After a challenging season that tested the mental and physical toughness of Pete Carroll and his team, the Trojans’ banded together Saturday night for one more win.
As the players described in the locker room it was a victory for the seniors – and the future.
“At USC, we are accustomed to winning like this and having big plays in the process,” senior cornerback Kevin Thomas said. “It feels great to bring that back and jump start next season on the right foot.”
The Trojans got a good start to the game, raced out to a 14-0 lead behind an efficient short passing attack that saw Matt Barkley complete 12-of-13 pass attempts for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns, before Boston College got on the board.
“I played how I’ve been practicing,” Barkley said. “I’m really happy how we transitioned from practice to the game.”
Barkley looked sharp on the Trojans’ first drive, which was highlighted by a 53-yard touchdown pass to fullback Stanley Havili. Barkley hit Havili on a short pass and the versatile fullback made a defender miss, and then sprinted through the Eagles defense for the score.
“I just caught the ball, broke a tackle and the guys blocked downfield well,” said Stanley Havili, who insisted that he would return for his senior season.
Havili found his way back into the end zone on USC’s next drive with another touchdown pass from Barkley, this time from just 5 yards out. The score gave USC a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
“We had a great game plan up front and we just needed to execute on offense,” Havili said.
Barkley set up Havili’s touchdown by hitting Damian Williams for a 38-yard gain on a perfectly placed pass down the sideline. The freshman quarterback had solid stats but also struggled at times, tossing two interceptions.
Havili had a huge impact on the game for USC, pulling in a career-high 6 receptions for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Boston College got in rhythm in the second quarter behind the running of tailback Montel Harris. The 5-10, 200-pound sophomore attacked the USC defense right up the middle on the Eagles’ first scoring drive, which covered 68 yards on six plays.
Harris did most of the work, gaining 48 yards on just four carries and finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Wide receiver Rich Gunnell added another second quarter touchdown for the Eagles on a 61-yard catch and run. Gunnell caught a pass over the middle and raced past USC’s defense for the long touchdown. On the play, Gunnell became Boston College’s career reception yardage leader.
Leading 14-13 at the half, USC’s defense stepped up in the second half, holding Boston College scoreless behind the play of Jurrell Casey and Shareece Wright, who both came up with timely turnovers.
“In that second half we came in the locker room and realized that this was our last chance to play together, so everybody came from the heart and played with a purpose,” Thomas said. “I don’t know the stats for the second half but I think we were pretty dominant.”
Shareece Wright, playing in his first game of the season, intercepted a Dave Shinskie pass at midfield early in the fourth quarter and the Trojans quickly turned the turnover into points.
“It feels good to be back involved with the team and making a difference,” Wright said. “I just wanted to make a difference and make a change in the game. The pick happened and I am happy for it.”
USC wide receiver Damian Williams came up big when the Trojans needed him the most, which isn’t a surprise because he has been doing it all year.
Williams pulled in a 49-yard reception from Barkley at the 1 yard-line with three defenders surrounding him. The catch was just another highlight reel play for the Trojans’ most consistent offensive player and set up a touchdown run by Barkley that extended USC’s lead to 24-13.
Williams finished the game with 12 catches for 189 yards.
The victory over Boston College gives USC a 9-4 record on the season and some momentum and optimism heading into the offseason.
“I have very high expectations for next year,” Matt Barkley said.
After the win, Everson Griffen said he plans to enter the NFL Draft.
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