September 5, 2008

Practice Insider: Late comeback saves first team

There were no major signs of concentration lapses as the Trojans' finished up an early season bye week Friday morning at Howard Jones Field.

Sure, there were a few interceptions that were dropped, and some receivers missed catches that could've been played, but the Trojan football team rallied to end things with a competitive clash.

Facing the service team, the Trojan regulars were pushed to their limits, holding off the black shirts 10-7 in overtime for the win on a David Buehler 27-yard field goal.

USC head coach Pete Carroll used the week off to help rest some of the Trojans' busier players like Brian Cushing, Kyle Moore, Rey Maualuga, Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison.

"We played the backup linebackers a lot because of our lack of depth there. They played with the starters quite a bit," Carroll said. "We pushed hard with the offensive linemen to see what they could do, and we moved some receivers around."

Players like freshmen Tyron Smith, Drew McAllister and Broderick Green all had nice weeks, each making big plays on numerous occasions.

"Nothing dramatic turned for anybody, but we got guys closer to playing," Carroll said. "I can't tell you how much it means for Tyron to be out there with the first group."

In the scrimmage, the Trojans also got to work on some specific game-like situations, working on an onside kick, a four-minute, clock-killing drive and a sped up version of a two-minute drill.

Mark Sanchez led the offense over most of the field before finding Patrick Turner on a perfectly thrown corner post to send the game into overtime.

The black shirts actually grabbed the lead early after Jurrell Casey tipped a Sanchez pass at the line and intercepted it, rumbling 40-plus yards for a score.

The scrimmage and everything the Trojans did this week featured a pinch of the Ohio State gameplan, Stanley Havili said.

"We did a good job this week, getting a brief look at Ohio State," he said. "We've been doing it all week, just kind of implementing little parts.

"It went really well."

Dull days

Sanchez and the offense admittedly have not been quite as crisp as they were in the week leading up to the Trojans' season opener.

Friday, for the most part, it was more of the same.

"I wasn't nearly as sharp. Today wasn't my best today," Sanchez said. "We didn't look very good on offense at all, and I'll take most of the blame for it."

Sanchez has turned the ball over more in the past few days, having passes tipped at the line, fumbling a snap and just missing some throws he made in the opener.

"It's just been a few of those days," Carroll said.

Extra Points

• Carroll said he'd try and make three different high school games Friday, and members of his staff will also hit the road - albeit lightly.

The staff is planning just some minor trips, possibly including one to Arizona, this weekend, Carroll said. Mostly, though, the staff will be in Southern California.

"This is all you can do with the bye, so we're going to go ahead and go for it," he said. "You have to use the days wisely."

• With nothing scheduled until meetings Sunday night, players are scattering for the weekend. Some, like Travon Patterson, will be checking up on friends playing for different schools. Others will just rest. Still, others will head home.

Carroll spoke with his team about not doing anything that could hurt the team while his players are on leave.

"It's a nice break for them, but we do lose control of the guys for a few days," he said.

Broderick Green wore No. 28, Chris Wells' number, on his black jersey Friday. Green said he didn't mind working with the service team mimicking Wells because it gives him a chance to work against the No. 1 defense.

Carroll said the team is preparing as if Wells will play when the Buckeyes and Trojans meet.

Kaluka Maiava got the day off.

Martin Coleman didn't practice and stood on the sidelines with a large protective boot on his right foot. Coleman said the injury is no more than a pulled muscle, and he expects to be back practicing by Monday.

• The Trojans took the field at 6:45 this morning, with the lights over the practice field on to light up a dim sky.

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