BOULDER – The University of Colorado offense welcomed back Rodney Stewart and Paul Richardson and got a career performance from Toney Clemons Friday night at Folsom Field. But the Buffaloes’ top guns were no match for Southern California’s cannon, quarterback Matt Barkley.
Barkley picked apart CU’s injury ravaged secondary, leading the No. 21 Trojans to a 42-17 victory that kept the Buffs winless (0-6, 1-9 overall) in the Pac-12 Conference and extended their losing streak to seven.
Completing 25 of his 39 passing attempts, Barkley threw for 318 yards and a USC record six touchdowns as the Trojans (7-2, 4-2) rebounded from a gut-wrenching 56-48 triple-overtime loss last week to No. 4 Stanford.
CU lost its eighth straight game to a ranked opponent and stayed winless (0-6) in its series with USC.
Stewart, returning after missing two games with a sprained knee, carried 21 times for 88 yards and caught six passes for 67 yards. He moved into first place on CU’s career all-purpose yardage list, surpassing his position coach, Eric Bieniemy.
Richardson made two receptions for 18 yards and never seemed to get untracked after missing four games with a knee injury suffered in practice before the Stanford trip (Oct. 8).
Clemons, a senior who transferred three seasons ago from Michigan, caught five of quarterback Tyler Hansen’s passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, recording the first 100-yard receiving game of his career.
But this night belonged to Barkley, a 6-2, 220-pound junior who is working his way toward being a first-round NFL draft choice, and his receiving corps. Two USC receivers – Robert Woods and Marqise Lee – went over 100 yards each. Each caught nine of Barkley’s passes and scored twice. Woods’ catches netted 130 yards, Lee’s 124. The Trojans' ground game also prospered, gaining 243 yards to account for 561 yards in total offense to the Buffs' 384.
CU’s depleted defense took yet another hit with the early week deletion of junior safety Ray Polk, whose concussion symptoms returned. Polk had missed the Oregon game on Oct. 22, then was cleared to play last week at Arizona State.
His absence, along with that of senior Anthony Perkins (ankle), meant the Buffs’ pair of starting safeties to face Barkley & Co. were sophomore Terrel Smith and true freshman Kyle Washington.
And with 8:15 remaining in the first half, Washington was gone; he suffered a possible concussion while breaking up a Barkley pass and was replaced by another true freshman – K.T. Tu’umalo, a recent convert from linebacker.
Outscored 91-10 in the first quarters of their five previous Pac-12 games, the Buffs enjoyed a rare shot of early success Friday night and scored on a 69-yard drive to open this game. Hansen hit Clemons with a 37-yard touchdown pass to cap the six-play march, and Will Oliver’s PAT pushed CU ahead 7-0.
It was exactly what the delirious Folsom Field crowd (50,083) - most of them heeding the “blackout” call - wanted. But they also wanted a stop, which the Buffs once again couldn’t deliver.
Barkley responded by driving USC 80 yards in seven plays, teaming with Lee for a 33-yard score. Andre Heidari’s extra point kick tied the score at 7-7 and the first quarter ended that way.
Still, CU was in uncharted territory . . . actually in the game after the first 15 minutes.
The euphoria didn’t last. After punts were exchanged, the Buffs opened their next series with an 18-yard Hansen-to-Stewart pass. But a personal foul penalty against receiver Logan Gray after the play cost CU 15 of those yards and severely damaged that drive.
Barkley took immediate advantage, pushing USC 85 yards and capping the six-play march with a 5-yard TD pass to tight end Xavier Grimble. Heidari’s PAT sent the Trojans ahead 14-7 and they wouldn’t trail again.
The teams traded punts again, and USC began to pull away. Barkley threw two more TD passes – a 15-yarder to Woods, a 25-yarder to Lee – and the Trojans were cruising, 28-7. Barkley finished the half 17-for-24 for 193 yards and four TDs. Lee’s first-half numbers: seven catches, 104 yards, two TDs, while Woods - the conference's top receiver - was relatively quiet in comparison, catching five balls for 56 yards and one score.
Senior Travis Sandersfeld shifted from corner to safety to replace Tu’umalo, but USC’s reaction was so what? Lee immediately got behind Sandersfeld, then bobbled and dropped a certain touchdown pass.
Didn’t matter . . . two plays later, Lee ran past freshman nickel back D.D. Goodson and Barkley again threw a perfect pass. There was no bobbling and dropping this time, and Lee had a 25-yard TD reception to give USC its cushy 21-point lead.
Following senior corner Jason Espinoza’s first career interception and 26-yard return in the first half’s final minute, the Buffs had first-and-goal at the Trojans’ 8-yard line. But the drive went the wrong way (four plays for minus-5 yards), and Oliver kicked a 30-yard field goal to make the halftime score 28-10. The field goal was Oliver’s 10th of the season, tying a CU freshman record set in 1979 by Tom Field.
Oliver’s first field goal attempt – a 31-yarder – was blocked, and after the Buffs’ first drive of the second half faltered at the Trojans’ 21, Oliver had a 37-yard try batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Just over 5 minutes later, Barkley rewarded the USC defense by throwing his fifth TD pass, this time buying time with a scramble and allowing Woods to free himself. The hook-up covered 45 yards and, with Heidari’s extra point, put the Trojans in command 35-10 with 2:23 left in the third quarter – and that’s how the period ended.
The Buffs pulled to 35-17 on a 7-yard Hansen-to-Clemons scoring pass and Justin Castor’s PAT – the first of his career – at the 11:19 mark of the fourth quarter. But Barkley responded with a short toss that tailback Amir Carlisle turned into a 19-yard score that put his QB atop the school's legends at his position.
With 7:06 to play, USC led 42-17 and the Buffs’ blackout was over and out.
CU stays at home next weekend, hosting Arizona (12:30 p.m., Folsom Field).