The last time USC visited Folsom Field in 2002 it came away with a 37-point victory over Colorado. This time wasn’t much different.
Behind a single-game, school-record six touchdown passes from junior quarterback Matt Barkley, the No. 21 Trojans (7-2, 4-2) toppled the Buffaloes 42-17 in a rare Friday night primetime matchup.
“We talked all week how this is a trap game after the emotional loss last week,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said six days removed from a triple-overtime loss at home to No. 4 Stanford. “It was nice to see our guys play well despite all the injuries we have.”
Barkley’s record-setting pass came in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, as he found freshman tailback Amir Carlisle on a 19-yard screen pass, ballooning the Trojans lead to 24, serving as the final scoring play of the game.
“It was awesome,” Barkley said with a grin. “The screen finally worked.”
The third-year signal caller had — on three separate occasions — finished with five touchdowns in a single game, against Hawaii and California in 2010 and against Syracuse earlier this season.
“I didn’t know it was going to come tonight,” Barkley said of his record-breaking display against the Buffaloes, who ranked to second-to-last nationally in passing touchdowns entering the game.
Though USC would finish with its third-highest scoring output of the season, it did trail in the early goings.
Colorado (1-9, 0-6) opened the game on a six-play, 69-yard drive that ended when quarterback Tyler Hansen found wide receiver Tony Clemons over the middle of the play for a 38-yard touchdown pass. It marked the Buffaloes’ first lead since an Oct. 1 game against Washington State.
But USC responded quickly, scoring 28 unanswered points in the first half — all touchdowns by way of Barkley, who would finish with 318 yards through the air on 25-of-39 passing.
On its first drive of the game, Barkley found freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee for a 33-yard touchdown pass. On the Trojans’ third drive, he found freshman tight end Xavier Grimble from eight yards out.
Lee would later conclude the first-half scoring outburst, catching a 25-yard pass from Barkley.
“The trust is there,” said Lee, who finished with nine receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns. “And now it’s going to get better and better.”
In the aftermath, Lee rushed over to the sidelines, handing the ball to Kiffin after the first-year wideout notched his first two-touchdown game of the season.
“I was tired of being called ‘No. 9,’” Lee said. “You have to catch two touchdown passes for [Kiffin] to call you by your first name. So after I took the ball to him”
The Trojans, who started three freshmen on defense — all at linebacker in Lamar Dawson, Tre Madden and Hayes Pullard, proved rather stifling against the Buffaloes, limiting them to just one touchdown following the first series.
Hansen would find Clemons again in the fourth quarter, but USC’s lead was already well above 20 points by that time.
“We have a great class from top to bottom,” Carlisle said of the four true freshmen who started in Dawson, Lee, Madden and guard Marcus Martin. “We have a lot of talent out there and it’s going to be a bright future for USC. We have just been working hard.”
USC hosts Washington next Saturday at home in its annual Homecoming game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 12:45 p.m.