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October 17, 2009

Barkley takes center stage

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - It's safe to say Matt Barkley does more than manage the game.

The USC quarterback had already won road games at California and Ohio State this season before he helped lead No. 6 USC to a 34-27 victory over No. 25 Notre Dame on Saturday. That's something not many freshman quarterbacks can do, going 19-of-29 for 380 yards, two touchdowns and one interception inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Barkley is the fourth quarterback to throw for a career high in the past five games.

The statistics show a quarterback doing more than just handing the ball off and completing short passes, something that comes as no shock to USC coach Pete Carroll.

"It doesn't really matter where we're playing it just doesn't affect him," Carroll said. "And it's not because he's numb to it. He knows. He knows exactly where he is and what he's doing. But he has this great inner-strength and confidence that allows him to be unwaver(ing). He's just a remarkable kid."

In a season already full of impressive wins, Barkley holds up against past precedent.

Since last beating USC, Notre Dame has been forced to defend two Heisman-trophy winning quarterbacks in Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer with John David Booty and current New York Jets rookie Mark Sanchez mixed in.

Only two performances from that NFL group better Barkley's on Saturday. Palmer threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns in 2002, which started this eight game streak. Leinart passed for 400 yards and five touchdowns in the 2004 blowout.

In three combined starts against the Irish, neither Booty nor Sanchez cracked the 300-yard barrier.

"He did pretty good," said Notre Dame cornerback Gary Gray, who made the interception of Barkley in the fourth quarter. "He's just progressing as he's going along in the season. Pete Carroll's kind of giving him the reins of the offense and he's taking control."

Taking control indeed.

Barkley completed seven passes of 20 yards or longer, including both of his touchdown passes. His first was a 20-yard strike to Damian Williams for a 7-0 lead and the second was a 41-yard screen pass to Williams.

His longest completion was a 60-yarder to Anthony McCoy in the third quarter.

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis credited some creative play calling for Barkley's ability to find large portions of yardage with his receivers.

"He had big numbers as far as yardage goes," Weis said. "He threw the ball about 30 times. A lot of them went for chunks. A lot of them were off of play-action, boots. There were a bunch of plays. I think that he did a nice job of just managing the game."

But Barkley did more than manage the game. He proved to be USC's most dangerous weapon.


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