Sunday, September 13, 2009

Barkley's Breathtaking Finish is Flourishing as USC Thrives

On a night in a hostile atmosphere, where tailgate parties lasted outside the intense Horseshoe, a seas of fans gathered inside, filling in seats and wearing Buckeyes red.

The band marched in, firing up the crowd’s intensity level as the feverish population in Columbus, OH desired revenge, knowing that the night's opponent, USC, had pummeled the Buckeyes a year ago.

On a nerve-racking night, the Trojans were faced with unfamiliar surroundings as Ohio State fans waited and roared, sensing redemption for humiliating losses in big games. It's now a different Trojan Man as quarterback, making it more difficult for the visitors to embarrass and demoralize the Buckeyes in an encore.

Coach Pete Carroll bestowed starting obligations upon the inexperienced and teenage quarterback Matt Barkley, asking him to thrive on the grandest stage in a national title atmosphere.

The youngster excelled on a memorable night, perhaps even emerging into Heisman spotlight and stardom instantly, considering Barkley's poise and compose mindset to propel the Trojans to an epic finish.

I'm sure none of us believed a 19-year old freshman could orchestrate an instant classic 86-yard drive, for the greatest comeback in ages in the final minutes of Saturday night's 18-15 victory.

Barkley survived a challenging test in a much-maligned territory, including a matchup against a speedy quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, a who could arguably be compared to Michael Vick.

When Carroll named Barkley as the starting quarterback, the large population and local media were hesitant and reluctant to hear a true freshman named as the Trojans starter when an experience Aaron Corp had studied the offense and prepared himself, mentally and physically, for ushering a high-powered offense.

Our instincts should tell us a mastermind recruiter knows when a quarterback is ready to flourish and rise on a national stage. Carroll knows a star quarterback when he studies or mentors one. And obviously, he's confident the true freshman is poised and unflappable enough for handling big games.

Barkley survived a rigid test with a sore throwing shoulder and a pounding tackle by Ohio State's pestering defensive tackle Nathan Williams. The Buckeyes harassing defensive unit seemingly rushed and pressured the kid on each play, yet Barkley remained calm and continued to defy intangibly.

Barkley proved to a doubtful world that he's worthy of guiding the Trojans to a glorious national title. In the biggest game of his life, he prevailed and defined a true identity.

At the right time, he increased intensity by converting on crucial third-down plays. At crunch time, he was savvy enough, giving full control for the speedy tailback, Joe McKnight, who gained huge yardage and made much-needed catches, setting up Barkley's memorable night.

In fact, McKnight eased pressure as Barkley was poised and played as if he was a fifth-year senior, smearing Pryor and highly respected coach Jim Tressel's vital contest on their home soil.

Barkley, indeed, might have ruined Ohio State's preseason goal of reaching a BCS title game, Pryor's promising year and Tressel's reputation for winning huge games, all at the same time.

After a week of criticism for wearing a Vick tribute eye-black, Pryor came close, and earned redemption of sorts after an emotional week. Early on, he was dangerous and explosive in open field, and was unstoppable as USC's defense was inadequate.

But he wasn't perfect on a few plays, committing mental lapses as he threw an early interception, which led to USC's first touchdown. He made errors with the ball, and benefited by rushing rather than passing.

A game of momentum suddenly turned into USC's favor in the closing minutes. With the tides shifting, the game suddenly became agonizing for Pryor and the Buckeyes. And more importantly, the contest identified Barkley's poise and gifted abilities as a youngster emerging into a primary star in USC's future of winning national titles.

The breathtaking finish gave the Trojans continued the distinction of pummeling Big 10 opponents for the 10th consecutive time. But most of all, Barkley lasted and cleared doubt.

He's the man, a Trojan Man in a promising journey.