LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matt Barkley passed for 324 yards and a school record-tying five touchdowns to five different receivers, and Southern California’s slumbering offense came alive after two mediocre outings in the Trojans’ 38-17 victory over previously unbeaten Syracuse Saturday night.
Barkley completed 26 of 39 passes without being intercepted. The junior from nearby Newport Beach threw for five touchdowns twice last season and is one of five players to accomplish the feat at USC. He has thrown nine TD passes while being picked off just once this year.
USC’s offensive explosion snapped a string of six straight games in which the Trojans had scored fewer than 30 points. The Trojans entered the game ranked 90th in scoring among the country’s 120 FBS schools, averaging 21 points.
Robert Woods caught eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown for the Trojans (3-0), giving him 33 receptions this season, the most in any three-game span by a USC player in school history. Keyshawn Johnson caught 32 passes in the final three games of the 1995 season.
Ryan Nassib completed his first 11 passes for 74 yards, but finished 25 of 37 for 230 yards for the outmanned Orange (2-1).
USC had scored only one offensive second-half touchdown in its first two games, but Barkley threw a 44-yard scoring pass to wide-open freshman Randall Telfer on the fourth play of the third quarter, giving the Trojans a 24-3 lead.
Syracuse, which gained only 34 yards in the second quarter, responded by scoring its first touchdown of the game on a 28-yard pass from wide receiver Alec Lemon to Van Chew, capping a 74-yard drive.
The Orange reached the USC 35 on their next possession, but Nassib was sacked on third down by DaJohn Harris and Shane Horton, forcing a punt. The Trojans then went 80 yards on eight plays, scoring on a 43-yard pass from Barkley to freshman Marqise Lee to make it 31-10.
Barkley’s final TD pass was a 9-yarder to freshman Xavier Grimble early in the fourth quarter. Nassib’s 12-yard scoring pass to Lemon with 6:34 to play completed the scoring in the game.
Antwon Bailey led Syracuse in rushing with 47 yards on 11 carries. Backup Curtis McNeal compiled 79 yards on just five carries and Marc Tyler picked up 41 yards on 15 carries for USC. The Trojans piled up 501 yards in total offense to 331 for the Orange.
Ross Krautman kicked a 23-yard field goal on Syracuse’s first possession for a 3-0 lead. The Trojans responded by moving 66 yards on 10 plays to go ahead 7-3, scoring on Barkley’s 5-yard pass to Rhett Ellison.
Nassib didn’t throw his first incompletion until the opening minute of the second quarter. He wouldn’t complete another pass until the final 90 seconds of the first half.
With that, the USC defense began asserting itself, putting pressure on Nassib and stuffing the Syracuse running game. The opportunistic Trojans’ offense took advantage, scoring 10 second-quarter points for a 17-3 halftime lead.
First came a 31-yard touchdown pass from Barkley to Woods, capping a 58-yard drive aided by a pass interference penalty against Kevyn Scott. Andre Heidari added a 26-yard field goal with 1:34 left in the period, but was wide left on a 46-yarder on the final play of the half.
USC raised its record to 3-0 against Syracuse, having won 16-0 at the Coliseum in 1924 and 34-16 at the Meadowlands in 1990. Todd Marinovich passed for 337 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans in that game.
Mikhail Marinovich, Todd’s younger brother, started at defensive end for the Orange Saturday night and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter at the Trojans’ 24. But Nassib fumbled on the next play and USC’s Will Andrew recovered, accounting for the game’s only turnovers.
The game was played before a crowd of 65,873 at the Coliseum. USC plays its first road game of the season next Saturday night at No. 22 Arizona State (2-1), a 17-14 loser at Illinois on Saturday, while Syracuse entertains Toledo (1-2).