It takes courage for the quarterback of one of college football’s top programs to admit he made critical mistakes that helped cost his team a win and swallow the criticism that follows. It takes even more courage to thank your coach for bashing your decision-making in a conference call with the national media.
USC senior Matt Barkley made several key mistakes in Saturday’s 21-14 loss at Stanford, including a pair of interceptions and the two sacks he took on the Trojans’ final drive. In a Sunday conference call, coach Lane Kiffin said the interceptions — which came on consecutive passes in the second quarter — were “probably two of his worst decisions in our three years together.”
And the Heisman Trophy hopeful agreed.
“Yeah, I made some poor decisions,” Barkley told ESPNLosAngeles.com after Tuesday’s practice. “But that’s why you watch the film and learn from it.”
Then Barkley commended his coach for the constructive criticism.
“He’s going to be real, you know?” Barkley said of Kiffin. “He is going to defend me when he has to and he’s going to be real when he has to. I’m glad he’s not hiding me behind a curtain or anything like that.
“I know what I did. It’s not like he’s making fun of me or something to the public.”
Kiffin also said Barkley was “pretty beat up, mentally and physically” after he absorbed four sacks and failed to throw a touchdown pass in the loss. Barkley had thrown at least one touchdown in every game since a 36-7 loss at Oregon State on Nov. 20, 2010, as the Los Angeles Times noted.
Kiffin’s fiery personality and willingness to speak his mind has gotten him into trouble at past coaching stops with the Oakland Raiders and the University of Tennessee, but credit him for leveling with his quarterback after a tough loss. And credit Barkley for acknowledging his miscues and working to fix them in order to make the most of his final year in L.A.
“I’ve mentioned this to some guys who don’t know what it’s like to be here for one final year.... They think they can coast through and their time will come,” Barkley told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. “I’m trying not to let that happen. I’m trying to let them know there’s only one 2012.”
For a player most expect will be the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft, Barkley’s blend of confidence and humility bode well for his pro career.
Jay Cutler, take note.