USC vs. Virginia: Trojans hang on for a 17-14 victory
Well, at least now the critics might cut the USC defense a little slack.
It's the offense's turn on the hot seat.
Save for its final two possessions of the first half, the Trojans did very little against a Virginia defense that gave up 17 points in its opener last week to a Division I-AA Richmond team with USC transfer Aaron Corp at quarterback.
The Trojans were so anemic that they actually had to sweat out an onside kick near the end of the game after a Virginia touchdown with four seconds left cut USC's lead to a field goal.
Fortunately for the Trojans, Jordan Cameron, a former basketball player, jumped high and pulled in the high-bouncing ball.
Virginia's touchdown came on a three-yard pass from Marc Verica to Kris Burd, capping a 13-play scoring drive in which Verica completed eight passes for 88 yards and mixed in a 12-yard run.
The key play on the drive was a 25-yard pass from Verica to Joe Torchia on a fourth-and-13 play.
USC is 2-0; Virginia 1-1.
Asked in a television interview what happened to his team during the game's final minutes, USC Coach Lane Kiffin said, "We didn't play very well ... the whole game. We're very disappointed from top to bottom."
USC's only two touchdowns came in the final five minutes of the first half.
The Trojans were penalized for 140 yards and quarterback Matt Barkley, who started by completing 11 of 13 passes, finished 20 of 35 for 202 yards.
USC 17, Virginia 7 (5:52 left in game)
Matt Barkley, so accurate in the early going, has suddenly gone cold for USC.
But thanks to a great punt by Jacob Harfman and some solid play by the defense (yes, you read that right!), the Trojans have pushed their lead to double digits on a 34-yard field goal by Joe Houston.
A 52-yard punt by Harfman pinned Virginia at its own 4, and USC kept the Cavaliers pinned down there. In fact, the Trojans defense nearly scored, with cornerback Shareece Wright almost coming away with an interception when there was nothing between him and the end zone.
Virginia then punted, and helped USC by interfering with Ronald Johnson as he was trying to catch the ball. The penalty gave the Trojans the ball at the Virginia 35.
From there, freshman running back Dillon Baxter took over, gaining 18 yards in three carries to set up Houston.
Barkley, who completed 14 of 24 in the first half, is 6 of 10 so far in the second half.
USC 14, Virginia 7 (end of third quarter)
For the last couple of minutes of the first half, this one was quite an entertaining game.
But the third quarter looked just like most of the first half.
Fans at the Coliseum--and the few still awake watching television--just endured another scoreless quarter.
Through three quarters, USC and Virginia have combined for 472 total yards -- 205 yards in the last 4 minutes 46 seconds of the first half, when all the points were scored.
USC has a 257-215 advantage in yardage, and a nine-for-90 yards to seven-for-76 yards edge in penalties.
Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley has completed 18 of 28 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
USC 14, Virginia 7 (halftime)
First-year Coach Lane Kiffin's demand that Matt Barkley shed some weight is paying dividends.
Barkley made some nice athletic plays on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that has put USC in the lead at halftime.
On the key play of the drive, he scrambled for a 20-yard gain and then took a late hit from Virginia free safety Trey Womack, giving the Trojans the ball at the Cavaliers' 28-yard line.
Then, five plays later on third and 10, he nimbly stepped away from pressure and zipped a 12-yard pass between defenders that Brandon Carswell caught just inside the end zone.
As Carswell scored his first college touchdown the clock read 0:01.
Barkley has completed 14 of 21 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Marc Tyler has run for 40 yards in 11 carries and freshman Dillon Baxter has 17 yards in two carries.
For Virginia, quarterback Marc Verica is seven of 13 of 85 yards with an interception, but the Cavaliers have run the ball well--for 91 yards and 5.1 yards per carry.
Perry Jones leads Virginia with 47 yards in seven carries and Keith Payne has 36 yards in six carries.
USC 7, Virginia 7 (late in second quarter)
After being scoreless for nearly a half, the last few minutes at the Coliseum have resembled a track meet.
Following USC's score, Virginia quarterback Marc Verica guided his team right back down the field, driving 69 yards in six plays over 2:22.
Verica accounted for the first 55 yards with passes to Kris Burd, Dontrelle Inman and Perry Jones.
Running back Keith Payne, at 255 pounds, covered the last 14 yards on two runs.
USC 7, Virginia 9 (3:53 left in second quarter)
For one of the first times in nearly six quarters of football this season, USC's defense and offense just combined on four consecutive plays in which the Trojans executed.
On the first, the USC defense stacked up Virginia quarterback Marc Verica on a fourth-and-1 play at the Trojans' 45 yard line.
Then, taking over from there, the USC offense drove the ball right down the field, with quarterback Matt Barkley connecting with freshman receiver Robert Woods for gains of 11 and 40 yards.
Those two passes brought the Trojans to the Virginia 4, and Barkley hooked up with Jordan Cameron for a touchdown pass from there.
USC 0, Virginia 0 (midway through second quarter)
USC has more total yards than penalty yards, but it's close -- 87-65.
In the most recent indignity, a holding call wiped out what would have been a 50-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley to Ronald Johnson.
And then Johnson made it worse, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that cost the Trojans another 15 yards.
Then again, penalties have hurt Virginia, too.
The Cavaliers ran a fake punt play in which punter Jimmy Howell connected with tight end Colter Phillips on a pass that would have given Virginia a first down deep in USC territory.
But the play was called back because of a block--two of them actually--below the waist.
USC 0, Virginia 0 (end of first quarter)
Good news, USC fans. Your defense went an entire quarter without giving up a point.
The bad news: That offense that looked pretty good against Hawaii last week hasn't put any points up, either.
In fact, USC is lucky to be tied at this point. Virginia, capitalizing on a Matt Barkley fumble, had the ball on the Trojans 4 yard line when quarterback Marc Verica threw an ill-advised pass that was easily intercepted by USC's T.J. McDonald in the end zone.
Virginia outgained USC, 57-22 in total yardage in the first quarter and ran 10 plays on the Trojans half of the field.
Barkley has completed four of five passes for 25 yards.
Reggie Bush is still a hot topic of conversation among USC fans, but school-sponsored references to the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner continue to disappear.
Bush’s jersey and a copy of his Heisman Trophy were removed from Heritage Hall.
And the giant replica of his No. 5 jersey is no longer in the peristyle end of the Coliseum, where No. 16 USC plays Virginia in a few hours.
The concrete steps are still adorned with giant replica jerseys of the Trojans’ other Heisman winners: No. 20 (Mike Garrett); No. 32 (O.J. Simpson); No. 12 (Charles White); No. 33 (Marcus Allen); No. 3 (Carson Palmer) and No. 11 (Matt Leinart).
USC was required to remove all images and references to Bush under terms of NCAA sanctions.
Photo: USC tight end Jordan Cameron catches a touchdown pass in front of Viginia safety Corey Mosley in the second quarter Saturday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times