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 then-No. 21 Trojans (7-2, 4-2) toppled the Buffaloes 42-17 in front of a near-sellout crowd of 50,083 Friday night in a rare 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 and serving as the final scoring play of the game.
“It was awesome,” Barkley said. “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 second-to-last nationally in passing touchdowns entering the game.
With six touchdown passes through the air, Barkley increased his season total to 28.
“[He] did a great job,” Kiffin said. “We have a bunch of young guys around and he did a good job of leading them.”
Though USC would finish with its third-highest scoring output of the season, it trailed early in the game.
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 for a 38-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
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 USC’s 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 — his second 100-yard receiving game of his career. “And now it’s going to get better and better.”
In the moments following the catch, Lee rushed over to the sidelines, handing the ball to Kiffin after the first-year wideout also 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.”
Despite his 144 receiving yards and a touchdown against Arizona on Oct. 1, among other impressive performances, Kiffin had simply referred to Lee as No. 9 for much of the season.
“We have told him when he gets a multiple touchdown game people will know his name,” Kiffin said. “After he scored the second touchdown he came over to me and gave me the ball and said, ‘My name is Marqise Lee.’ He is coming of age out there.”
It would also appear Lee isn’t the only freshman to be coming of age.
The Trojans started three freshmen on defense — all at linebacker in Lamar Dawson, Tre Madden and Hayes Pullard — and seven total.
The young unit, nonetheless, proved tough against the Buffaloes, limiting them to just one touchdown after 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 offensive 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.”
Rounding out the defense was an inexperienced secondary, as senior Marshall Jones and redshirt junior Drew McAllister filled in for injured juniors Jawanza Starling and T.J. McDonald, who was serving a suspension for the first half play following a late hit on Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu a week ago.
“It was the outcome we wanted,” Kiffin said. “It was nice to play well in all phases of the game.”
USC hosts Washington next Saturday in its annual Homecoming game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 12:45 p.m.
The Huskies have beaten the Trojans twice in the last two seasons, 32-31 at the Coliseum last season and 16-13 at Husky Stadium in 2009.