Mitch Mustain provides USC with quite a backup plan


Mitch Mustain isn’t going away.

The seldom-used backup quarterback for USC had the opportunity to transfer without penalty when the NCAA handed down sanctions against the university in June.

Despite the presence of incumbent starter Matt Barkley, Mustain chose to remain with the Trojans for his final season of eligibility.

The Arkansas native showed again on Saturday that he is prepared to play if called upon.

This article incorrectly refers to a USC scrimmage on Saturday. The scrimmage was Sunday.

In a scrimmage that was mostly dominated by the Trojans’ first-unit defensive line, Mustain completed 23 of 35 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown playing almost exclusively with and against second-unit players.

Mustain also starred in the Trojans’ final spring scrimmage, passing for nearly 300 yards and five touchdowns at the Coliseum.

“I feel good with where I’m at,” said Mustain, later adding, “I feel like I could execute whatever we have in week to week.”

Coach Lane Kiffin said that Barkley remains the starter but that Mustain’s command of the offense provides the coaching staff with the unusual luxury of using a single play-call sheet for games rather than tailoring individual ones for the starter and backup.

“A lot of times with your backup quarterback you have another sheet because he can’t do everything,” Kiffin said. “I’m excited about Mitch’s performance again.”

Barkley started slow before finishing nine of 15 for 127 yards with a touchdown. The sophomore faced a swarming first-unit defense and did not benefit from as many calls for short pass plays as Mustain did.

“We were kind of experimenting in the first half a little bit with the offense, doing a couple plays that we normally don’t do,” Barkley said. “In the second half we came out and just stuck to what we’ve been doing and what we know best and it worked.”

Cameron shines

Tight end Jordan Cameron had the standout performance of the scrimmage, catching eight passes for 96 yards.

Cameron, a senior, switched from receiver to tight end in the spring. He has added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame and weighs about 250 pounds.

“I feel more powerful, more confident in my ability as a blocker,” he said. “In the spring I was like … a duckling out there, so it’s been a lot different.”

Running game

Tailback Curtis McNeal scored on a 30-yard touchdown run and finished with 57 yards in six carries.

Allen Bradford had minus-five yards in six carries, C.J Gable 25 yards in seven carries.

“I didn’t think C.J. and Allen looked real good, but at the same time we have to go watch the film,” Kiffin said. “I don’t know enough to know how much was there and what was going on with their reads. It’s hard to tell sometimes until you go to the film.”

Dillon Baxter gained 39 yards in five carries, Marc Tyler 34 yards in seven.

Quick hits

David Ausberry caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Mustain and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Barkley…. Devon Kennard had a scrimmage-best seven tackles playing middle linebacker for the second-unit defense…. Jake Harfman missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt and an extra-point attempt. Joe Houston made one extra-point attempt but missed another. “I was surprised by that,” Kiffin said of the special teams. “I thought we had made a lot of ground there.” … Freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins did not complete a pass in four attempts, one of which was intercepted and returned 35 yards for a touchdown by walk-on linebacker Augusto Alonso….The Trojans do not practice Monday.