Matt Barkley's college career is over

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Matt Barkley's college career is over

From Comcast SportsNetEL PASO, Texas (AP) -- Matt Barkley came to Southern California as a hot-shot recruit, seemingly destined to be the Trojans' next star quarterback. For the most part he delivered on that promise during a record-breaking four-year run as USC's starter.Barkley, though, won't get to give a grand finale.He won't play in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech on New Year's Eve because of a lingering injury to his right shoulder. Doctor's didn't clear him to play, coach Lane Kiffin said."It's a tough day," Barkley said. "As you heard from Coach Kiffin I won't be playing on the 31st. I've worked as hard as I could to get back for this game, but nature's not allowing it and the doctors aren't allowing it, which is the most important thing. They're looking out for my best interest, and I trust their judgment in how things have turned out.Kiffin said Max Wittek will start. The redshirt freshman will be making his second career start."I'm still here for the guys and still trying to help Max and even Cody (Kessler), if he needs to play -- to help those guys get ready and with the game plan. I'm trying to be here as much as I can for this team to finish strong."Barkley's throwing shoulder was injured during USC's second-to-last game against UCLA and he didn't play in the season-finale against Notre Dame. Wittek started the game and the Trojans lost to the Fighting Irish to fall to 7-5 on the season."I know he wanted to play," Kiffin said. "He wanted to finish on a good note. He's not been hurt very much in his four years here, but unfortunately when he has he's missed some really big games."Barkley was a celebrated prospect from southern California-- he went to the same high school as Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart -- who grew up dreaming of playing for USC. He won the starting job as a freshman in 2009, beat Ohio State on the road in second game of his career and appeared on the way to becoming a college football star to rival Leinart, Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez.Barkley went on to rewrite the Pac-12 record book during a USC-record 47 starts over four seasons, becoming the conference leader in touchdown passes, yards passing, completions and total offense.But so much more was expected from him and the Trojans this season, when Barkley announced last January that he would return for his senior year.Coming off a 10-2 season, and out of a two-year stay in NCAA jail for rules violations, USC started this season ranked No. 1 and a consensus national title contender. Barkley was the Heisman Trophy favorite and an almost certain high first-round NFL draft pick.Neither he nor the Trojans could reach those high expectations.Barkley was not bad. He threw for 3,273 yards in 11 games and 36 touchdowns. But he also threw 15 interceptions, the most since his freshman season."I'm at peace. Yeah, absolutely," Barkley said. "I try to find peace in every situation. It's not what I thought would happen, it's not I don't think the most ideal situation. But at the same time, I do have peace and I know that whatever the case is right now, I can make it into a great case come April (in the NFL draft), which is what my goal is now."He will end his career having played in the postseason just once. He led USC to a victory against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl in 09 as a freshman.Barkley, the only three-time captain in USC history, owns 20 school records and 10 Pac-12 records. He is the Pac-12's leader in total offense (12,214), yards passing (12,327), completions (1,001), TD passes (116) and combined rushing and passing TDs (122). He's also the only player in league history to have 2,500 yards or more of total offense four times."I think that Matt has had a great career here at USC," Kiffin said.

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler won't be making a surprise return to the Cubs next season.

Fowler is closing in on a deal to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The Cubs signed outfielder Jon Jay last week to a one-year deal, pretty much sealing Fowler's future with the Cubs.

In two seasons in Chicago, Fowler batted .261/.367/.427 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and a World Series ring.

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”