USC Struggles, But Holds On To Beat Virginia 17-14

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USC Holds On To Beat Virginia, 17-14

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Matt Barkley threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes and No. 16 Southern California held on for an unimpressive 17-14 triumph over Virginia.

Barkley connected on 20-of-35 passes for 202 yards, pedestrian numbers compared to his 257-yard, five-touchdown showing in a 49-36 win at Hawaii to open the season last week. The Trojans (2-0) were outgained, 340-329.

Marc Verica threw for 190 yards with a TD and an interception on 17-of-36 efficiency for the Cavaliers (1-1), who were coming off a win over Richmond. Keith Payne rushed for a score and ended with 57 yards on 12 carries.

Robert Randolph missed a 45-yard field goal on Virginia's opening possession, then the teams traded turnovers on consecutive touches. Shortly after Barkley lost a fumble at his own 32, T.J. McDonald picked off Verica in the end zone.

It stayed scoreless until late in the second stanza. After Verica was stuffed on 4th-and-1 from the USC 45, Barkley hit Robert Woods on passes of 12 and 40 yards to get down to the four. On the next play, the QB found Jordan Cameron in the left corner of the end zone for a TD.

Virginia responded with a six-play, 68-yard drive that Payne finished off with a six-yard run over the goal line with 1:14 remaining in the half.

That left plenty of time for Barkley to lead the Trojans back down the field, as he threaded an 11-yard scoring strike on the run to Brandon Carswell with just one tick to go before the break.

The offenses failed to build on those productive drives in the second half. The Cavaliers penetrated USC territory on their first possession, but a holding penalty and sack forced them to punt.

USC's Joe Houston was wide right on a 48-yard field goal try with just over four minutes left in the third, and the teams traded punts until Houston atoned for the miss by splitting the uprights with a 34-yarder with 5:52 to go in the contest.

A pair of USC penalties and a Tim Smith reverse for 19 yards quickly brought the Cavs down into the red zone, but the team gained just one yard on the next three plays.

With under four minutes to go, Randolph was short on his 34-yard field goal attempt, proving costly, as Verica connected with Kris Burd for a three-yard TD with four seconds left in the game to fall just short.

This was Virginia's first game in California...USC crushed Virginia by a 52-7 final during the 2008 campaign in the only previous meeting between the two programs...USC committed 13 penalties for 140 yards, compared to nine for 101 for Virginia...Perry Jones ran for 77 yards on 14 carries for the Cavs...Woods ended with 64 yards on three catches, while Ronald Johnson caught five balls for 58 yards for USC.

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Two TDs By Matt Barkley In Final Four Minutes Give USC 14-7 Halftime Lead

After a sloppy and sluggish first half in which USC committed seven penalties for 65 yards, the Trojans offense came alive late in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead over Virginia at halftime.

USC scored first, thanks to a four-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley to Jordan Cameron with 3:54 remaining in the first half. On their ensuing drive, the Cavaliers marched down the field on a six-play, 69-yard drive, culminating in a six-yard rushing touchdown by Keith Payne to tie the score at 7-7 with 1:24 remaining.

However, Barkley led USC on a scrambling touchdown drive, aided by a late hit penalty on Virginia. Barkley rolled right and found Brandon Carswell for the go-ahead touchdown with just one second remaining in the first half, to take a 14-7 lead.

Barkley finished the first half with 148 yards on 14-for-21 passing and two scores.

Virginia kicker Robert Randolph missed a 45-yard field goal in the first quarter.

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USC Will Unleash Dillon Baxter

We are now a mere five and half hours until the USC Trojans play under the Coliseum lights for the first time this season as Trojan fans eagerly await their first taste of USC football at home.

Fans are also anticipating the play of highly touted running back Dillon Baxter, who was suspended for last week's game against Hawaii for violating team rules.  Baxter was ranked by Rivals.com as the top all-purpose running back and also a five-star running back by Scout.com. 

Based on Lane Kiffin's comments through out practice, Baxter may be the most talented player on team.  

After impressing the country with a video released by the USC athletics department earlier in the year, Baxter has been the topic of many discussions regarding being the top freshman of the college football year.  Baxter's strength is his legs with the ability to change direction effortlessly, "breaking ankles" will help evolve Baxter's college game throughout his career.

With the hype surrounding the freshman, Kiffin will finally unveil Baxter and open the cage to unleash the animal that many see will be USC's next explosive back.

