Barkley and Woods in perspective
It’s not often that victory itself is a secondary headline in postgame recaps, but being that the opponent was Colorado, it isn’t uncommon. The Buffaloes are a bad football team, and a victory for the Trojans was as inevitable as the 50-6 final score. But victory wasn’t the only assurance with the Pac 12’s worst coming to town. The Buffaloes defense lacked the talent to deny Matt Barkley’s march to the forefront of record books, and the Southern California gunslinger would take a teammate with him.
Barkley entered Saturday’s game needing 4 touchdown passes to supplant Matt Leinart as the USC and Pac 12 career leader. He would rewrite history early in the second quarter, after finding Robert Woods for a 29-yard score. It was the 100th touchdown connection between the quarterback and a Trojan teammate, and a final passing of legendary names to sit atop history’s leader board.
Last December, Lane Kiffin said his quarterback had an opportunity to become a “special Trojan”, and he has now reached a special plateau. But it wasn’t the current coach that placed Barkley in a position to elevate to new levels. It began with a former coach willing to take a risk in starting the first true freshman quarterback in the program’s long history. It’s something Kiffin said he wouldn’t have done, when he took over the program in 2010. But it is what Pete Carroll did in 2009, in his last season on the USC sideline.
Matt Leinart (2003-2005)
Matt Barkley (2009-2012)
Carroll gave Barkley a head start over Leinart, who made his first start as a sophomore in 2003. Barkley threw for just 15 touchdowns as a freshman in 2009, but it was still 15 more than Leinart in his first year.
The book remains open on Barkley, who still has five unwritten chapters before the end of his Trojan career. His touchdown totals have increased in each season, and currently stands eighteen short of exceeding the total for 2011. The chart shows the opposite for Leinart, who had a decrease in touchdown production as his career went forward.
Leinart’s yearly decline can be summed up in a single name—-Lendale White. White was the greatest red zone threat in school history, and left USC as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (52). Where Barkley has lacked ground support, Leinart was complimented by a thunder and lightening (Reggie Bush) tandem that often ensured that most drives ended in the painted area.
“Two” is the magic number in the quarterback comparison, with that digit surfacing several times. Leinart twice threw for 30 or more touchdowns in a season, while Barkley has accomplished it just once in 3.5 years as a starter. Barkley’s first two seasons ended with double-digit interception totals, whereas Leinart never threw more than nine in a single campaign. USC would also lose at least two games in each season with Barkley behind center. Leinart lost just twice in 39 career starts.
Unlike Barkley, Leinart never threw more than 5 touchdown passes in game, but he still remains one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football history. Among his achievements are three Pac 10 championships and two national championships, He is a Rose and Orange Bowl champioin, and earned two trips to New York as a Heisman finalist, winning the prestigious award in 2004.
Kiffin was correct in saying his quarterback will be a special Trojan by the end of his career, because he will undoubtedly finish at statistical levels far above his predecessors. But regardless of what becomes of the remainder of this season, I believe Matt Leinart will retain his status as the greatest hurler to wear the cardinal and gold. Despite the freshman handicap, you would be hard-pressed to find another quarterback bearing the Trojan brand that has equaled or achieved more during his stay. In his 43rd career start, Barkley became a statistical king. But it took just 39 games commanding the huddle for Matt Leinart to become legend.
Robert Woods and Dwayne Jarrett
Barkley’s fourth touchdown pass against Colorado earned him a place in the record books, and his fifth of the half would do the same for Robert Woods.
Woods’ second touchdown of the day would come on his fifth catch, which lifted him above Dwayne Jarrett to become USC’s all-time leader in receptions. What the third-year receiver shares in common with the former record holder is that both played a significant amount of snaps as freshmen, before becoming the primary target of their quarterbacks in following years.
Dwayne Jarrett (2004-2006)
Robert Woods (2010-2012)
Woods was shutout just once so far in his career, finishing with no catches against Washington in 2010, while Jarrett caught at least one pass in every game played. Where Jarrett lags behind is in games with 10 receptions or more, achieving this just 4 times at USC, while Woods has recorded 10-plus catches six times and counting.
Jarrett recorded a career-high 11 receptions on three occasions, which is a number Woods would exceed 5 times to date. Woods’ 17 receptions versus Minnesota in 2011 established a new school-record, which was just one of many on his road to stardom. In his abuse of Colorado, Woods would also set school-records for single-game receiving touchdowns (4), and career games with 8 catches or more (13).
Woods has a slate of games remaining before he makes a decision on his future. The security of his numbers will depend on how far he can push them out of reach. The greatest threat comes from teammate Marqise Lee, who continues to catch passes at the same pace of Woods, and has another season of eligibility remaining. The sophomore currently has 133 receptions in his year and a half at USC, but will lose his quarterback and possibly his attention grabbing receiving mate in 2013.