Another scrimmage and another so-so performance for starting quarterback Matt Barkley juxtaposed against a solid outing by backup quarterback Mitch Mustain. While USC coach Lane Kiffin contended Saturday there was no quarterback controversy, he did say Mustain’s continued development has been one of highlights of fall camp so far.
“We’re excited to see Mitch’s development,” Kiffin said.”That’s been one of the brightest spots of what we’ve done with this roster. Seeing where he is now compared to where he was the first day we got here in spring practice. He’s come a long way. He feels very comfortable in the system and we feel very comfortable with him.”
Mustain completed 12 of 19 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and Barkley completed 9 of 13 passes for 116 yards and one touchdown. Mustain, however, was able to move the offense easily down the field when he was in the game. Meanwhile, Barkley’s first-team offense, which was going up against the first-team defense, continued to struggle and stall on third downs.
Barkley once again downplayed the statistics and compared his scrimmage performances to that of an NFL starting quarterback in the preseason. Barkley, however, did admit he was frustrated by those who think he’s having a bad camp when he is unable to have the same amount of success against USC’s first-team defense as Mustain has enjoyed against the team’s second-team defense.
“You just have to have perspective and know what’s going on,” he said. “This is preseason. We’ve talked before about coach Kiffin treating this like an NFL program and how these are, in a sense, NFL preseason games where the younger guys are going to get reps. I’m not disappointed with stats but more so with production and how I play. I have to make the most of every opportunity and not worry about stats. There’s definitely a difference between the one and two defenses. You just have to take that into a consideration.”
Mustain, who completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Markeith Ambles and an 8-yard touchdown to David Ausberry, didn’t seem overly excited about his performance after the scrimmage. Despite outplaying Barkley in both of the team’s scrimmages, Mustain still understands he’s the backup quarterback until he’s told otherwise.
“It’s the same as always I suppose. It’s something we don’t talk about,” Mustain said. “We continue with what we’re doing and I guess when they’re ready to make their decision they’ll tell me. Obviously I’m going to approach this as if I’m going to play and be ready to go. That doesn’t change. As far as what the coaches are going to decide, that’s on them. I’m not going to worry about that. I’ve been through that already. I don’t worry about it much anymore.”