BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Matt Barkley threw a school-record six touchdowns and saved another with a tackle following his sole interception as No. 21 Southern California bounced back from its heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Stanford with a 42-17 win over Colorado on Friday night.
Robert Woods and Marqise Lee each caught two of Barkley’s TD passes.
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).
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.
Barkley completed 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards. Woods caught nine passes for 130 yards and Lee had nine receptions for 124 yards.
USC safety T.J. McDonald sat out the first half while serving a half-game suspension for his hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu. 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, lofting a high-arcing pass over cornerback D.D. Goodson, a converted tailback, and into Lee’s hands from 33 yards out. It was one of four touchdown throws he would have against Colorado’s depleted secondary before halftime.
Barkley put USC ahead 14-7 with a 5-yard toss to tight end Xavier Grimble, capping an 85-yard drive.
Colorado receiver/returner Logan Gray committed two personal fouls, one of which was declined, and then fielded a punt at his 5-yard line. That led to great field position for the Trojans after a three-and-out and Barkley found Woods in the left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard TD that made it 21-7.
After Rhett Ellison blocked Will Oliver’s 31-yard field goal attempt, Lee atoned for dropping a 50-yard touchdown pass by blowing past Goodson again two plays later and hauling in a 25-yarder from Barkley to make it 28-7.
Oliver was good from 30 yards out with one second left in the first half following Jason Espinoza’s interception with 36 seconds remaining, pulling the Buffs to 28-10.
Espinoza had his sights on the end zone when he was tackled by Barkley at the 8.
“I’m kind of mad I didn’t score,” Espinoza said at halftime. “But that was only my second play of the game. My legs were a little cold.”
Woods’ 96-yard touchdown return of the second half kickoff was negated by a holding call on teammate Tony Burnett. After a punt, Hansen’s 35-yard scramble set up the Buffaloes inside Trojans 20, but they stalled after a 13-play drive and the Trojans blocked a second field goal.
This time, Randall Telfer knocked down Oliver’s 37-yard attempt.
Barkley then drove the Trojans to midfield, where he scrambled around and found Woods among three defenders in the end zone for a 45-yard score that made it 35-10.
After Hansen’s 10-yard touchdown throw to Clemons, Oliver was replaced by Justin Castor, whose first career extra point made it 35-17 with 11:19 remaining.
Barkley broke the school record with his sixth touchdown toss when he hit tailback Amir Carlisle over the middle and he took the short pass and bulled his way into the end zone for a 19-yard score that made it 42-17.
Twice before, Barkley had thrown for five touchdowns, tying the school mark also held by Rodney Peete, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez.
McDonald collected four tackles after returning from his suspension after halftime.
The banged-up Buffaloes’ defense lost two more starters to injuries as linebacker Brady Daigh (wrist) and strong safety Kyle Washington (concussion) both went down in the first half.
With the Buffaloes decked out in black helmets for only the second time ever and the first time since 1998, their night got off to an inauspicious start as two handlers of their buffalo mascot “Ralphie” lost their grip on the reins during their pregame romp around the field and one of them was nearly trampled by the beast. Nobody was hurt.
The Buffaloes received a boost on offense with receiver Paul Richardson (four games) and tailback Rodney Stewart (two games) returning from knee injuries. Stewart accounted for 155 yards of offense on 21 carries and six catches.
What the Buffs had really been hoping for was snowflakes, but the game time temperature was 41 degrees with mostly clear skies. A storm dumped 8 inches on Boulder 48 hours earlier and another system was rolling over the Rockies but not in time to give the Trojans their first taste of snow in a game since 1957.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)