Southern Cal football coach Lane Kiffin was on ESPN radio Wednesday, defending his quarterback, Matt Barkley. Barkley has received some NFL Draft skepticism, but this was Kiffin’s response. Barkley missed four games in four years, and the Trojans struggled every time without him, going 0-4.
Specificially, in 2012, the Trojans lost 22-13 to Notre Dame and 21-7 to Georgia Tech, sans Barkley. Kiffin’s point was that USC excelled with Barkley. I don’t know if that’s true. USC lost to Stanford 21-14, won 24-14 at Washington, lost 38-28 at UCLA. But let’s give Kiffin the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say USC took a major drop when Barkley was sidelined. Let’s pin a metal on Barkley.
But isn’t that an indictment of Kiffin and his program and his offense? Which brings us back to Oklahoma State, where the Cowboy offense excelled despite constant quarterback change.
Wes Lunt went down with a knee injury, and J.W. Walsh took over and almost engineered a victory over Texas. OSU lost 41-36. Walsh was hurt in a 31-10 win over Iowa State. So Lunt returned and directed a 36-14 rout of TCU. Then Lunt was injured against Kansas State, and Clint Chelf took over. Chelf down the stretch directed victories over West Virginia 55-34 and Texas Tech 59-21, then also shined in losses of 51-48 (one overtime) to OU and 41-34 to Baylor. Then Chelf led a 58-14 thrashing of Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
So how rare is that? How rare does an offense just keep humming along even when its quarterback is lost. I found all the major-conference teams that had to start a backup quarterback during the 2012 season. Now, no one had a success story like OSU. No team that I could find resorted to its third-team QB. But here is what I found.
Arizona: Matt Scott missed the Colorado game, and B.J. Denker was good in a 56-31 rout of Colorado. Denker completed 12 of 14 passes for 136 yards, no interceptions and two touchdowns.
Duke: Sean Renfree missed the Virginia game, and Anthony Boone was excellent in a 42-17 victory over Virginia. Renfree completed 18 of 31 passes for four touchdowns, no interceptions and 212 yards.
Oregon State: The Beavers didn’t have a great offense under quarterback Sean Mannion. Decent, but not great. Yet Mannion missed three games, and the Beavers didn’t miss a beat. They went 3-0 under Cody Vaz. In a 42-24 victory over Brigham Young, Vaz completed 20 of 32 with three TDs, no interceptions and 332 yards. In a 21-7 win over Utah, Vaz completed 16 of 26, no picks or touchdowns, 174 yards. In a 36-26 win over Arizona State, Vaz completed 14 of 33, one interception, three TDs and 267 yards.
Purdue: Robert Marve missed three games, and the Boilermakers went 2-1. In a couple of non-conference wins, Caleb TerBush was fine. He completed 16 of 24 with one interception, two TDs and 158 yards in a 54-16 rout of Eastern Michigan, then TerBush completed 27 of 37 with one interception, four TDs and 294 yards in a 51-41 win over Marshall. But TerBush also quarterbacked Purdue in a 29-22 overtime loss to Ohio State, completing 19 of 30 with two TDs, one interception and 230 yards. I saw Purdue play. The Boilermakers stink. To go to overtime with a backup quarterback against Ohio State is quite impressive.
South Carolina: Connor Shaw missed two games. Dylan Thompson came through for the Gamecocks both times. In a 48-10 rout of East Carolina, Thompson completed 21 of 37, no interceptions, three TDs, 330 yards. In a much bigger game, Thompson completed 23 of 41 with one interception, three TDs and 310 yards in a 27-17 win over Clemson.
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