LOS ANGELES -- Matt Barkley's first pass at Southern California went for minus-2 yards. His first four series with the Trojans resulted in two fumbles, two punts and a 3-0 deficit to San Jose State.
A typical freshman quarterback surely would have tensed up at this burgeoning Coliseum calamity. Instead, Barkley showed why coach Pete Carroll insists there's nothing ordinary about his teenage starter -- although the Trojans will find out a whole lot more next week at Ohio State.
Barkley passed for 233 yards after a slow start to his USC debut, and the No. 4 Trojans' fleet of tailbacks ran for six touchdowns in a 56-3 victory Saturday.
Barkley acknowledged a brief tickle of butterflies when he exited the stadium tunnel and experienced the Trojans' home crowd for the first time in uniform. Otherwise, the Orange County product who grew up going to Trojans games was wholly unintimidated as the first freshman quarterback to start a season opener at USC.
"It was so much fun to be out there," Barkley said. "It felt slow out there. I felt calm. The guys did a great job saying, 'This is you, be yourself.' ... I don't really get nervous, and at the same time, I'm not going to get super pumped up."
Of course, Barkley's California cool will get a stiffer test when the Trojans visit the sixth-ranked Buckeyes next week. USC, which pounded Ohio State 35-3 last season in Los Angeles, has won 11 straight games since last September's loss to Oregon State.
Although the Trojans were at their best when he handed off, Barkley still went 15 for 19 with no interceptions -- and without making a single throw Carroll didn't like. USC pounded the Spartans with six consecutive TD drives starting in the second quarter, with Barkley's only TD pass putting the Trojans up 42-3 midway through the third.
"The slow start was about as understandable as you can imagine, and once we settled down, we played some good football," Carroll said. "Matt Barkley just absolutely handled this. It was just no big deal for him. ... He gave us no indication there would be anything other than him being cool and calm, which is exactly what he was today."
"[Barkley] came to the huddle calm and collected," said McKnight, who rushed for 145 yards as the closest thing to a featured back for the Trojans. "He even gave us a couple of pep talks."
Marc Tyler rushed for 72 yards and a score, and Allen Bradford made a 43-yard TD run as the Trojans rolled through their tuneup for next week's showdown in Columbus, where the Buckeyes struggled to hold off Navy in a 31-27 win Saturday.
Kevin Jurovich has five catches for 64 yards for the Spartans, who didn't have the size or strength to stop USC's rushing attack. Although quarterbacks Kyle Reed and Jordan La Secla both played extensively, neither had much success against the USC defense, which lost the majority of last season's starting lineup to the NFL.
"They were too much better for us to hang in there," San Jose State coach Dick Tomey said. "I've seen them do that to lots of teams. It's a lesson for us to learn. I hate it, but it's necessary for us to get better."
The Trojans' first four drives ended in fumbles by McKnight and McCoy along with two punts, including a 24-yard clunker that set up Tyler Cope's 41-yard field goal late in the first quarter to put the Spartans ahead.
Barkley was 2 for 4 for 20 yards in the first quarter, but new Trojans play-caller Jeremy Bates largely kept the freshman's assignments simple with handoffs and several rollout throws. Before the sun-baked Coliseum crowd even had much time to get nervous, USC's relentless running game drained the tension with back-to-back TD runs by Johnson, followed by Bradford's romp and a TD run by McKnight on either side of halftime.
McKnight made a jaw-dropping 54-yard TD run on the Trojans' first drive of the second half, slithering out of tackles and changing directions before somersaulting over the goal line.
Barkley hit Rhett Ellison for a 4-yard score in the third quarter. Three of his incompletions were throwaways, and the fourth was a well-executed fade that didn't connect.
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Ohio - Northern Illinois Postgame Breakdown
Needing the ball back, Northern Illinois breaks out the trickery and goes with a dropkick onsides kick, but Ohio was ready and recovered for the win.