Injured quarterback Matt Barkley calls for a play to be changed during the… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Before every home game this season, Matt Barkley appeared on the Coliseum video board in a promotional spot for the school's "Touchdown Club" fundraising effort.
Opining on his favorite scoring pass of the 2009 season, the USC quarterback says it "has to be" the 48-yard strike in the waning moments of USC's 28-7 victory over UCLA.
"The crowd just erupted," Barkley says of the controversial pass to Damian Williams, which came after Barkley took a knee to run out the clock and UCLA responded by calling a timeout. "That was the coolest part. Hearing our fans go crazy."
It remains to be seen whether Barkley will be able to make a similar throw, or any passes for that matter, Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Barkley was in uniform but did not play in USC's loss to Notre Dame on Saturday because of a high-ankle sprain suffered at Oregon State.
The sophomore has received treatment virtually nonstop since, but his possible availability for the UCLA game cannot be gauged until the Trojans resume practice Tuesday.
"Hopefully, we'll have him," Coach Lane Kiffin said Monday.
If not, fifth-year senior Mitch Mustain will start against a UCLA team that features junior linebacker Akeem Ayers and junior safety Rahim Moore, players Kiffin described as potential first-round NFL draft picks.
Mustain looked shaky at times against Notre Dame but also was victimized by four dropped passes, among them a potential game winner to Ronald Johnson with less than two minutes to play.
USC started four possessions at the Fighting Irish 38 or closer after turnovers but scored only one touchdown.
"We have to be able to execute better on the whole," Mustain said afterward. "We have to finish drives and close plays."
Kiffin reiterated that a victory over the Bruins would not qualify his first season as a success. Not after the Trojans' eight-game winning streak against Notre Dame ended. Not with a 7-5 record after leading in the second half of all but one game.
"I don't think there's any way you can call it a success," he said.
Kiffin lost a game against Notre Dame, but he has not lost the ability to recognize dark humor in a situation, even if it comes at his expense.
Kiffin, of course, continues to be criticized mercilessly by Tennessee fans for bolting to USC after one season.
So who clinched Notre Dame's victory over the Trojans?
Safety Harrison Smith, who played high school football in ... Knoxville, Tenn.
Smith might have been the goat after slipping and letting Johnson get behind him for what would have been a certain touchdown. But Johnson dropped the pass.
A few plays later, Smith's interception clinched the victory.
Said Kiffin, noting Smith's Tennessee connection: "I now officially believe in karma."
USC leads the series against UCLA, 44-28-7. The Trojans are 6-8 in games against the Bruins at the Rose Bowl.