BOULDER, Colo. >> Matt Barkley did Rodney Peete, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez one better, throwing a school-record six touchdown passes in No. 21 Southern California’s 42-17 romp over Colorado on Friday night.
He also added a touchdown-saving tackle to prevent the Buffaloes from blemishing his six-pack of TDs with a pick-six.
Cornerback Jason Espinoza picked off Barkley’s pass when the receiver made a mistake and was on his way to the end zone in the final minute of the first half when Barkley blasted him out of bounds at the 8.
"Yeah, it’s never good when you’re making tackles," Barkley said. "But, sometimes you have to."
After orchestrating the big win six days after USC’s heartbreaking triple-overtime loss at Stanford, Barkley went into the stands to direct the Trojans marching band.
That’s something Leinart and Sanchez didn’t do until the end of their USC careers. Barkley cautioned not to read anything into it.
"No, I’ve done it twice before, so it’s not an indicator of anything," he said. "One of the band directors grabbed me coming off the field and asked me to go up there. I wasn’t charging up there on my own."
When he was done, the sizable sections of Trojans fans chanted, "One more year! One more year!" imploring the junior quarterback not to leave them after this season.
"It could be one more year," Barkley shrugged.
Colorado coach Jon Embree shudders at the thought.
"He’s a heck of a player. Thought he was very accurate. He did a good job on the scramble, hitting a touchdown. I know he had some drops that probably hurt his numbers," Embree said. "That’s why he needs to leave next year. That’s why he needs to go."
Curtis McNeal, an undersized junior tailback whose fumble ended USC’s loss to the Cardinal, rushed for 87 yards on 10 carries in his first career start for the Trojans (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12). But he sat out most of the second half with a bruised knee and hip.
The win over the beleaguered Buffaloes (1-9, 0-6) capped a wild week for the Trojans that included two days of tirades from coach Lane Kiffin against several officiating decisions in last week’s loss, which resulted in a hefty fine and an unprecedented reprimand from the league.
Asked good-naturedly after this one what he thought of the officiating, Kiffin politely demurred.
"I can’t even say they were awesome. I get fined for that, too, in reading the rules," he said. "So, I’ve moved on."
Robert Woods and Marqise Lee each caught two of Barkley’s TD passes. Woods caught nine passes for 130 yards and Lee had nine receptions for 124 yards against Colorado’s depleted defensive backfield.
"We knew our receiving corps was much better than their secondary and it definitely showed tonight," said Barkley, who completed 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards.
The Buffaloes have lost two handfuls of DBs to suspensions and injuries and were once again pummeled by a Pac-12 opponent — they’ve been outscored 266-91 in league games during their inaugural season.
"I feel kind of bad, they’ve got so many injuries and guys off the team," Barkley said.
USC safety T.J. McDonald sat out the first half while serving a half-game suspension for his hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu and had four tackles in the second half. Drew McAllister, his replacement, was in coverage when Tyler Hansen hit Toney Clemons on a crossing route for a 37-yard touchdown three minutes into the game.
That marked Colorado’s first lead since Oct. 3 against Washington, a span of 244 minutes, 10 seconds of game time.
It didn’t last long.
Barkley led the Trojans 80 yards in seven plays to tie it, hitting Lee from 33 yards. Then, he found tight end Xavier Grimble for a 5-yard score, capping an 85-yard drive and hit Woods with a 15-yard TD.
After Rhett Ellison blocked Will Oliver’s 31-yard field goal attempt, Lee atoned for dropping a 50-yard touchdown pass by blowing past D.D. Goodson again two plays later and hauling in a 25-yarder from Barkley to make it 28-7.
After his second score, Lee trotted to the sideline and handed the football to his coach.
"No celebrating. I got that penalty last week," Lee said. "He just told me after you get your second touchdown just come bring me the ball instead of celebrating."
Oliver was good from 30 yards with a second left in the first half following Espinoza’s interception to pull Colorado to 28-10 at halftime.
Barkley’s best play came in the third quarter when he scrambled around at midfield and found Woods among three defenders in the end zone for a 45-yard score that made it 35-10.
Barkley said "it was like backyard football."
Barkley broke the school record he’d held along with Peete, Leinart, Palmer and Sanchez when he hit Amir Carlisle over the middle on a short screen that the tailback turned into a 19-yard TD that capped the scoring midway through the fourth quarter.
"It means a lot," Barkley said. "We had five quite a bit now and to finally get six is a pretty cool feeling."