Most figured USC would play its final football game in California. They were half right but instead of facing off in the Bowl Championship Series title game at the Rose Bowl, the Trojans met Boston College in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
That’s a big difference but the Trojans didn’t let the lower-tier bowl get in the way of a solid outing, as they downed the Eagles, 24-13, last Saturday night behind freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, and junior wide receiver Damian Williams, who took home the game’s Most Valuable Player award after hauling in 12 catches for 189 yards.
While Barkley, who finished with 350 passing yards on 27 of 37 attempts with two touchdowns, and two interceptions, wants to improve upon a sometimes rocky 2009, the probability that Williams will return is slim.
Williams is a game-breaker and makes himself more coveted because he’s a premiere punt and kickoff return specialist.
A 48-yard pass from Barkley to Williams early in the fourth quarter set up Barkley’s one-yard sneak to make it an 11-point lead with 11:53 left.
“It feels good,” said Williams, a native of Arkansas. “This one is for Trojan Nation.” Pete Carroll, the USC Head Coach, would like for Williams to return, and had kind words for him. “He’s a great player, and he’s a great competitor,” he said. “I’ll support him in whatever he chooses to do but it’s all about looking ahead. The focus will be on developing the young guys.”
Because the Trojans (438 total yards) lost two one-sided games, a 47-20 pounding by Oregon and a 55-21 thrashing by Stanford, it was important to close the season on a good note.
All of these bad memories went by the wayside because on this cold and drizzly evening, most matters went the Trojans’ way, as they took a 14-0 lead when Barkley hit fullback Stanley Havili on a 53-yard swing pass with 6:01 left in the first quarter, and then found Havili on a five-yard connection with 12:36 left in the second quarter.
The first score capped a 90-yard, eight-play march and the second ended a 12-play, 82-yard excursion.
Barkley started off by hitting 13 of 14 passes and was 15 of 19 for 179 yards at the half. “I thought he (offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates) did a great job,” said Carroll. “We were excited about this young kid (Barkley).”
It looked pretty easy for USC until Boston College (8-5) did what it does best, and that’s run the ball. Montel Harris, who gained 102 yards on 23 carries, is the mainstay in the backfield and he scored on a seven-yard run with 9:54 showing before halftime to make it 14-6.
The Eagles (312 total yards) were determined to make it close, as quarterback Dave Shinskie (14 of 33 for 218 yards with one interception) hit wide receiver Rich Gunnell (six catches for 130 yards) on a slant pattern late in the second quarter, and 61 yards later, Boston College trailed 14-13.
USC (9-4) had the ball to begin the second half and, on the first play, Barkley was intercepted.
As luck would have it, Harris fumbled on the very next play, which kicker Jordan Congdon turned into a 38-yard field goal with 9:08 showing in the third quarter to make it 17-13.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.