In a surprising move, Lane Kiffin has announced that senior quarterback and preseason Heisman Trophy frontrunner Matt Barkley will not play in Monday’s Sun Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The third-year head coach told the media on Thursday that redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek will get the start in Barkley’s absence.
On November 17th vs. UCLA, Barkley sustained an AC sprain on a hard hit from Anthony Barr and has been limited in practice since, opening the door for Wittek.
For Wittek, it’s the second consecutive start in his USC career, after dropping his first-team debut against Notre Dame last month. Wittek came to USC has a four-star recruit out of Mater Dei in Santa Ana, coupling with Cody Kessler to form the top quarterback duo in the Class of 2011.
With Wittek getting the start for the Trojans, Kessler will slide up to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, while walk-on John Manoogian inherits the third quarterback role for the game.
Wittek was 14 of 23 for 186 yards against Notre Dame, throwing two interceptions and one touchdown in the 22-13 loss to the No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish.
With two quarterback sneaks late in the game, Wittek was part of Lane Kiffin’s famed goal line stand debacle, although Wittek’s 53-yard pass to Marqise Lee set up the Trojans with the first and goal scoring opportunity.
While Wittek gets the start, Matt Barkley’s USC career comes to an end as the Pac-12 career record holder for total offense (12,214 yards), passing yards (12,327), completions (1,001), touchdown passes (116) and total touchdowns (122), in addition to going down as the only Pac-12 participant to record four seasons of 2,500 or more total yards from scrimmage.
Barkley returned for his senior season for a chance to compete in a bowl game and vie for a national championship after a two-year bowl ban cost him what could have been trips to the Holiday and Fiesta Bowls. As a senior, Barkley never got the opportunity to play in a second bowl game, after being named as the Emerald Bowl’s MVP in 2009 as a freshman.
Max Wittek and the Trojans face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Monday, December 31st at 11:00 a.m. Pacific, live and in color on CBS.