This weekend’s match up between No. 6 USC and No. 25 Notre Dame always has a lot of hype to it, and it should.
The game is a battle between two schools with arguably the country’s most prestigious college football histories.
Each program has racked up 11 national championships, and both have had incredible players in college and in the NFL.
So, despite USC’s recent dominance over the Fighting Irish, the match up continues to have a lot of hype. It might be the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football based on past glory alone.
But because the game is getting so much hype this week and because of other big stories – like the return of Ronald Johnson and the match up between USC’s great passing defense going against the best passer in college football – one story is getting pushed to the side.
And that one revolves around Aaron Corp.
In summer, the redshirt sophomore quarterback probably circled this game as one of the biggest of the season. It’s not every day a quarterback gets a chance to lead his team to a victory in South Bend, Ind.
But a lot has changed in just two months.
It’s been a 2009 season filled with highs and lows for Corp. And on Monday, perhaps, Corp may have hit rock bottom.
Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Mustain took all the snaps with the second-team offense during Monday’s practice, this following a Saturday scrimmage in which Mustain received ample playing time and converted 10 of 12 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Corp, on the other hand, completed only two of three passes in the scrimmage. The coaches barely gave him any playing time.
The message was clear: In a season of disappointments so far, Corp was demoted yet again – this time to third string.
“[Mustain] is a little bit ahead right now,” Carroll said Monday. “Mitch has just done really well. He feels way more comfortable. He’s throwing the ball consistently.”
So two months ago, Corp expected to head the offense against Notre Dame this Saturday. And as of last week, Corp expected to take the field if anything happened to true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley.
But now, neither of those scenarios is the case.
If anything happens on Saturday to Barkley, Mustain, not Corp, will be the one marching onto the field.
It’s hard to imagine that just a short time ago, Corp was on top of the football world, ready to lead USC’s offense for the 2009 season.
He was slated as USC’s starting quarterback after winning the job out of spring practice. The position seemed secure, especially because Carroll had never changed his mind before about his starting quarterback after spring.
But an unfortunate incident occurred on Aug. 10. During practice, a lineman rolled onto Corp’s left knee. An MRI revealed Corp suffered a small crack on the head of his left fibula, and he would be out for three weeks.
That’s all the time Barkley needed to take the starting job away from Corp.
But, it wasn’t long until Corp had one more chance to shine. After Barkley suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder during USC’s victory over Ohio State, Corp was once again put on center stage.
It appeared that he finally had an opportunity to start a game, or did he?
Despite Barkley’s injury, Carroll refused to name a starter until minutes before game time against Washington. Corp, rattled or not by the indecision of his coach, played awful in the game, as USC lost 16-13.
In his chance to show the world why he deserved to start, Corp failed. He completed only 13 of 22 passes against an inferior defense, threw an interception and continually threw into heavy coverage.
Was the loss entirely his fault? No, but fans needed a scapegoat. Many couldn’t believe this was the same player Carroll had picked as his starting quarterback in the spring. And many couldn’t bear the thought of Corp starting another game.
Barkley returned the following week, and Corp was pushed back into his backup role.
And now, he is backup to the backup.
“Mitch has just elevated his play,” Carroll said. “He’s in position to get in the game a little sooner than Aaron this next time out.”
Throughout Corp’s descent, he has said all the right things, such as the game is about competition and that he’s willing to help the team any way he can.
But going from first to third has to be tough to swallow for anyone.
“Looking back, I was given a shot, and I didn’t perform,” Corp said.
At this point, who knows when the next time Corp will be able to step back on the field. It certainly looks like Barkley has the position locked up for this season and beyond. And with Mustain now ahead of Corp on the depth chart, there’s little chance for Corp to see action even during garbage time.
So although there is a lot of hype about the game this weekend between USC and Notre Dame, there isn’t much hype about Aaron Corp.
It’s probably not how he envisioned his trip to South Bend this summer.
“Soft Hands” runs every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.