Trojans triumph over Wildcats more about survival than victory Print
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Sunday, 14 October 2007 13:35
NCAAF Headline News

 LOS ANGELES (AP) - Victory in hand, a jubilant Mark Sanchez ran off the Los Angeles Coliseum field and leaped Lambeau-style into the stands in celebration.
Sanchez was on the winning side in his first start at quarterback for Southern California, so his joy was understandable.
For the 13th-ranked Trojans, though, a 20-13 triumph over 21-point underdog Arizona on Saturday seemed to be more survival than victory. That's the way it is in college football these days, with nobody around to dominate and everyone a potential upset victim. Just ask LSU and California.
``Really good day for us and a great day for everyone here at the Coliseum,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said afterward.
Many of the 84,671 fans on hand might disagree, although it was a lot more enjoyable than the previous Saturday, when the Trojans (5-1, 3-1 Pac-10) lost to 41-point underdog Stanford 24-23 to snap their 35-game home winning streak.
Voters in the AP Top 25 disagreed with Carroll as well, dropping the Trojans three slots despite their victory.
USC hasn't played anywhere close to its best since beating Washington State 47-14 on Sept. 22. Its last three opponents - Washington, Stanford and Arizona - have a combined record of 6-13.
Nevertheless, Carroll was upbeat afterward - a far different attitude than he had Sept. 29 following USC's 27-24 win at Washington.
``This was a hard game, so we're going to enjoy it,'' the coach said.
Arizona (2-5, 1-3) fell to 0-4 on the road this season and 6-23 in its last 29 games away from home. The Wildcats led 13-10 early in the fourth quarter before USC freshman Joe McKnight came up with two big plays to set up the game's final 10 points.
``It was ugly, it was bloody, and it was a mess there for a while,'' Sanchez said, mindful of the two interceptions he threw late in the second quarter. ``It felt real good - it was nice to get the first one.''
Sanchez, a third-year sophomore replacing the injured John David Booty, completed 19 of 31 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown with the two interceptions. Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart usually reached 130 yards and one TD long before halftime.
In fairness, the Trojans have had to play through an inordinate amount of injuries. Already going with a makeshift offensive line, they lost All-American left tackle Sam Baker in the second quarter with an injured hamstring.
``He's got a pretty critical hamstring pull,'' Carroll said. ``He stayed out there for five or six plays, he couldn't even move. How can I not (be concerned), with all the different guys down.''
Leading rusher Stafon Johnson missed his second straight game due to a sprained left foot, standout linebacker Bruce Cushing has barely played all season because of a sprained ankle, and several other players are banged up.
Then there's Booty, who broke the middle finger on his throwing hand against Stanford.
``We just have to see how Booty is feeling,'' Carroll said when asked who would play quarterback at Notre Dame on Saturday. ``It is a broken finger. We can see the chip in the X-rays. It's something that's supposed to last about two, three weeks.''
That being the case, Carroll said Sanchez would enter the week as the starter. USC plays at No. 7 Oregon a week after the Notre Dame game.
Sanchez threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Fred Davis with 10:47 remaining - the first play after McKnight's 45-yard punt return - to put the Trojans on top 17-13. Arizona was unable to pick up a first down after that.
McKnight later gained 59 yards to the Arizona 27, putting the Trojans in position for David Buehler's 27-yard field goal with 57 seconds left.
``Joe is really starting to show what he's capable of,'' Carroll said. ``He took a big step today and I know he will keep showing what he's got.''
 

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