After one of the more mediocre performances of his career, Matt Barkley faced a slew of critical questions.
At least none of them had to do with another loss.
Barkley insisted there was nothing wrong following No. 11 Southern California's 24-14 win over Washington on Saturday night that included a scoreless second half for the Trojans and Barkley's fewest completions in a game since late in his sophomore season.
"They didn't want to get beat over the top and they knew the threats we had with Marqise (Lee) and Robert (Woods) so they played very deep and played a lot of two high defenses which forced us to run the ball which we did very well," Barkley said. "It just happened to be one of those games."
Barkley attempted only 10 passes in the second half, completing just three. When the Trojans faced third downs, they often chose to hand off to either Silas Redd or Curtis McNeal and not subject Barkley to any hits from the pass rush.
"Remember two times ago we went on the road and we weren't sitting here with a win," Kiffin said. "Yeah we played conservative once we got a lead like that. We've said it all along, this isn't about anybody's numbers or Heisman or any of that. This is about winning games."
Barkley's 10 completions were his fewest since he was 10 of 19 for 75 yards late in the 2010 season when the Trojans were upset at Oregon State. But in that game, Barkley was done by halftime with a sprained ankle and the Trojans were forced to go with Mitch Mustain in what turned out to be a blowout loss to the Beavers.
Barkley's worst game in terms of numbers actually came in a Trojans victory when he completed just 7 of 22 passes in a 14-9 win at Arizona State his freshman season.
His lack of attempts on Saturday was by choice.
"I just have got to make sure the areas we can improve on we do that," Barkley said. "If we're 1 for 11 on third downs we need to fix that. But if we have 200 yards rushing I'm not going to be complaining."
Barkley entered the season as the presumptive Heisman Trophy favorite, but has been overtaken by a number of other candidates through the first half of the season. He ranks 30th in the country in pass efficiency rating and 39th in yards passing per game with the types of numbers that don't catch the eye of Heisman voters.
But he hasn't been asked to do it himself with the improvement of the running game. USC (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) finished with 204 yards rushing against Washington (3-3, 1-2), topping 200 on the ground for the third time this season after reaching that benchmark only three times all of last season. Redd has provided the lift the Trojans were hoping for when he transferred from Penn State over the summer, recording a trio of 100-yard rushing games, including 155 against the Huskies.
Barkley is hopeful a back-loaded schedule might lead to better numbers for him. The Trojans leave Los Angeles just once the final six games of the season when they travel to Arizona on Oct. 27, and four of those games are at the Coliseum.
"It didn't seem like much to me but I think it is going to be nice coming home," he said. "I think five of the last six are in L.A. which we consider home for us. I think that we will probably see a difference in the team."