Matt Barkley has been one of the most important figures in USC football over the last four seasons, but his college career has come to a disappointing end with the news that he won’t be medically cleared to play in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Barkley suffered a strained shoulder in the final minutes of the Trojans’ loss to rival UCLA on November 17. He was on the sidelines in sweats for the team’s final home game against Notre Dame but remained hopeful that he’d be ready to play in time for the bowl game.
It seemed like a stretch that he’d be back to form in time for the Sun Bowl, not to mention a bad idea to risk further injury heading into preparation for the draft, and on Thursday, his status became official:
Doctors haven’t cleared me to play, so I won’t be suiting up on Saturday. I’ll be here with my team to finish strong. Proud to be a Trojan!
— Matthew Barkley (@MattBarkley) December 27, 2012
Redshirt freshman Max Wittek, who filled in for Barkley against Notre Dame, will get the start in the bowl.
Thanks to his injury, and the last two years of NCAA sanctions, Barkley will leave USC with only one bowl appearance, in the 2009 Emerald Bowl as a freshman.
Barkley was a precocious, if overhyped, freshman quarterback under Pete Carroll, and he was the glue that kept the team together during massive changes in the program: a new coach, a new athletic director, and crippling sanctions.
“Matty Trojan” became the face of the program, and if the team’s 2012 season had gone as planned, he’d be among the most revered figures in USC’s storied history.
After last year’s 10-2 season, Barkley won the adoration of the “One More Year” crowd by eschewing an early exit for the NFL in favor of finishing “Unfinished Business.”
It was the rallying cry for USC faithful throughout the offseason, but instead of wrapping up a stellar USC career, Barkley and the other seniors watched everything they’d worked for unravel.
The final blow came in the loss to UCLA, when the Bruins added injury to insult by knocking Barkley out of the game, the last one of his college career.
The three-year captain leaves USC with a 34-13 record as a starter and an even more impressive resume as a leader.
As disappointed as Barkley is that his college career is over, watching the Sun Bowl from the sidelines is probably the best thing for his future.
He didn’t look his best for much of the year, and a lackluster performance in the game – especially if he’s not at 100% – would do more harm than good. He’d also risk further injury to his shoulder, which he can’t afford with the draft only a few months away.
If it was the Rose Bowl, or the National Championship game, maybe playing would be worth the risk, but Matt Barkley has nothing more to prove by playing in the Sun Bowl. He might not like it, and as much as his fans would like to see him donning the cardinal and gold one last time, sitting this one out is the right move.