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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Barkley, Woods lead USC to win

LOS ANGELES — As far as Pac-12 quarterback and receiver connections go, Nick Foles and Juron Criner were definitely the premier duo coming into the season.

With Criner coming off a 2010 campaign during which he caught 82 receptions for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns, and with Foles’ ability to throw the deep ball so well, it was just assumed that hookup would be more fierce this season.

At the end of Saturday’s 48-41 loss to USC, however, Criner’s abilities looked circumstantial compared to the monster game of USC receiver Robert Woods.

Woods’ chemistry with quarterback Matt Barkley is now drawing the hype that Foles and Criner used to receive.

“We decided to have Matt throw the ball a lot and he was comfortable with that,” USC head coach Lane Kiffin said. “Our pass protections really held up well today. We did better in areas that were exposed last weekend.”

By game’s end, the two opposing quarterback-to-receiver stats were at different ends of the spectrum.

Woods caught 14 balls for a career-high 255 yards and two touchdowns. Criner had only three catches for 29 yards and his only redeeming play of the game was a late touchdown grab that brought the Wildcats within seven points late in the game.

Woods’ impact was immediate. His first grab came on a screen pass from Barkley that he was able to turn into an 82-yard touchdown play.

“Matt’s putting the ball on the money, on point, every time,” Woods said. “He’s making it really easy on us because he puts it right where it needs to be.”

From there it didn’t stop for Woods.

Criner on the other hand was unable to shake his coverage for most of the game, forcing Foles to utilize other guys like Dan Buckner, David Douglas, and Austin Hill.

“We wanted to make sure that their great receivers didn’t get big plays against us.” Kiffin said.

Foles’ numbers remained constant with the rest of his season so far. Aside from the two interceptions, his first of the season, he threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns.

However, there aren’t any answers for what’s going on with Criner’s lack of productivity.

An appendectomy that made him miss the Oklahoma State contest certainly didn’t help, but he showed flashes of his former self against Oregon when he hauled in 96 yards on nine catches.

All indications were pointed to Criner posting more than 100 yards against USC after he tallied 98 receiving yards last year against the Trojans in Tucson.

Maybe he just couldn’t get past USC cornerback Nickell Robey, but it got to the point where Foles stopped looking for him entirely.
A lot of the time he just wasn’t open.

Criner is still a top-tier receiver and will be taken with a high pick in the NFL Draft next April. And his quiet outing wasn’t to blame for the loss, of course. The Wildcats’ have problems across the board, and Foles said there’s one answer that’s easy to say, but difficult to do.

“We’ve got to stick together, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “You can’t just give up. It’s early in the year. Our record’s not what we want it to be, but you know what? We can change that. We’ve got to get back to work.”

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