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Armstead Moved To The Middle Of USC Defensive Line, Plus Jock Rally Highlights

The Trojans have moved defensive lineman Armond Armstead from left end to left tackle to try to shore up the run. From the USC blog:

Armond Armstead was moved back inside this week to wall off the running game in tandem with Jurrell Casey.  Lost in all the pass defense struggles, Hawaii's running backs accounted for 127 ground yards on only 15 carries.  Virginia's Keith Payne will hope to wear down the defensive front and control the clock.  If Armstead and Casey can push him backwards, UVa won't last long in obvious passing situations. 

Here is a video from last night's jock rally at USC:

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USC Needs Better Defensive Performance In Home Opener Against Virginia

GAME NOTES: The Virginia Cavaliers will play their first-ever game in the state of California on Saturday night, as they take on the 16th-ranked USC Trojans in a non-conference affair.

Last weekend's opener against Richmond was a big deal for Virginia head coach Mike London. Not only was he leading the Cavaliers into battle for the first time, he was playing against the same school that he left to accept the Cavs coaching vacancy. Virginia beat up on the Spiders by a 34-13 final.

"I graduated from there," said London after the game. "I spent a lot of years there as a coach and as a player but we're playing for (UVa) President Sullivan and the Charlottesville community now and that's what is most important."

The Cavaliers struggled throughout the 2009 season, finishing the year at just 3-9, including 2-6 in the ACC. However, the coaching change has fans of the program feeling cautiously optimistic.

USC has been in the news quite a bit in recent months, but not for the reasons that fans would like. Pete Carroll, who restored the program to dominance, left for the NFL, and many believe that a major factor in his departure was the looming possibility of NCAA sanctions. Lane Kiffin, a polarizing figure, took over as the new head coach, and the Trojans were indeed hit with penalties, ensuring that scholarships would be lost and the postseason wouldn't be in the teams immediate future.

With all of the controversy swirling as USC entered its opener against Hawaii last week, the team was able to earn a 49-36 victory.

"We did end up winning the game, which is good, but obviously as you can see, we've got some depth concerns and issues," said Kiffin. "We've got a lot of work to do."

USC crushed Virginia by a 52-7 final during the 2008 campaign in the only previous meeting between the two programs.

Virginia established outstanding offensive balance in the opener against Richmond, posting over 200 yards on the ground and through the air en route to 488 total yards. Keith Payne was the most impressive performer for the Cavaliers, as the bruising tailback posted 114 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries.

As for the passing attack, quarterback Marc Verica was impressive as well, connecting on 24-of-35 passes for 283 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

"He didn't try to win the game by doing something heroic," said London of Verica. "He stayed within himself and threw high percentage completions and moved the chains. If he continues to do that, he'll continue to help us."

Kris Burd was tops among the receivers with 122 yards and a score on seven catches, while Dontrelle Inman made seven grabs as well.

Richmond was able to rip off a 70-yard touchdown run against Virginia in the first quarter of the opener, but the defense settled down after that big play. The Cavs did not allow another touchdown and surrendered just two field goals the rest of the way. In all, Virginia permitted 333 yards and 13 first downs to the Spiders.

LaRoy Reynolds paced Virginia with eight total tackles, including three TFLs. Chase Minnifield, who recorded seven stops, posted the lone interception for the Cavs.

USC rolled up 524 total yards against Hawaii and was able establish tremendous balance. The Trojans were 9-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts and suffered just one turnover in the tilt. Matt Barkley was outstanding under center, completing 18-of-23 passes for 257 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. His top target, Ronald Johnson, recorded seven catches for 59 yards and three scores.

As for the ground attack, Marc Tyler put up big numbers, gaining 154 yards and a score on 17 carries. USC posted 246 rushing yards in the game at a clip of seven yards per attempt.

"Defensively we didn't play very well today, obviously," said Kiffin, clearly disappointed in the overall poor play and lack of discipline exhibited by his defenders.

USC permitted 31 first downs and 588 total yards to Hawaii, which was 8-of-15 on third-down conversion attempts. The Warriors had possession of the ball for over 32 minutes and did most of their damage through the air, completing 27- of-49 passes for 459 yards with no interceptions.

Both Wes Horton and Jurrell Casey had a pair of TFLs in the game, including a sack apiece. In all, the Trojans tallied three sacks.

London seems like an outstanding candidate to turn things around in Charlottesville, but a win over USC in Los Angeles seems unlikely. Expect the Trojans to lead this one from start to finish.

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