It’s uncertain whether Matt Barkley will make himself eligible for next year’s NFL draft. If he does, the USC junior quarterback has already cemented his legacy after last Saturday night’s 38-35 upset victory over Oregon at Autzen Stadium in a Pacific 12 Conference showdown as 59,933 fans looked on.
The strong-armed gun-slinger from Orange County Mater Dei High, tossed four touchdown passes, finished with 323 yards, and connected on 26 of 34 attempts.
“We pulled this one out,’’ said Barkley. “This is a different team than the other two.” USC had been outscored 100-52 in its last two meetings with the Ducks.
Oregon (9-2) was a 14-point favorite, came in having captured three of four from USC, and ranked No. 4 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
“That was a big win for our fans and players,’’ said USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin. “They’re [Oregon] a great team and Chip Kelly’s a great coach.”
Barkley’s been criticized for throwing interceptions (26 in two seasons, but only six in 2011).
He was picked off by safety John Boyett, and the interception led to a one-yard run by LaMichael James (78 yards on 20 rushes) with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter, trimming USC’s lead to three points.
The score was aided when quarterback Darron Thomas unloaded an 18-yard pass to tight end David Paulson, who made a brilliant one-handed grab.
It became tighter when Barkley and running back Marc Tyler (49 yards on 12 carries) fumbled the exchange deep inside Oregon territory. Tyler had a three-yard scoring run with 9:27 left in the third quarter to make it 31-14.
The No. 18 Trojans (9-2) survived when Alejandro Maldonado’s 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as time expired.
Aside from Barkley, the other star was true freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee (eight receptions for 187 yards).
“I’m getting more comfortable every game,’’ said Lee, who caught a 59-yard pass from Barkley to make it 7-0 with 6:35 left in the opening quarter.
A world-class sprinter from Serra High, Lee added 134 yards on punt and kickoff returns.
It became 14-0 early in the second quarter after Barkley drove USC 69 yards on seven plays with the march culminating in a 12-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods (53 yards and seven catches).
Barkley’s four-yard strike to Woods with 2:27 left in the second quarter made it 21-7, and it closed out a 50-yard, seven-play drive.
When Barkley hit tight end Randall Telfer with a five-yard toss as 3:28 remained in the third quarter, USC was in command by 24 points.
Oregon, which lost to Auburn in the BCS title game last season, wasn’t about to fold.
Oregon freshman wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas, who attended Crenshaw High and nearly signed with USC, returned the kickoff 96 yards to make it 38-20, and when Kenjon Barner capped a nine-play, 75-yard march with an eight-yard dash as 12:44 remained in the fourth quarter, the Ducks closed within 11 points.
Darron Thomas (23 of 35 for 265 yards) found De’Anthony Thomas (49 yards and three grabs) with a 29-yard pass that ended an 88-yard, seven-play excursion as 5:53 was left in the second quarter as the Ducks trailed 14-7.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.