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USC wins shootout but defense is full of holes

Matt Barkley throws five TD passes and Marc Tyler looks good in Lane Kiffin's debut. But tackling is a problem as Hawaii outgains the Trojans.

September 03, 2010|By Gary Klein
  • USC quarterback Matt Barkley celebrates with offensive lineman Butch Lewis after completing his fifth touchdown pass of the game against Hawaii in the third quarter Thursday night.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley celebrates with offensive lineman Butch… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Honolulu

There were no worries about NCAA sanctions. No questions about bowl bans or new administrators.

On Thursday night at Aloha Stadium, it was simply about football for USC.

Eight months after their former coach's departure began a temblor that rocked the school's entire athletic program, the 14th-ranked Trojans breathed a sigh of relief and played the first game of the Lane Kiffin era.

Quarterback Matt Barkley passed for a career-best five touchdowns and receiver Ronald Johnson scored four touchdowns as the Trojans survived some nervous moments and a poor defensive performance for a 49-36 victory.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Kiffin said.

Not on offense.

Barkley passed for four touchdowns in the first half and was 18 of 23 for

257 yards and five touchdowns without an interception by the end of the third quarter. The sophomore also displayed better mobility than a year ago, when Pete Carroll made him the first true freshman to start an opener at quarterback for the Trojans.

"I've grown a lot since last year," said Barkley, who passed for 15 touchdowns with 14 interceptions in 2009. "To have it finally show in a game like this is very satisfying."

Meantime, Kiffin got rid of the tailback-by-committee approach of the last four seasons and put the ball in the hands of Marc Tyler.

The fourth-year junior, who had been slowed by injuries throughout his USC career, won the start with his consistency during training camp, and it showed against the Warriors.

The former Westlake Village Oaks Christian High star rushed for 154 yards in 17 carries and capped the evening with a 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

"I didn't envision waiting for three years, but I did envision when I got a chance of making a big impact," Tyler said.

The defense also made a big impression, but not in the fashion it had hoped.

Hawaii outgained the Trojans, 588-524. USC players missed numerous tackles and defensive players were called for many of the Trojans' 11 penalties.

"Defensively, we didn't play very well, obviously," Kiffin said. "I'm really disappointed with everything in general."

USC started fast, jumping to a 20-3 lead and looking like a team out to prove that banishment from the Bowl Championship Series standings and the coaches' poll would do nothing to slow down the Trojans.

But every time USC appeared on its way to having the game in hand, Hawaii pierced the Trojans' young secondary and came back.

The Trojans seemed to have a semblance of control when Johnson scored his third touchdown on an 89-yard punt return midway through the third quarter for a 34-16 lead.

Hawaii running back Alex Green, however, brought the Warriors to within

34-23 with a short touchdown run with less than two minutes left in the third quarter before Barkley and Johnson connected for their third scoring play of the game.

For USC, it was a night when the Trojans showed their youth and the rust of having not tackled during training camp.

It was also a night when Barkley played like a sage veteran, connecting on three touchdown pass plays to Johnson and one each to senior receiver David Ausberry and junior tight end Rhett Ellison. Barkley completed his first seven passes and was 15 of 19 for 190 yards by halftime.

But Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz had his way with the Trojans' young secondary and also burned sophomore middle linebacker Devon Kennard several times.

Moniz was 18 of 36 for 269 yards and a touchdown before USC linebacker Michael Morgan knocked him out of the game in the fourth quarter.

USC appeared to be stung by Kiffin's decision to save a depleted roster by not tackling in training camp.

Hawaii receivers drew pass-interference penalties or caught short passes and then sidestepped or broke through multiple tackles on their way to big gains.

But it was not enough to offset Barkley.

USC scored on its first series when the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Ausberry caught a mid-range pass from Barkley in the right flat and then ran over cornerback Lametrius Davis on his way to a 46-yard touchdown.

The Warriors answered with the first of Scott Enos' three first-half field goals, but the Trojans came right back behind Tyler, Bradford and Barkley, who capped a 73-yard drive with a one-yard pass to Johnson for a 14-3 lead.

The Trojans increased the margin early in the second quarter on Barkley's six-yard scoring pass to Ellison.

But Enos kicked another field goal and Moniz and Kealoha Pilares split the defense for a 56-yard touchdown pass play that pulled the Warriors to within 20-13.

Freshman Robert Woods' 30-yard punt return set up a 56-yard scoring drive that Barkley capped with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.

gary.klein@latimes.com

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