Berkeley, Calif.- After each game Matt Barkley's started, he's been the subject of praise and adoration. Saturday after USC's 30-3 win at Cal, it was no different.
Barkley's been flat-out awesome in his four starts as a college quarterback, and he's only getting better.
"He's the captain of the offense," Chris Galippo said. "There's no doubt. He's that good out there."
He's no longer feeling any effects from the bruised shoulder he suffered against Ohio State.
"I didn't feel it all tonight," he said. "It really went away."
While Barkley might not have felt "it," as in the bum right shoulder, he certainly was feeling it.
USC has been nauseating on third down for most of the season, and with one early throw, Barkley made it known that those problems are on the way to being fixed.
After two plays, USC faced third-and-nine from their own 21-yard line. A Cal stop, and the Bears have good field position right after marching all the way inside the USC 10 before a turnover kept them from striking first. They probably score, and maybe, they change the game.
Instead, Barkley stands calm and tall in the pocket, waiting for tight end Anthony McCoy to get open in the seam. Barkley throws a strike, USC gains 31 yards and the Trojans are off and running away towards a win.
"Third down is a big down," Barkley said. "But we try to just get down to it and execute. On that drive, (McCoy) got open and caught it."
Barkley's simple explanations for a momentous play early in the game mirror the way Barkley plays the game. It looks effortless for him.
When he took the field as USC's first true freshman starting quarterback in a season opener, Barkley handled the pressure and the hype with ease. When he led USC to a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter at Ohio State with a numb right shoulder, he never flinched.
When he came back two weeks later in a must-win game against Washington State, he cruised. And Saturday, when USC needed him to make some plays, he obliged.
Barkley is more than a quarterback, more than a future star. He's a football savant.
Friday during USC's walkthrough, Barkley stepped up and belted a 45-yard field goal through the uprights. And with the same ease, Barkley darted the ball around the field on his way to 283 yards passing.
He does this with confidence and with charisma.
Barkley continues to win over converts as his young legend grows. Some people, like Carroll, have been on the bandwagon for quite a time. The supporting cast around him is very good right now. When Ronald Johnson comes back, it'll only get better.
Barkley is a leader, he's a player and, most importantly, he's a winner.
"He's not a freshman in my book," Pete Carroll said.
He's not in mine either.