Trojans Pass First Test

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The USC Trojans trounced the Virginia Cavaliers 52-7 on Saturday, behind the play of Mark Sanchez and answered a number of questions in the process. Kevin Carden was there and has a recap of all the action from Charlottesville.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - How will Sanchez's knee hold up? Will the offensive line come together? Are the wide receivers really improved?

All those questions and more were answered with the Trojans first three offensive drives of the 2008 football season, which all ended with touchdowns.

The Trojans sliced though the Virginia defense early and often Saturday with a quick strike passing game, something that was sorely missed in 2007.

"We had a lot of guys that made a lot of big plays," Pete Carroll said after the Trojans 52-7 trouncing of the Virginia Cavaliers.

"That was an extra aspect of our offense that I felt like we didn't have the last couple of years. We all sensed it, and we have been excited about it, and Mark proved it today."

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez didn't appear limited by his injured knee and was on target all afternoon completing 26 of 35 pass attempts for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 49-yard touchdown strike to Ronald Johnson.

"We just had a great game plan and knew where to throw the ball," Sanchez said. "I had time to throw thanks to the offensive line and the receivers made big time catches."

"Mark (Sanchez) really has the eyes for getting the ball down the field," Carroll added. "You give him time and he'll find guys who'll take advantage of it."

On Saturday, wide receivers Ronald Johnson and Patrick Turner took advantage of Sanchez's hot hand, scoring on touchdown receptions of 49 and 42 yards respectively.

"Before the play even started Mark (Sanchez) told me to keep running," Johnson said of his 49-yard touchdown reception. "He threw it out there and I saw it and went after it.

"When it was in the air I was like, ‘oh, oh, here it goes, here it goes," and once it came down I caught it."

The USC receivers quieted all of their critics from last season by sparking the Trojans offensive explosion in the season opener at Virginia.

"We definitely came out here with a chip on our shoulder," Ronald Johnson said of the receiving corps that looked much improved on Saturday. "Last year we weren't really all that good, but now we came out and know what to do, so we are ready."

As explosive as the Trojans offense was the defense was just as dominant holding the Cavaliers to 187 yards and just seven points on the day.

"They are big, fast veteran players who know how to run their scheme," Virginia Head Coach Al Groh of the USC defense.

Pete Carroll stated this is the fastest defense that he has had at USC, and that was on display today as the USC defense swarmed all over the field.

"Their speed was pretty unbelievable the whole game," said Virginia quarterback Peter Lalich. "It's something they have all across the board, at every position. They really were able to use it to their advantage."

"Those two linebackers can really run and their safeties play like linebackers," Al Groh added.

Pete Carroll always preaches the importance of causing turnovers and today the USC defense forced Virginia to turn the ball over 4 times (3 fumbles, 1 interception).

"Coach Carroll tells us every day in practice that we aim for three takeaways," said Clay Matthews who tied for the team lead with 6 tackles and also had a quarterback sack, forced a fumble and had a fumble recovery.

"Any time we can get that many takeaways that's a successful game for us and usually it will turn out that we will be victorious."

The Trojans have dismantled several quality nonconference opponents since the arrival of Pete Carroll, and Saturday was no different.

"Virginia really had momentum from their fans at the beginning of the game," Clay Matthews said. "When it got to be the third and fourth quarter, you could really hear the USC fans, especially the band playing the fight song."

Joe McKnight added some excitement on Saturday. (Photo by Nathaniel Greenbaum)

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden
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