The setup: No. 25 USC opened its season Saturday as heavy favorites against Minnesota at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Junior quarterback, Matt Barkley led the Trojans to a 19-17 victory over the Golden Gophers in a contest that was about as close as the final score indicated.
Rolling early: The Trojans were first to score with a seven-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods on a quick out route.
The second quarter started with 43-yard touchdown pass to Woods, putting the Trojans up 12-0 following a second failed two-point conversion. Minnesota answered back with a 21-yard field goal by sophomore Chris Hawthorne. With less than a minute left in the first half, Barkley connected with Woods on a 2-yard touchdown pass. The second quarter marked the debut of freshman kicker Andre Heidari, who split the uprights on a PAT attempt. At halftime, USC lead Minnesota 19-3.
Stalling offense: In USC’s opening drive of the second half, the Trojans botched a snap, which gave the Gophers excellent field position on the 35-yard line. Minnesota parlayed the miscue into a 9-yard touchdown run by senior running back Duane Bennett to pull within striking distance of the Trojans.
USC, who failed to score in the second half, gave up another crucial touchdown to Minnesota with 8:03 remaining. True freshman quarterback Max Shortell, replacing the injured Marqueis Gray, completed a 12-yard pass to junior wide receiver Brandon Green which put Minnesota down by two, 19-17.
Sealing the deal: After struggling to prevent opponents from scoring late in games last season, the USC defense prevailed Saturday. An interception by sophomore cornerback Torin Harris with 53 seconds to go preserved the Trojans’ lead and ultimately, the first victory of the 2011 season for USC.
One for the record books: Barkley completed 34-of-45 pass for 304 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. He set the single-game record for most completions in a game by a USC quarterback. Woods also managed to shatter the USC single-game record for most receptions in a game, leading the Trojans with 17 receptions, 177 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Up next: USC plays Utah in Los Angeles on Sept. 10 in the first Pac-12 conference game. The Utes emerged victorious over Montana State 27-10 in their opener. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m.