Barkley Passes Test

With a new play-caller and freshman quarterback under center, the Trojans' offense got off to a slow start on Saturday, but once they got on track there was no stopping the Men of Troy. Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley led the Trojans to a 56-3 victory over San Jose State in his college debut.

LOS ANGELES - With a new play-caller and freshman quarterback under center, the Trojans' offense got off to a slow start on Saturday, but once they got on track there was no stopping the Men of Troy.

The Trojans' responded from a sloppy first quarter that saw the offense rack up more turnovers than points, by scoring on four straight drives to end the half with a commanding 28-3 lead.

"We just had to settle down and get into a rhythm, and once we got into the rhythm everything started going well for us," Joe McKnight said.

Senior tailback Stafon Johnson got the scoring started with a 4-yard rush up the middle for a touchdown, giving the Trojans a 7-3 lead on the Trojans' first drive of the second quarter.

Johnson's touchdown capped off a 45-yard scoring drive in which Matt Barkley completed 2-of-2 attempts for 23 yards and Joe McKnight had four carries for 18 yards.

USC defensive tackle Jurrell Casey recovered a fumble by San Jose State running back Patrick Perry on the Spartans next possession, giving the Trojans the ball on their own 42.

Five plays later Stafon Johnson was celebrating his second touchdown run of the day. Johnson's score was set up by a 33-yard catch and run by Damian Williams.

Williams finished the day with three catches for a team-high 67 receiving yards.

Junior tailback Allen Bradford also got into the act during the Trojans' second quarter explosion. Bradford took a handoff and raced through the line, up the sideline and past the Spartan's defense for a 43-yard touchdown.

"It opened up just like practice and I followed Stanley (Havili) the whole way," Bradford said. "The offensive line opened it up, then I saw Stanley make his block and I didn't get touched."

Bradford made several similar runs in practice this fall and today he got an opportunity to show off his explosive speed in front of a national audience.

"I am just glad that it happened and that the whole world can see it" he said.

Joe McKnight was the next back to find his way into to the end zone. McKnight took a pitch off the right side and scored from six yards out before the half.

McKnight got the start at tailback and made the most of his opportunity by rushing for a team-high 145 yards on 14 carries.

McKnight came into the season determined to finally live up to his potential and looked the part on Saturday, breaking off a handful of big plays and finishing with 184 all-purpose yards.

The junior with electric moves brought the Coliseum crowd to their feet by weaving his way through the San Jose State defense and flipping into the end zone for an exciting 54-yard score.

McKnight, who has been compared to Bush since arriving at USC, said the familiar flip was out of necessity.

"I was stumbling and falling and I didn't want to go down, so I just flipped into the end zone," McKnight said. "It worked out perfectly.

"I wasn't going to try to do a Reggie Bush and flip in the end zone just to flip. I stumbled up and flipped into the end zone."

Along with the breakout performance of McKnight, the story of the day was the sharp play of Matt Barkley in his college debut.

The knock on Barkley was that he had a tendency to force throws and turn the ball over, but the freshman signal caller was poised in the pocket and played mistake-free football, while showing off his strong arm.

"Barkley is like a junior right now," McKnight said. "He is just focused and ready to play football."

Barkley completed 15-of-19 pass attempts for 233 yards and a touchdown.

"I was not nervous at all," Barkley said. "I got some goose bumps during the Trojan Walk, but I came out early and threw and really got settled. The only thing different than practice was there were fans in the stands."

Barkley became the first true freshman in school history to start the season opener and Carroll always had confidence that the first-year quarterback could handle the pressure.

"Matt Barkley absolutely handled the situation. He loved every minute of it and he showed us nothing but this same demeanor since he has been here," Carroll said. "He is a remarkable young man and he was a blast to coach today."

Carroll said that while the media and fans may have been surprised by the freshman's play, it was just what he expected.

"We have had great kids play quarterback here. No one has shown such poise at such a young age as Barkley has and we are absolutely thrilled to have him," Carroll said. "He had a solid game and when it comes down to it he continues to do what we expect him to do."

Next up for Barkley and the Trojans is a road test in Columbus, Ohio.

Joe McKnight flips into the end zone for a score. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)

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