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Cal Notes...opening up the offense and staying focused in the face of adversity

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Lets turn our focus to Cal for a bit. We will of course keep our eys on the recovery of Stafon Johnson but there is a big game this weekend that we need to examine.

Regardless of what some may think of USC's overall performance against WSU it was clear that USC QB Matt Barkley is USC's QB of the future. Barkley's performance of 240 yards and 2TD's was a sigh if relief after the previous weeks performance of Aaron Corp against UW.

Barkley now heads up Berkley to face another crazy crowd. He will also face a Cal team looking for redemption after last weekends dismantling by Oregon. Barkley is still 100% healed from his bruised shoulder that he suffered against Ohio State but Barkley really doesn't seem fazed...

A sore arm did not seem to bother USC quarterback Matt Barkley in last week's bounce-back victory over Washington State.

So the prospect of playing again with discomfort in his right shoulder does not faze him. "It's still not 100%, but whatever," Barkley said after practice on Tuesday.

The seventh-ranked Trojans are preparing for Saturday's game against No. 24 California at Berkeley.

Barkley, who suffered a bone bruise during a victory over Ohio State on Sept. 12, said his throwing motion has returned to normal.

"It's firing, but there's still that little bit of pain," he said.

Barkley described his condition as "manageable."

Coach Pete Carroll also sounded unconcerned.

Barkley passed for 247 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-6 victory over Washington State last Saturday.

"We saw him at less than 100% and liked the way he played," Carroll said. "Hopefully, he'll be better this week."

I think most will agree that if you isolate Barkley's performance you see that he is doing a remarkable job of settling in. He has made some mistakes, let some balls float a little too high and such but if a few of those throws are not dropped by the receivers his performance all that more special. Pete Carroll also noted that they have installed the whole play book for Barkley to use...of course what they implement will be dependent on the situations they face during the games.

If that is true and if Barkley is grasping the offense then the only real question is will Pete Carroll actually break the NFL mold that he is currently using to really let Barkley rev things up?

Cal got exposed this weekend, albeit on the road at a nutty Autzen Stadium the question is how do they respond and how does SC perform? Regardless of the win in Columbus I think it is safe to say that USC offense looked pretty anemic that night. We know how bad the offense looked in Seattle and after a great start last Saturday against WSU the offense simply disappeared after the first quarter.

Barkley is going to be tested by a pretty good Cal defense. I know they looked less than stellar against the Ducks but every team has performances like that on the road. Cal is looking for some redemption. The Hippies will be out in full force looking to rattle the kid. I am less concerned about that because Memorial Stadium is NOT the Shoe...Cal fans while rabid in their own special way are not like tOSU fans.

SC must move the ball effectively this weekend. They also have to convert in 3rd down situations. That has been the most troublesome problem that I have seen so far this year.

USC is ranked 114th nationally in third-down conversions and coach Pete Carroll admitted Monday it might be difficult to significantly improve the Trojans' 25 percent success rate.

Carroll cited USC's upcoming schedule, which features games at California, Notre Dame and Oregon in October.

"This is a bad stretch to break out of it," he said.

USC ranks between Wyoming and Utah State. There are only 120 teams in the NCAA's Football Subdivision.

That is embarrassing.

For all the riches in talent we have there is no excuse for not converting more efficiently on 3rd down. The players are not performing to their potential and to me that is all about coaching. You can say the same thing about penalties but I am less concerned about that because the more I look at that I really think that that is a way for the refs to level the playing field. A lot of the penalties we have seen are really judgment calls against USC while the refs seemingly "missed" penalties committed by our opponents.

With Johnson out it will give some of the other running backs on the roster a chance to step and fill in the gaps. Particularly C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford...

Allen Bradford and C.J. Gable stand to gain the most with fellow tailback Stafon Johnson out for the season after emergency throat surgery Monday. They had hoped to earn more playing time on merit. Instead, they're moving up the depth chart because one of their own is down.

"I'd rather have Stafon here than me playing more," Bradford said Tuesday, one day after Johnson's weightlifting accident sent him to the hospital for seven hours of delicate but successful surgery.

