USC enjoys a complete-game victory over Syracuse
So much for that second-half scoring drought.
Going into Saturday’s game against Syracuse, USC had scored only one touchdown after halftime in its first two games.
Though pleased the Trojans were unbeaten, quarterback Matt Barkley admitted frustration, saying last week, “We have to keep raising that bar because we can do so much more.”
Barkley did plenty against the Orange, throwing three of his five touchdown passes in the second half as USC routed Syracuse, 38-17, before an announced 65,873 at the Coliseum.
The Trojans rolled up 501 yards and improved their record to 3-0 heading into next week’s Pacific 12 Conference game at Arizona State.
“It’s about time,” Barkley said. “It kind of felt like Trojan football again.”
For the first time this season, USC did not require a last-minute interception or a last-second block of a field-goal attempt to fend off an underdog.
“The best thing was the second half,” Coach Lane Kiffin said.
Barkley’s five touchdown passes tied a school record he shares with several others. He connected with fullback Rhett Ellison, receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble.
Barkley completed 26 of 39 passes for 324 yards, without an interception. He has passed for nine touchdowns in three games, with only one interception.
On Saturday, Barkley also gained 24 yards on three scrambles.
“He’s got the second gear on him that we’ve never seen before,” tailback Marc Tyler said. “He even tried to throw a stiff arm.”
After last week’s controversial finish against Utah, the Trojans’ offensive output enabled them — and Nevada sports books — to breathe sighs of relief.
“We finally got a complete game,” Ellison said. “The defense, the offense — everyone played four quarters.”
USC led, 17-3, at halftime on Barkley’s five-yard touchdown pass to Ellison, a 31-yard strike to Woods and a field goal by Andre Heidari.
The Trojans wasted no time extending the lead, Barkley firing a pass to a wide-open Telfer cutting across the middle for a 44-yard touchdown play that put the Trojans ahead, 24-3, slightly more than two minutes into the third quarter.
But Syracuse, which had won its first two games with clutch play in the fourth quarter, came right back.
Quarterback Ryan Nassib hit tight end Nick Provo for a long gain to start the drive, setting up an option pass from receiver Alec Lemon to Van Chew that resulted in a 28-yard touchdown.
Barkley, however, beat back that threat by throwing a perfect pass down the right sideline, where the speedy Lee settled under it for a touchdown and a 31-10 lead.
The Trojans turned the game into a rout when Barkley and Grimble connected on a nine-yard scoring play early in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Trojans limited Syracuse to 73 yards rushing and began to pressure Nassib after the senior started by completing his first 11 passes.
Linebacker Dion Bailey made a team-best nine tackles, including a sack. End Wes Horton had a sack and linebacker Shane Horton and tackle DaJohn Harris each had a half-sack.
Harris said the Trojans were ready to go on the road after three consecutive home victories.
“We got all the icebreakers and the bugs out,” he said. “We’ve got three games under our belt and we know what it takes to win.”
Syracuse (2-1) came into the game riding high after victories over Wake Forest and Rhode Island. Both wins required fourth-quarter rallies.
But USC built a lead that was too large to overcome.
“Toward the end I made some mistakes trying to do too much and that’s when the offense stalled,” said Nassib, who finished 25 for 37 for 230 yards and a touchdown. “They dialed up some pressure and did things we hadn’t seen.”