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Sanchez focused on not throwing picks

November 12, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

USC has scored only 17 points in each of its last two victories against schools outside the state of Washington, but quarterback Mark Sanchez is not concerned.

Neither is offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

Sarkisian said Tuesday that with Sanchez being a first-year starter, "we can't ask for more than he's giving us."

Sanchez, a fourth-year junior, ranks 12th nationally and first in the Pacific 10 Conference in passing efficiency. He has thrown for 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions while completing 65% of his attempts.

Sanchez has not had a pass intercepted in the last two games, a rout of Washington and a 17-3 victory over California, which is tied for third nationally with 17 interceptions.

"I feel like I'm right where I need to be," Sanchez said. "I really turned the corner on . . . how important it is to take care of the ball."

Sarkisian, however, would like Sanchez's completion percentage to be near 70% by the time the Trojans finish the regular season. USC plays Stanford on Saturday and then has a bye before playing Notre Dame and UCLA.

Sanchez said he would remain focused on avoiding interceptions, even if it meant turning the ball over on downs and punting.

"Sark always says when you punt the ball nothing happens -- people get up from the stands, they go to the bathroom, they get another drink, get some peanuts, whatever," Sanchez said. "When you throw a pick, the whole place goes nuts.

"There's a difference. It matters when you throw a pick."

Green speaks

Tailback Broderick Green said playing time was not an issue in his decision to stop practicing and transfer at the end of the semester.

The redshirt freshman from Arkansas reiterated that he was leaving because of family issues, including the health of his maternal grandmother who suffered a stroke last year.

"Even if I was the starting back here, with all the family stuff going on, I'd probably leave," Green said during an interview outside Heritage Hall.

Green talked to coaches about remaining with the team through the end of the season, but with family concerns weighing on him, "I just got to the position where I couldn't take it anymore," he said.

It might have been different if his family was close by, said Green, who rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns against Washington State but did not play in the next game against Arizona.

Green has not decided upon a destination but mentioned Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana State and Tennessee as possibilities, all of which are closer to home.

"I don't care about football compared to my family," Green said. "My family comes first."

Quiet preparation

What a difference a year and one of the biggest upsets in college football history makes.

Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh and USC Coach Pete Carroll went into full monotone mode when discussing Saturday's game between the sixth-ranked Trojans and the Cardinal.

It was a far cry from 2007, when the two coaches provided entertaining banter over a period of months, Harbaugh saying that it would be Carroll's last season and later proclaiming that USC was perhaps the greatest football team in college football history.

Then the Cardinal, a 41-point underdog, went out and defeated the Trojans, 24-23, at the Coliseum, ending USC's 35-game home winning streak.

"Both teams will have fire in their eyes ready to play this football game," Harbaugh said. "We expect nothing less. I mean, it is a football game for us."

After other bits of enlightenment, Carroll followed with his own muted comments.

"They came through and made the plays they had to make, and it was a great finish for them,' Carroll said. "It wasn't for us."

Quick kicks

Defensive tackle Fili Moala was absent from practice because of a family situation, Carroll said. . . . Tailback Joe McKnight was scheduled to return today from Louisiana, where he traveled Monday night because his grandmother died, Carroll said.


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