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August 31, 2008

News and notes from UVA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.- USC probably would've won had Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain had to play the entire time in the Trojans' season opener.

USC just has too much talent.

But with Mark Sanchez on the field, USC head coach Pete Carroll said things are a whole lot easier.

"The difference between Mark's ability to run our offense and the other kids is obvious after only 20 minutes on the field," Carroll said. "He's just that much farther along. He's so much more experienced in the system.

"Everything sped up, and everything looked better. It was just obvious."

The Trojans came out with what they called a "conservative" game plan for Virginia's zone defense.

Controlled, accurate passing helped the offense fly out of the gates for three straight touchdowns, reminding Carroll of past season-opening performances.

The dominant effort from start to finish led to an easy 52-7 win over Virginia at Scott Stadium.

"This feels like a lot of other games we've played, and I like that," he said. "I really liked those other games we played. I love that it felt like that again on both sides of the ball."

And it all started with the boost the offense received from Sanchez's presence in the huddle.

"I think Mark came out in a great rhythm right from the get go. From play one, he made all the right calls, read the fronts right and made the right decisions at the right times," tight end Anthony McCoy said. "Overall, I have to give him an 'A.'

"I expected the best out of Mark, and that's what he gave us."

Sanchez was a like a shot of caffeine to the offense, Vidal Hazelton said.

"It's 50 times faster with Mark," Hazelton said. "I know a lot people were worried about his knee, but I wasn't too worried."

Carroll said he expects the passing game to be even stronger the next time the Trojans take the field. Carroll said Sanchez spent too much time holding onto the ball in some circumstances.

"He'll get quicker with his decisions too," Carroll said. "We'll see all of the passing game speed up in the next few weeks."

The Stable

Trojan fans got their first look at Carroll's running back rotation Saturday, with C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight getting the bulk of the work early.

Allen Bradford also got some time in the first half before bruising the Virginia defense with some punishing runs in the second.

"The thing I need to understand is that I have to keep my head up," Bradford said. "This is a rotation. Once you get your time, you have to go in there and shine."

Later in the game, Marc Tyler and Broderick Green also got work.

Tyler, Gable, Johnson, McKnight and Bradford all scored touchdowns.

"You guys all worry about how many running backs we've got," Carroll said. "Well, five of them scored. It was a beautiful thing.

"We're happy to be able to execute with all of those different guys in the game."

Just another day

Talk about a role reversal. The offense may have overshadowed the Trojan defense.

While Sanchez and company were opening a lot of eyes, the USC defense handled its business in an efficient, tough manner.

Virginia managed just one score, and it came on a drive where USC was penalized 40 yards, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty enforced on the kickoff.

Fili Moala said the defense was even greedier for a good outing after the offense got out to such a fast start.

"We wanted to leave these guys with a lasting impression," Moala said. "This is something they're going to have to think about before they come to our place in a year.

"We don't anyone to misinterpret who we are. We're focused and prepared."

Wait for State

The pending showdown with No. 2 Ohio State has come up with players and coaches since the start of fall camp, and the Trojans have dodged the questions like Floyd Merriweather Jr. ducks punches.

Now, though, with less than two weeks until one of the biggest college games of the year, players are going to have to start talking about it, right?

"We're going to work on ourselves first," Carroll said after the game.

With an extra week to prepare for the game, Carroll said the Trojans would use the first week to get some younger players work before heading into a normal game week.

"There's a ton of hype surrounding it, and we'll get to it a week from now," Carroll said. "It is a terrific chance for us to get with a great challenge again. Ohio State is a great program, and we'll try to prepare the best we can for them."

Extra Points

• USC dominated the game in terms of field position, allowing Virginia to start only one drive inside the Trojans' 50-yard line.

Conversely, the Trojans worked largely with a short field, starting in Cavalier territory five times.

"Field position is the key thing in all football games, and when you play a team that is in a league like USC, the only chance is to play with an advantageous field position," Virginia head coach Al Groh said. "We gave them far too many short fields for us to play against an offense that was obviously going to be very hard to stop."

USC scored 28 points on drives started inside Virginia territory.

• Carroll used Corp and Mustain for one drive each in the fourth quarter. Corp's drive ended with a turnover on downs, and Mustain's drive ended with a 10-yard Tyler touchdown. Mustain did fumble a snap, though.

"We were fortunate to be able to get both quarterbacks in," Carroll said. "They deserved to play. They both had great camps, and it was cool to see them out there."

• Even though he only kicked one 20-yard field goal, David Buehler had a nice impact on the game. Buehler handled kick offs, forcing the Cavaliers to start from their own 20 after three touchbacks.

• Carroll praised the play of his receivers, saying they look like a much-improved group. Ronald Johnson and Damian Williams both made great catches along the sideline.

Both of the catches were reviewed, and the calls stood.

• The Trojans best offensive drive of the day didn't end with a touchdown. USC started back on its 15, before marching down the field in a time-consuming 15-play drive - by far the longest of the day.

However, the offense stalled inside the 10, and Buehler kicked a field goal.

• The 64,947 people in attendance were the most in Scott Stadium history.


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