Matt Barkley may be best freshman quarterback that Pete Carroll has ever coached…but Matt Barkley is still a freshman quarterback.
While there is no denying the fact that the freshman from Mater Dei is unusually talented, and has all the tools needed to be the next great quarterback at USC, he showed in his first action under the bright lights of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that he isn't immune to some growing pains.
Barkley once again received all of the first-team reps at quarterback and got off to a slow start Monday night in front of 2,000 fans.
"The first group made it hard on Barkley all night," Pete Carroll said.
The first-year signal caller showed his inexperience on the very first snap of the night. Barkley dropped back to pass, couldn't find an open receiver, and then lofted a lazy pass up for grabs that was nearly intercepted.
The pass was possibly his worst of fall camp and the beginning of a sloppy night.
On the very next play, tailback Joe McKnight burst through the line for a 54-yard gain but he later lost a fumble on the same play that center Kristofer O'Dowd got injured.
O'Dowd was helped off the field after dislocating his right kneecap, which is the same injury that forced him to miss four games as a freshman.
"He did exactly the same thing that he had done before, so that was most unfortunate," Carroll said. "It's a crusher that he got banged up like that."
After Barkley and Mustain couldn't produce a single first down on the next three series, it was another impressive freshman that supplied some fireworks for the offense.
First-year wide receiver De'Von Flournoy took a short pass from Mitch Mustain, eluded a handful of defenders and raced up the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown.
Flournoy has scored a touchdown in both of the Trojans' scrimmages this fall and ended the night with a team-high 105 receiving yards on 3 catches.
The freshman wideout has been one of the Trojans' most productive playmakers and is making a real push for playing time.
After some more questionable throws and a few dropped passes, Barkley led the Trojans on a 71-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Stafon Johnson.
The young quarterback had his bright moments but completed just 5-of-18 pass attempts and was kept off balance by the play of the Trojans' defense.
"The defense got after us," Barkley said. "There was no doubt about that."
Shane Horton and DaJohn Harris each recorded a quarterback sack. Horton looks like a good fit at the linebacker position.
While Barkley struggled all evening, Mitch Mustain continued his resurgence, completing 10-of-16 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
"He's been doing great lately and taking advantage of what has been given," Barkley said of Mustain. "I know that I can't settle for anything. I got to just keep pushing it."
O'Dowd, Howell Out
The Trojans' deep offensive line took a hit Monday night when Kristofer O'Dowd and Nick Howell both left with injuries.
O'Dowd dislocated his right kneecap on the first series of the scrimmage. The talented center will get an MRI on his right knee tomorrow and expects to be sidelined for 3-6 weeks.
"I dislocated my kneecap again," he said. "I am going to get an MRI tomorrow to make sure that everything else is OK."
O'Dowd was forced to miss four games in his freshman season with the same injury.
Fellow offensive lineman Nick Howell sprained his ankle Monday night.
Mitch Mustain 10-16, 108, TD
Matt Barkley 5-18, 109
Garrett Green 5-6, 67
Taylor Mays – 6 tackles
Nick Garratt – 5 tackles
Shane Horton – 3 tackles, QB sack
Malik Jackson – 3 tackles, TFL
De'Von Flournoy 53-yard pass from Mitch Mustain (Houston kick)
Stafon Johnson 1-yard run (Congdon kick)
Joe Houston 34-yard field goal
Ronald Johnson 99-yard kickoff return (Congdon kick)
Joe McKnight 78-yard punt return (Houston kick)
- JUCO transfer Jacob Harfman had a good night punting the ball, averaging 45.3 yards per punt on four attempts.
- Tailback Allen Bradford continued to run hard inside and could give the Trojans a legitimate power back in '09. Bradford carried the ball seven times for 51 yards on Monday.
- Due to injuries in the secondary, freshman cornerback Byron Moore moved to safety for Monday's scrimmage. Moore, who played safety last season at Narbonne, showed off his versatility and recorded a tackle for loss.
- Corp Watch: Injured quarterback Aaron Corp was able to do some jogging but still isn't able to run at this time.
- Alex Parson will work as the starting center until Kris O'Dowd is able to return to action.
"Alex Parsons jumped right in the first spot, and like we had seen him before through spring football, he did a very, very good job for us," Carroll said. "We are fortunate to have that kind of depth."
- The Trojans return to the practice field Tuesday at 3 p.m..
USC center Kris O'Dowd dislocated his right kneecap on Monday. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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