Two of the biggest stars of USC’s football team did not fully participate in practice yesterday as they nursed injuries suffered in Saturday’s game against Ohio State.
Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley is recovering from a bruised right shoulder and didn’t make any throws during practice, while senior safety Taylor Mays didn’t partake in any drills after mildly spraining his right knee in the Trojans’ 18-15 win over the Buckeyes.
Coach Pete Carroll said both players are day-to-day and it is unclear when they will return to practice.
“We’re going to wait until [Tuesday] to find out,” Carroll said.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp took snaps with the first-team offense during practice, and freshman T.J. McDonald and sophomore Drew McAllister filled in for Mays in the Trojans’ secondary.
Carroll said he is not sure at this point when Barkley would need to return to practice to start Saturday’s game at Washington. But if the true freshman doesn’t practice this week, the coach said he probably won’t play against the Huskies.
“I would think not, but we’ll find out,” Carroll said.
Junior running back Joe McKnight, who ran for a game-high 60 yards and caught two passes for 45 yards against the Buckeyes, was named Pac-10 offensive player of the week.
“It feels good,” McKnight said. “You just can’t let that get to your head. You’ve just got to come out, work hard everyday and continue playing hard.”
McKnight showed up most when it counted in Columbus, Ohio. On the Trojans’ game-winning touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the game, the running back gained 32 yards on the ground, 21 yards through the air and caught the two-point conversion pass to extend USC’s lead to three.
McKnight said he was thankful Carroll left him on the field for the majority of the game-winning drive. He wanted to take advantage of that opportunity and take over.
“I was a little surprised [to be on the field at the end of the game],” McKnight said. “But Coach Carroll always had faith in me to make plays. I guess at that time he really believed in me to get us down the field, and that’s what happened.”
McKnight admitted he made mistakes when the ball was in his hands during his first two years as a Trojan. But now, in his third year, he is focusing more on ball security than making spectacular plays, as he did at the end of the Ohio State game.
“I didn’t want to cough the ball up,” he said. “That was the only thing on my mind. I wasn’t trying to break anything or make anybody miss. I was just trying to get downfield and keep the ball in my hands.”
Overshadowed by the game-winning drive in Columbus was the play of USC’s defense down the stretch.
Carroll thought that the defense stepped up after some early miscues and played really well in the second half.
“I thought it was really cool that the guys hung together and continued to give us a chance to win the football game,” Carroll said. “And when it came down to it, we found a way.”
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Chris Galippo was one of the many defensive players who stood out to Carroll. Galippo had five tackles and an interception that he returned for 51 yards, setting up USC’s touchdown in the first quarter.
“The guy is really aware and watching what’s going on,” Carroll said.