.
"I was a little disappointed that we didn't get more heat but I give credit to the offensive line," Carroll said.
- Defensive highlights: Senior safety Will Harris had the lone turnover for the defense, intercepting a pass from Matt Barkley. Armond Armstead and Nick Perry both recorded tackles for loss. Walk-on Robert Erickson had a big hit that separated De'Von Flournoy from the ball on a long pass over the middle. Freshman Torin Harris had a diving deflection of a pass in the end zone.
- The Trojans return to action on Saturday with practices at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Safety Will Harris had an interception on Friday. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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