Most freshman quarterbacks have been known to crumble under the bright lights because of inexperience and immaturity, but when it comes to USC's Matt Barkley, the first-year signal caller relishes the opportunity of playing in front of hostile crowds on the road.
"I feed off the energy, and I feed of that noise," Barkley said. "I love it. I love away games."
Barkley's poise during USC's 86-yard game-winning drive against Ohio State in Columbus has been well documented, with veterans like Joe McKnight calling the kid, "Cool, calm and collected."
Linebacker Chris Galippo said at the time: "He didn't play like a freshman. I've never played in an environment this hostile before, but he stepped up and proved that he's the man."
After the game Barkley looked completely unfazed by the moment, and when asked about playing in front of 106,033 Buckeye fans he replied, "It was really loud. I think my ears are still ringing a bit…but the noise didn't affect the way we played."
Barkley said again after Tuesday's practice that he doesn't plan to be affected by the atmosphere at Autzen Stadium, which is widely regarded as the toughest place to play in the Pac-10.
"It doesn't matter," Barkley said. "I have never been there. I heard it's crazy but I will say this every road game: It won't matter."
Besides his remarkable physical talent and ability to quickly absorb the offense, what separates Barkley from other freshmen, is his confidence in the face of adversity.
He displayed it when he outplayed Jimmy Clausen in his first rivalry game in South Bend and he hasn't shown anything to make one believe that he won't be ready this Saturday in Eugene, in what is likely USC's biggest game of the regular season.
"We are just going to focus on ourselves and what we do," he said.
As Barkley enters the biggest conference game of his young career, his experiences in Columbus and South Bend have helped prepare him for the craziness that will be Autzen Stadium on Halloween.
"It definitely helps just with knowing what type of crowd you are going to face, the crowd noise, the atmosphere and energy," Barkley said. "You kind of know what to expect."
- Anthony McCoy (ankle sprain), Stanley Havili (dislocated shoulder), Brice Butler (tightness in lower back) David Ausberry (strained calf), Drew McAllister (hip flexor), Marc Tyler (foot), Hebron Fangupo (broken leg) and James Boyd (knee) were among the players that didn't participate in practice on Tuesday.
- Stanley Havili and Anthony McCoy are both questionable for Saturday's game and David Ausberry is doubtful.
- Wide receiver Damian Williams, who leads the Trojans with 34 receptions for 525 yards and three touchdowns, was limited in practice because of a bruised glut, but Carroll said he will be fine to play Saturday.
"We just want to make sure and keep him fresh," Carroll said.
- While the Trojans have a lot of players out with various injuries, Carroll said he isn't overly concerned with the situation.
"We got guys that are ready to play," he said. "As always has been the case around here, it's about the guys that step up; it isn't about the guys that are out.
"Fortunately we have some good guys to go with."
- Third-year sophomore Brandon Carswell continues to get increased reps during practice and Carroll said the coaches have been pleased with his development at wide receiver.
"He's been doing a really good job," Carroll said. "He has come through with all of the things that we have asked him to, so we are hoping to keep developing him and bringing him along."
"He's got great quickness, outstanding speed…he was a 100-meter champion out of Texas," Oregon's Chip Kelly said. "He's got great vision and toughness."
James is averaging 131.4 yards a game in five games as the Duck's starter.
Matt Barkley is looking for another big road win this Saturday. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)
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