Said Gable: "I really didn't want to get it this way. I wanted to get it by me working hard and moving my way up to the spot. But things happen."

Joe McKnight remains the starting halfback, and USC coach Pete Carroll wouldn't divulge who would take over Johnson's short-yardage and goal-line roles. Bradford, the biggest back at 235 pounds, is willing to fill that void.

"Me and Stafon are two different backs," Bradford said. "But come short yardage, if it's a yard or 2 yards, I think I'll be able to get it."

Bradford lacks Johnson's knack for wriggling between defenders in traffic but has excellent power and speed. Bradford is USC's third-leading rusher with 130 yards on just 16 carries — an average of 8.1 yards per attempt.

Bradford is a bruiser if given the chance but he is not a short yardage, goal line running back...even the coaches acknowledge that. Bigger does not necessarily mean better sometimes you need some some agility and Johnson provided that. Of course the flip side is that if USC is on the opposing teams goal line and Johnson was back there you could call it a telegraphing of the play. SC has been guilty of that in the past. With Gable or Bradford back there you could still say that SC will try to punch it in but you never know of they could pull a rabbit out their hat with a new look.

This is a big test for both Barkley and the offense in general. The defense is fine...there will be some minor tweaks here and there to address playing time and injury issues but I am really not worried. The defense tends to step up when the stakes are higher.

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Keeping with the defense for a moment...

USC sack leader Nick Perry did not practice on Tuesday due to a bruised knee.

Pac-10 sacks leader Nick Perry has missed Southern California’s latest practice because of a bruised knee.

The freshman defensive end has six sacks in four games for the No. 7 Trojans, surprising even his coaches with his quick contributions to USC’s defense. He already has more sacks than any player on last season’s USC team.

Coach Pete Carroll says he doesn’t know whether Perry will be able to play when USC (3-1, 1-1) visits No. 24 California (3-1, 0-1) Saturday.

That is concerning but it is still early yet. Perry has been an absolute stud for the defense. He has stepped it up no question. You can see DL Coach Jethro Franklin's influence all over Perry's performance.

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Another Johnson feel good story...

I have always said that the players get it and that the fans for all of their good intentions all always blinded by loyalty to the team/program...

This is heart warming...

UCLA's Rahim Moore and Johnathan Franklin went to California Hospital Medical Center on Monday after learning that USC tailback Stafon Johnson had been injured in a weight-room accident.

The three were teammates at Los Angeles Dorsey High, where Johnson was two years ahead of Moore and Franklin.

"Rahim and I had to show our support for a brother, you can say a family member," said Franklin, a redshirt freshman running back. "This is a guy I grew up with, a guy I played behind in high school, a guy I learned from, as a running back and a person."

Johnson was injured when a bar with 275 pounds slipped from his hands and landed on his throat, doctors were told. He underwent seven hours of surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.

Moore and Franklin got to the hospital while Johnson was in surgery.

At the end of the day the players always get it. They have stood shoulder to shoulder in games past so it should surprise no one that these guys were there to support their former team mate. It has nothing to do that Moore and Franklin are from ucla...if the situation were reversed you have seen the same thing from the USC side of the house. Even Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis sent his best wishes.

In the end this is just a game...Life is far more important than what jersey you where or what school you went to. These guys get it but is anyone really surprised?

Along those lines...The Johnson accident gives the players a new sense of perspective (you might need a premium account to view this article)...

USC head coach Pete Carroll has to have his mind in two places right now.

Part of him is focused solely on the well being of running back Stafon Johnson, who suffered severe throat injuries after a horrific weightlifting accident Monday at USC.

And part of him is getting ready for a very difficult road test at Cal on Saturday.

In Carroll's mind, the two have a tough time co-existing.

"We're concerned about him right now," Carroll said. "The concern about the effect of this and having the affect on the game is not even an issue for us at all. I think our concern for now is Stafon and his family and everybody handling what's going on."

This will be a huge test for the team as a whole. how a team responds to these types of situations goes a long way to showing the mettle of a team. I have seen some comment around the boards that because of this accident it will fire SC up even more. I don't really buy that. Players learn to compartmentalize things and put them in their respective place. There isn't any one thing that will make a player perform better...it all about focus.