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USC's Tuerk to vie for start at left tackle

The 6-6, 285-pound Tuerk, from Santa Margarita High, was one of USC's top recruits and played as a reserve Saturday.

September 17, 2012|By Gary Klein

After reviewing tape of Stanford physically dominating his team and pounding quarterback Matt Barkley, USC Coach Lane Kiffin said Sunday that freshman Max Tuerk would compete to start at left tackle in place of sophomore Aundrey Walker.

Stanford sacked Barkley four times, forced him to fumble on another hit in the backfield and pressured him throughout the Trojans' 21-14 loss. USC fell from No. 2 to No. 13 in the Associated Press media poll and from No. 3 to No. 12 in the USA Today coaches' poll.

"We have a standard here, an expectation here that our team is well aware of and Aundrey is well aware of," Kiffin said during a teleconference with reporters. "His effort in that game did not meet those.

"He understands that. He saw it on film."

Walker, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound Ohio native, was installed last spring as successor to Matt Kalil, who did not give up a sack last season and was taken with the fourth pick in the NFL draft.

The 6-6, 285-pound Tuerk, from Santa Margarita High, was one of USC's top recruits and played as a reserve Saturday.

Against Stanford, USC was without senior center Khaled Holmes, who suffered a leg injury against Syracuse. Holmes was in uniform and warmed up Saturday, but redshirt freshman Cyrus Hobbi started and struggled against the Cardinal's veteran front.

Holmes, if sound, will play against California on Saturday, Kiffin said. Junior Abe Markowitz also could play, if healthy, he said.

USC was outgained, 417-280, converted only one of 13 third downs and rushed for 26 net yards.

"We just weren't on our stuff," guard John Martinez said.

Kiffin, a Trojans assistant in 2001-2006, described it as "our worst offensive performance that I've been a part of in nine years here as far as physical style, not necessarily points or stats."

Kiffin expects his players will refocus this week as they prepare for Cal.

"There was so much pressure on these kids to be perfect," he said. "They're winning games the two weeks before by whatever it was… and there were still negative articles about their play and stuff. So maybe in that standpoint there's less pressure now, I guess."

Barkley beaten up

Barkley, now 0-4 against Stanford, was hit "more often and harder than he's ever been hit while we've been here" not only while passing but also on running plays, Kiffin said.

"He's pretty beat up, mentally and physically," he said. "You can imagine the disappointment of a 22-year-old.

"He's come back, and all you put into it and a game goes the way that it did and he's never beaten those guys. So, he'll be fine. He'll rally like he has before and he'll play great this Saturday."

Barkley entered the game having thrown 10 touchdown passes, with only one pass intercepted. Stanford intercepted two consecutive passes in the second quarter.

"Probably two of his worst decisions in our three years together," said Kiffin, adding, "Really poor decisions by him. Ones he'd like to have back. Ones he usually doesn't make and I think that he won't make those in the future."

It marked the first time Barkley did not throw a touchdown pass since a 36-7 loss at Oregon State on Nov. 20, 2010.

Asked after the game whether he ever felt in rhythm, Barkley said, "Yeah, at times. But we didn't finish."

Quick hits

If injured kicker Andre Heidari had been available, Kiffin said he would have had him attempt a 30-yard field goal with the Trojans leading, 14-7, in the third quarter. Instead, Barkley threw a pass to fullback Soma Vainuku that fell incomplete. Kiffin declined to specify why freshman walk-on Alex Wood did not attempt the kick…. Kiffin said his preparation for the Stanford game was not affected by a multiday controversy that ensued after USC barred a reporter from practice for reporting that Heidari had undergone knee surgery. "I promise you," he said Saturday after the loss, "I didn't spend very much time thinking about that. That didn't have anything to do with why we didn't run the ball well [Saturday] or why we turned the ball over."… The Trojans are off Monday. They resume practice Tuesday.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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