That was it for Matt Barkley

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
6:26
PM PT
After all, that was it for Matt Barkley.

His college career, we now know, ended for good on a vicious sack by Anthony Barr against the UCLA Bruins last month -- in a losing effort, no less. Barkley’s first thought upon hitting the ground that day was that he had broken his collarbone for the second time.

His second thought, he recounted later, was that his day on the field was over.

And we can probably surmise that his third or fourth thought was that his season -- and college career -- might well be over, too.

So, no, this wasn’t entirely unexpected.

USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin announced Thursday that Barkley will miss Monday’s Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets because of the shoulder sprain, adding that Barkley simply ran out of time to come back.

AC joint sprains typically take four to eight weeks to heal; Barkley evidently needed more than the six weeks he was afforded after the Nov. 17 loss to UCLA.

The week following the injury, after it was official he’d miss the regular-season finale against Notre Dame, Barkley already sounded like he had come to terms with the possibility that he had played his final snap in a USC uniform.

“Nothing is always as it’s supposed to be in life,” he said at the time. “Sometimes things go as planned, but oftentimes they don’t go according to plan.

“That’s just something you have to deal with. I’ll handle it and stay positive.”

Of course, the next question involves Barkley’s decision to return this season to school for his senior year. Had he announced this time last year he was going to the NFL, he’d almost assuredly have gone higher in the draft than he’ll go now.

And his reward for staying was a seven-win season, a myriad of off-field distractions and, of course, an undesirable bowl game he won’t even get to play in. But, as he has all year, Barkley vehemently defended his decision on a risk-taking basis.

“I took a chance,” he said in November. “I don’t think enough guys really go for it these days.

“It didn’t turn out the way I planned, but over these last four years and especially this year, I’ve learned so much that’ll prepare me for the next level and later in life.”

Kiffin, who recruited Barkley early on in high school but left before his freshman season, has taken on a defensive tone regarding the quarterback in recent weeks. Asked Thursday how he thought Barkley’s career went in retrospect, Kiffin immediately turned talk to why Barkley’s career record compared negatively to other USC signal-callers.

Barkley was 34-11 in 45 career starts for the Trojans; Matt Leinart was 37-2 in his 39 starts.

“I think that Matt has had a great career here at USC,” Kiffin told reporters in El Paso on Thursday. “As a quarterback, you can’t control everything. You’re judged so often on your win-loss record, and Matt can’t play defense.

“If we were able to, over his career here, play great defense, his win-loss record would be different.”

Maybe so. But beyond the win-loss record and lack of a big bowl win, there are things Barkley will be remembered positively for, such as leading the program post-Pete Carroll, beating UCLA 50-0 and staying for that senior season.

His career didn’t go exactly according to plan, but it went pretty well.

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