Mark Sanchez had a solid debut performance against the Wildcats Saturday. The redshirt sophomore quarterback from Mission Viejo brought some much needed energy and enthusiasm to the Trojans offense.
Sanchez had his struggles, throwing two interceptions in the first half but rebounded with a gutsy performance in the second half. On the day Sanchez was 19 of 31 for 130 yards with a touchdown pass and two interceptions.
The young quarterback looks to have a promising career ahead of him at USC.
Running Backs: C+
Running behind a banged up offensive line the Trojans running backs truly had to fight for every yard against Arizona. Senior Chauncey Washington gained 54 yards on 17 carries and had a bruising 18-yard touchdown run.
The story of the game was the emergence of freshman tailback Joe McKnight. McKnight flashed his electric moves on a 39-yard punt return which ignited the Trojan offense. He helped seal the Trojans' victory with a 59-yard run last in the fourth quarter.
With a big game under his belt, McKnight could be the spark the Trojans need heading into the tough part of their schedule.
Wide Receivers: C-
The USC receivers didn't make any spectacular plays but did a much better job catching the ball against Arizona. The passing game still lacks a consistent big play receiver and as a whole the receivers need to work on getting separation from the defenders if they are going to perform with any consistency.
Vidal Hazleton and Patrick Turner each had 3 catches.
Tight End: A-
Fred Davis has really become the best weapon in the Trojans passing game. Fred Davis led USC in receiving for the fourth time in the last 5 games. On the day the big tight end had 6 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. Davis' 25-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter was the play of the game for the offense.
Offensive Line: C+
The Trojans came into Saturday's game with Kristofer O'Dowd, Chilo Rachal and Charles Brown all out with various injuries and after the first half Zach Heberer and Sam Baker were also sidelined. Butch Lewis and Alatini Malu filled in for the Trojans and did a solid job.
When you consider how many injuries the offensive line had, they really put together a gutsy performance.
Looking ahead the offensive line should be healthy by the time USC has to face Oregon and Cal.
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line once again was great against the run, holding the Wildcats to just 22 yards rushing on 16 carries. This is the lowest net rushing total the Trojans have held an opponent to all year.
The Wildcats short passing game limited the pass rush ability. Freshman defensive end Everson Griffen had the Trojans only sack against Arizona.
Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama was on target all afternoon completing 30 of 43 passes. But like always, the Trojans secondary kept everything in front of them and limited the big plays.
The USC cornerbacks haven't always looked good but they continue to get the job done. Arizona's Mike Thomas caught 12 passes but never got in the endzone.
Safeties Kevin Ellison and Taylor Mays continued to make big hits in the secondary. The underrated Kevin Ellison is the Trojans best tackler in the open field. Ellison had a team high 9 tackles and both Mays and Ellison forced a fumble.
The Trojans were a banged up and deflated team coming off the devastating loss to Stanford last week. They had to scramble Saturday just to find enough healthy offensive linemen to put on the field, but came away with a hard fought victory.
The coaches deserve credit for keeping the team focused after suffering a tough loss and sustaining several injuries to key players. The Trojans didn't look pretty Saturday but at this point, getting the win is all that matters.
The Trojans wins haven't been pretty lately but when you consider that Sam Baker, Chilo Rachal, Kris O'Dowd, Brian Cushing, Zach Heberer, Stafon Johnson and Shareece Wright are all injured, the Trojans will take any win they can get.
The emergence of Joe McKnight and a solid performance by Mark Sanchez should have Trojan fans feeling a little better about the rest of the season.