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The Struggles of Matt Barkley

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It is safe to say that the recent play of Matt Barkley has been some cause for concern for many of us.

We all marveled at his poise on the road against tOSU, Cal and ND. The tOSU and ND games were not the prettiest but the end result was achieved. We expected a certain amount of freshman mistakes. We knew there would be some periods of stagnation while Barkley continued to get comfortable to the college game. There is no question that he has grown but there are also some signs that he has not progressed in a few areas like he probably should have to this point in his first season.

The most disconcerting are some of the throws into coverage that have resulted in INT's or just missed INT's. Barkey had a bit of reputation in high school as an INT machine. We are seeing why over the past few games. I had less of an issue with the INT against ND, that was a timing issue that resulted in a tipped ball. But since then there has been more of that sort of throw as the season has moved on...not less.

Barkley is making a few more mistakes out there than some of us thought he would...

USC quarterback Matt Barkley lost a fumble and had three passes intercepted Saturday in Stanford's 55-21 victory over the Trojans.

Barkley came into the game having completed 12 of 38 passes for 161 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the previous six quarters.

The freshman was 21 for 31 for 196 yards and a touchdown against Stanford, but the Cardinal turned every turnover into a touchdown.

"I don't feel really flustered," Barkley said. "It's just we've had some bad breaks and I think maybe tried to do too much at times."

There is no question that Barkley is forcing things or not going through all of his check downs. That is not really surprising for a freshman especially with an O line that has not given him the best protection the past few weeks but none the less it is cause for some concern among the fan base and Pete Carroll addressed it earlier this week...

Coach Pete Carroll said Sunday that he had no thoughts of replacing the freshman after a four-turnover performance in the Trojans' 55-21 loss to Stanford.

Despite Barkley's struggles in much of the last three games, Carroll said he and his staff have a "clear thought" that the 19-year-old gives the Trojans the best chance to win.

"We see the potential, the playmaking, the mentality and all the stuff we're looking for," Carroll said.

Some will say that Barkley has regressed others will say he hasn't progressed...same difference to me. I expect some amount of plateauing but I think there should be a little more positive progress. But not so much that Barkley should lose his starting job.The coaching staff has hitched their wagon up to Matt Barkley. It his clear that he is the future..so much so that there has been little discussion of either Mitch Mustain or Aaron Corp. Those two seem like distant memories.

On the flip side I think the bar has been set incredibly high for Barkley. I also think that the coaching staff has tried to portray a picture that Matt Barkley has either done no wrong or can do no wrong. Pete Carroll gives that impression to me in yesterdays interview on PMS. I think not holding Matt accountable for some of his mistakes is a problem. The fan base knows better than that. We are not that blind. I would expect the coaches to do a fair amount of deflecting to keep the heat off of Barkley but there has to be some intellectual honesty as well. This stubborn side of Pete Carroll is what makes him great but it could be a stumbling block as well.

There is no question that the pass protection has not been up to par when compared to all the hype of this stud O line. I don't expect them protect Barkley on every play but it does appear that the O line has not been as good as was earlier in the season. I realize that O'Dowd has been out for a stretch but if we are going to rely on the play of just one player of that unit then I think the problems are bigger than we imagined. Even when Stanford stacked the box the offense was running the ball fairly effectively against Stanford so why go away from it? When Barkley threw that Pick-six you could just see the team deflate...

A lot of this on Barkley. He has to start making better decisions. Some of it is not on him...like Blake Ayles dropping easy catches that could prolong drives but there have been some plays that were clearly all on Barkley.

But there are some things he can improve...

The biggest one is turnovers, which were as significant a problem as run defense in last week’s 55-21 loss to Stanford. Barkley lost a fumble and threw an interception on the Trojans’ first two possessions, leading to a 14-0 deficit. Barkley threw three interceptions in all, giving him seven in the past four games.

“We’ve just got to take what they give us,” Bates said Wednesday. “We can’t try to win the (game) on one play, we can’t try to make a play when it’s not there. We’ve got to throw it away. We’ve got to take care of the football and live to see the next down. We can’t make plays that aren’t there, and that’s the biggest issue we’ve got going right now.”

That assessment is about the closest any USC coach has come to criticizing Barkley in public. Bates and Pete Carroll generally have tried to protect the Mater Dei High product whenever he and/or the offense have struggled.

I don't think Barkley needs to tuck it away or throw it away every time he feels some pressure but I wouldn't chuck it and duck either.

I understand that some progress eventually stalls but the trick is getting it back on track. I know Barkley can do it, he just has to dig down deep.