EL PASO, Texas - USC quarterback Matt Barkley was officially ruled out of the Sun Bowl by team doctors Thursday, bringing his record-setting but sometimes disappointing college career to a close.
Barkley, who sprained his shoulder against UCLA last month, was unable to pass rehabilitation tests and unsure when he could be cleared.
"It's a tough day," he said. "I've tried as hard as I could to get back. I'm at peace, though. It's not an ideal situation but I'm at peace. A lot has happened. A lot of ups and downs. A lot of fantastic moments at USC and a lot of heartbreaks."
Barkley said he was unsure if he would compete at the Senior Bowl next month, when NFL teams would eagerly observe him during a week of workouts.
"Based on the season people are going to say (my draft stock fell)," Barkley said. "I think I'll be in the perfect position. I have no doubt I'll be where I need to be."
Barkley also stood by comments made to radio host Dan Patrick that USC's offense relied too much on wide receiver Marqise Lee this season.
"What I said was enough," Barkley said. "I'm not here to bash anyone.
"I'm not the play-caller, when it comes down to it. We've done great at times and not well at times. I don't know if you can pinpoint it on one certain, specific factor. There's a lot of factors that go into it, to make it a great game. A lot of times we, as players, shot ourselves in the foot. So, a lot of factors come in."
Barkley was also asked if there were specific things he would do differently with USC's offense.
"Certain specific things, but those are between the coaching staff and me," Barkley said.
Barkley's injury means freshman Max Wittek will make his second consecutive start. Wittek completed 14 of 23 passes for 186 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in USC's 22-13 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame on Nov. 24.
"That game helped me tremendously," Wittek said. "It helped my experience and facing a real Division I defense."
Wittek said he felt bad for Barkley, who will not be able to participate in his first bowl game since 2009.
"It is Matt's game to play in or not play in," Wittek said.
USC coach Lane Kiffin said Barkley was "very close" to being cleared, although Barkley has only thrown passes with his left hand during bowl practices.
"Matt's had a great career at USC," Kiffin said. "As a quarterback you can't control everything. You can't play defense. If over the course of his career we played great defense (like past USC teams), his win-loss record would be different."
Barkley finished his career with 20 USC career, season or game records and 10 Pacific-12 Conference records. He is the Pac-12 career leader in total offense (12,214 yards), passing yards (12,327), completions (1,001), touchdown passes (116) and rushing/passing touchdowns (122).
"I was able to feel the exhilaration and there were moments I'll never forget," Barkley said.
Barkley said he will never forget this year's Colorado game, where he set the Pac-12 record for touchdowns and completed 95 percent of his passes (19 of 20), which was .8 percent shy of the NCAA completion percentage record.
He was also toasted in a video during the game by former USC quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart among others.
"The reception by the crowd (was memorable)," Barkley said. "The Oregon and UCLA games last year were also highlights. Even Stanford last year (a 56-49 loss) was a shootout."
But Barkley's career also included lowlights, including this year's 7-5 record. USC was the first preseason No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll to finish the regular season out of the rankings since 1964. He also threw a career-high 15 interceptions and finished just one interception shy of the school record with 48 in four seasons.
A year ago USC held a fancy news conference that embarrassed Barkley when he announced he would return for his senior season because the school surrounded him with Heisman Trophies.
"That's not me," Barkley said.
Instead of winning a Heisman, Barkley ends his career watching the Sun Bowl from the sidelines.
"I worked as hard as I could to come back for this game," Barkley said, "But nature is not allowing it and doctors aren't allowing it, which is the most important thing. They're looking out for my best interest, and I trust their judgement."
USC wide receiver Robert Woods said his lasting memory of Barkley will be his leadership.
"The team respected his voice," Woods said.