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Carroll still wants balance

November 17, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

For at least one night, USC regained its once indisputable standing as Tailback U.

The Trojans' reliance on their running game in the second half against Stanford on Saturday harkened to the 1970s, when USC left opponents no choice but to try to stop the inevitable.

But will it continue?

Coach Pete Carroll said Sunday that the shift against the Cardinal was the result of circumstances -- USC struggled mightily in the first quarter -- and indicated that the Trojans would continue to strive for a balanced offense.

"We're not changing anything," Carroll said. "I don't know what we're going to call in the next game. Nobody knows that."

USC's 45-23 victory did not produce an uptick in the Bowl Championship Series standings. The Trojans remained No. 6, with an open date this week and then games against Notre Dame and UCLA to finish the season.

Tailbacks C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight are eager to continue bearing the load for an offense that ranks 18th nationally in rushing after Saturday's 282-yard performance.

Gable's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown sparked the Trojans late in the first half, but the sophomore was most determined during the fourth quarter when he carried five times for 54 yards during a six- play, 70-yard drive scoring drive.

"I was in a rhythm, so I just kept on going and I was hoping they wouldn't take me out," said Gable, who finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown.

Carroll said Sunday that coaches do not monitor during games how carries are divided and emphasized that the Trojans already run the ball more than they throw it.

USC has rushed the ball 388 times and passed it 297.

The switch to a more obvious reliance on the run Saturday occurred after the Trojans tried to pass seven times in nine plays, took two sacks and were outgained, 149-6, in the first quarter.

Carroll said he talked to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian on the sideline about adjusting a game plan that had been devised to attack Stanford on the perimeter.

"We just got nothing done by doing it that way," Carroll said. However, he said he remained pleased with quarterback Mark Sanchez's play.

Sanchez was 11 for 17 for 136 yards and two touchdowns, but never looked completely comfortable. The 17 attempts were the fewest in Sanchez's 13 games as a starter, dating to 2007 when he started three games in place of injured John David Booty.

Sanchez has passed for 26 touchdowns this season, with only seven interceptions.

"He's doing fine," Carroll said. "I think he's playing really good football. We're lucky he's on our side."

100 and counting

Saturday's game marked Carroll's 100th with the Trojans.

Carroll is 85-15 and has won two national titles, but when asked what came to mind when he thought of his time with the Trojans, he said: "A handful of games that had we won, we would've done a whole lot better.

"There were three or four that [could have] made an enormous difference as far as being out ahead of the pack."

Sending a message

Carroll said he called a timeout with three seconds left because the Trojans had too many players on the field when Stanford lined up for a field goal. The Cardinal then executed a pass play for a touchdown. Carroll said Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh "was trying to score points and keep battling. He sent a good message to his team.". . . . McKnight aggravated his right big toe while rushing for 72 yards. . . . The 230 yards in kickoff returns by Gable and Ronald Johnson moved the Trojans into first nationally at 30.1 yards per return.


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