NEPD Staff Writer: Stephen Sheehan
Some fantastic 2012 NFL Draft prospects were on display with USC and Arizona facing off in a PAC-12 battle. Here are my thoughts on some of the best performances.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Coming off a loss to Arizona State in which he threw two interceptions, Barkley looked to rebound against Arizona. He certainly did that and much more. The junior threw for a school-record 468 yards including four touchdowns in the Trojans’ narrow defeat.
Once again, Barkley showed his supreme confidence in sophomore stud Robert Woods, completing a quick pass for nine yards followed by an 82-yard touchdown.
The Trojans clearly are built on the Barkley-Woods connection as seven of its first eight plays are throws, including four attempts to Woods.
Barkley shows tremendous accuracy early in the game unlike Arizona starter Nick Foles who threw two picks in the first quarter. Barkley finishes first four drives 13 of 14 for 227 yards and three TDs.
With 4:05 remaining in first half, Barkley is on fire as he leads the Trojans on their fifth scoring drive in as many tries. At one point he reels off seven straight completions to five different receivers as USC ends half with a field goal.
Barkley-Woods connection is at a ridiculous level as the two connect three times, ending with a 28-yard TD. Arizona has no answer for Barkley or Woods to this point.
Barkley’s only mistake of the night comes on a nice play from Shaquille Richardson who jumped a slant pattern and intercepted it, returning it to Arizona’s 41-yard line.
Makes a great throw to Lee and shows toughness on goal-line score.
Overall, Barkley played a tremendous game and finished 32 of 39.
Marc Tyler, RB, USC
Playing against a weak pass defense, Tyler wasn’t heavily involved in the game plan although he did lead the Trojans with 11 rushing attempts. However, Tyler was bottled up for most of the game, producing a mere 35 yards and no touchdowns. His lack of speed and burst will hinder him at the next level, and performances like this make coaches and scouts question whether he has the skills to be a productive NFL back.
He also contributed little in the passing game, recording three receptions for a mere 10 yards. Junior Curtis McNeal rushed for 74 yards on seven carries which could signal more playing time over Tyler. McNeal has been terrific this season, averaging 8.4 yards per carry on 24 carries.
Tyler didn’t play too much in the second half because of a thigh bruise.
Matt Kalil, OT, USC
For most offensive lineman, when you don’t hear their name, it’s a good sign.
Kalil didn’t face much pressure against a week Wildcats defense that surrendered over 500 yards. The younger brother of Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil continued to show why he’s a future top-10 pick as he kept Barkley clean in the pocket all night. Kalil plays with a nasty streak and finishes blocks well. Besides Robert Woods, he’s clearly the best player on the team.
When USC does run the ball, Kalil continually gets a good push off the line, opening up some big holes for McNeal. He’s truly dominant in all facets of the game.
Kalil also shows up with a blocked kick, his third of the season. It’s just another feather in the cap for this tremendously gifted player.
Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
If you take away his first quarter performance, Foles might have matches Barkely for the rest of the game.
Foles took advantage of a soft cover-2 defense by the Trojans and completed 41 passes, a season-high against the Trojans.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Foles’ night was the fact he spread the ball around so well. He completed at least one pass to 13 different players (not including the two picks he threw to USC safety T.J. McDonald)
Down 24-6 in the second, Foles engineers a quick scoring drive that ends in a 27-yard touchdown. Overall, Foles’ leadership and poise showed tonight as he nearly led his team to a victory despite an early deficit.
Unlike Barkley, Foles didn’t throw the ball down field as much, averaging only 8 yards per completion compared to 12 by the USC signal caller.
He played a tremendous second half, especially in the fourth quarter where he threw two touchdowns. Unfortunately, his defense couldn’t keep them in the game.
Overall, a solid performance by Foles who finished the game with 425 yards and four TDs.
Juron Criner, WR, Arizona
After a solid game against Oregon where he caught nine passes for 96 yards, Criner was mostly shut out against USC. He finished the night with a mere three catches for 29 yards, although one of them went for a touchdown.
Criner seems to be struggling in his return from an appendectomy and Foles seemed to target his other receivers. Didn’t display elite speed or ability to get open in this game, and thus wasn’t targeted often.
USC sophomore corner Nickell Robey did a good job shutting down Criner despite an obvious size mismatch. Robey stands 5’8 while Criner is 6’4, however Robey has outstanding speed and plays physically.
Overall, Criner has not dominated like he did last year, although we would caution it could be health related. The senior needs to pick up the pace if he wants to remain among the top draft-eligible receivers.