Behind the numbers: Barkley for 6
Matt Barkley’s Thursday night performance earned him Pac 12 player of the week honors. The junior tossed a school-record 6 touchdown passes in a 42-17 victory for USC over hapless Colorado, surpassing four other Trojan quarterbacks to sit alone atop the category.
The feat should come as no surprise, based on experience, supporting cast and opponent. Barkley was the first true freshman quarterback to ever open a season as a starter for the men of Troy. And missing only two starts since being planted behind center, he may be the most experienced third-year hurler in the program’s long history.
It also helps to have the nation’s best receiving duo in your huddle. By now, the name Robert Woods has gone national, as he is easily among the frontrunners for the 2011 Biletnikoff award. Not as well known, but will be soon, is freshman Marqise Lee, who appears as a clone of the team’s more reputable receiver. Woods and Lee each caught a touchdown pass on their quarterback’s record-setting night, combining for a total of 18 receptions for 254 yards. It was ‘pick your poison” for the Colorado defense, and regardless of choice, each was a fast-acting dose.
And of course, the opponent offered an assist in the history making event. The Buffaloes, dressed for a funeral, entered the game with a defense ranked 92nd nationally defending the pass. USC attacked that secondary on the first offensive play from scrimmage, with Barkley overthrowing Brice Butler on a deep rout down the left sideline. From that moment, the intention was clear. The Trojans were going to attack the slow-footed and depleted Colorado secondary, and do it without mercy. Amir Carlisle capped Barkley’s night in the fourth quarter, hauling in a screen pass and taking it 11 yards for the quarterbacks sixth and final touchdown toss of the evening.
The six touchdown passes in a single-game moved Barkley one ahead of Rodney Peete, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Mark Sanchez, who are tied at five. Barkley had also thrown 5 touchdown passes in a game on four different occasions, the most of any USC quarterback. Leinart accomplished it three times, with the most notable coming in January of 2005, where the five established a new Orange Bowl record, as USC embarrassed Oklahoma 55-19 in a national championship game. Sanchez threw 5 touchdowns in a half against Washington State, but with a 41-0 halftime lead, he did not participate in the second half of that 2008 game.
Of the five quarterbacks throwing for at least 5 touchdowns in a game, two won the Heisman Trophy, with a third (Peete) appearing as a runner-up. Three were selected in the first-round of the NFL draft, with Barkley an apparent lock to become the fourth, if he chooses to forgo his senior year. Adding to the incentives to stay for 2012, Barkley is the only quarterback in the group to not perform in a New Year’s bowl game.