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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“With freshman Barkley, USC stages The Drive to rally past Ohio State”

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After it was over, after the comeback was complete and a star was born, a reporter laid out the scenario to USC coachPete Carroll:

Five-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Second-and-19 from your own 5-yard line.

Freshman quarterback at the helm.

Record, enemy crowd going bonkers.

Carroll grinned widely. His eyes bulged. He said five words that summed it all up:

“”That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?””

It was cool in more ways than one for USC and that freshman quarterback,Matt Barkley. With more than a little help from tailbackJoe McKnight, Barkley engineered a fourth-quarter rally at Ohio State on Saturday night that immediately will take up residence in USC football lore.

It began on the outskirts of one end zone and ended in the other with an 18-15 Trojans victory.

Although both teams came in ranked in the top 10 (No. 3 USC and No. 8 Ohio State), the Trojans were touchdown favorites on the road. The Buckeyes gave them everything they could handle.

“”We knew it was going to be a fight,”” USC senior safetyTaylor Mayssaid.

Despite a plethora of pundits predicting a blowout, the Trojans (2-0) figured the Buckeyes would be much tougher foes than a year ago, when USC pummeled them, 35-3, at the Coliseum. All week long, the visitors downplayed the impact of the crowd – until they actually heard 106,033 fans, the most to attend a game at Ohio Stadium, screaming for more than three hours.

It was against that backdrop, and after three-plus quarters of offensive ineptitude, that Barkley & Co. went to work. Of course, typical of most of what preceded it, the drive began with a sack and a false-start penalty.

Still, Barkley said, he never stopped believing.

“”I knew our offense was going to score,”” the Mater Dei High grad said. “”We did struggle early on. But you’ve got to go in with the mindset that you’re going to score, or it’s not going to happen.””

Progress came in the form of an 11-yard McKnight run. The breakthrough came on third-and-8 from the USC 16.

McKnight ran an option route out of the backfield. He juked to the outside and cut inside, where he was open for a 21-yard gain. USC linebackerChris Galippohad seen that before.

“”I’m usually the linebacker who gets juked in practice,”” he said.

Barkley then hit tight endAnthony McCoyfor 26 yards, advancing the ball from one 37-yard line to the other. Four McKnight runs, two Barkley sneaks and one completion toDamian Williamspushed the ball to the 3. From there,Stafon Johnsonran around right end for USC’s first lead since his 1-yard touchdown made it 7-0 in the first quarter.

Appropriately, McKnight – who accounted for 53 yards on the winning march – scored the two-point conversion, catching a quick flip from the left slot and leaping through two defenders across the goal line.

“”That’sJoe McKnightright there,”” Williams said. “”He’s a playmaker. We put it on his shoulders.””

Cramps in McKnight’s legs had sent him to the sideline in the third quarter. After an injury-plagued 2008 season, he wasn’t about to let them keep him there.

“”I didn’t want to stay out,”” said the junior, who finished with 105 total yards. “”I worked so hard—we worked so hard for this this summer. We had to finish.””

USC’s defense, which kept the game close despite consistently unfavorable field position, applied the finishing touch. Mays and cornerbackBrian Bauchamconverged to knock awayTerrelle Pryor’sdesperate, fourth-and-10 fling forDuron Carter. Barkley took a knee, and USC survived.

“”There was never any doubt,”” Williams said. “”We never quit until the clock says zero. Seven minutes left, that’s plenty of time.””

The Trojans left Columbus with plenty of respect for Pryor, the dazzling dual-threat sophomore who passed for 177 yards and rushed for 36 against them. Pryor’s 56-yard pass toDane Sanzenbacherset up the touchdown that erased USC’s early lead, and three more passes, totaling 43 yards, set up the field goal that bumped Ohio State’s edge to 15-10 in the third quarter.

But other than one 17-yard scamper, the Trojans kept Pryor from beating them with his feet.

“”We didn’t think we’d be able to take him out as a runner,”” Carroll said. “”We thought we’d be able to control him.””

Carroll also believed Barkley would be able to handle the environment like the veteran he isn’t.

“”He’s not an 18-year-old kid anymore,”” McKnight noted.

No, Barkley turned 19 Tuesday. Consider Saturday night’s victory a belated birthday gift.

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(c) 2009, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).

Visit the Register on the World Wide Web at http://www.ocregister.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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“”USC””

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