LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matt Barkley and his Southern California teammates spent the past couple of months reminding each other not to get consumed by all the praise being thrown their way.
Now Barkley is spending this week making sure the Trojans don't get distracted by disappointment after their season got derailed at Stanford — and he's got to start with himself.
"I wasn't expecting that was going to happen this year," Barkley said Tuesday after another early-morning practice.
Three days after their 21-14 loss, No. 13 USC still can't quite believe how quickly its imperfections were exposed. The Trojans (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) strenuously avoided buying into the hype around their comeback season from a two-year postseason ban, yet they returned to practice determined to prove they're still better than the struggling team that lost to Stanford yet again and plummeted 11 spots in the rankings.
Barkley was crushed after the game, his senior season getting off to a start he never expected. Yet Barkley's determination to grow as a leader forced him to find a mature perspective on the loss: It's only September, after all, and the Trojans' dreams of major postseason success are very much alive.
Still, it stings, even three days later.
"The shock behind that, I wasn't expecting to happen," Barkley said. "I learned a lot from a defeat like that. You learn to come back the next day and to be the voice that we need. You've got to make sure it's a quick turnaround."
And Barkley realizes the spotlight will be directed squarely at his offense, which improbably was shut out in the second half.
USC's stars produced thoroughly pedestrian numbers, and the offensive line deserves much of the blame after looking overmatched against the Cardinal. Barkley went 20 for 41 with two interceptions, while Marqise Lee had eight catches for 100 yards, but didn't score. Silas Redd scored two touchdowns with just 17 yards rushing, and Curtis McNeal ran for only 37 yards.
"We're a little bit in shock," said All-American receiver Robert Woods, who had just four catches for 38 yards against Stanford. "But our defense played well. We've just got to produce on offense. That's our job. Our team spirits are still high. We know we can bounce back and play well."