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USC FYI

Sanchez won't be nervous this time

October 22, 2008|Gary Klein | Klein is a Times staff writer.

What a difference a year makes.

That's what USC quarterback Mark Sanchez thought as he reflected on last season's game against Arizona when he started for the first time.

Sanchez, playing in place of injured John David Booty, overcame nerves and two interceptions to lead USC to a 20-13 victory at the Coliseum on Oct. 13, 2007, throwing a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Fred Davis for the go-ahead score.

On Saturday, Sanchez will face the Wildcats again, this time in Tucson, and this time as the Pacific 10 Conference's passing efficiency leader.

"It's like night and day," Sanchez said this week. "I watched the film from last year and I'm like, 'What am I doing?' "

"I just wish I would have settled down sooner because I was on edge the whole first half -- pretty scared and timid. . . . I feel way better this year. It's not even comparable."

Sanchez has passed for 19 touchdowns with six interceptions.

After Tuesday's practice, Sanchez said he expected a raucous atmosphere at Arizona Stadium, where Wildcats fans will turn out en masse to rattle the Trojans.

"We warm up right in front of their student section," he said. "It's a pretty rowdy crowd. They get hostile and personal."

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A sort of homecoming

Trojans center Kristofer O'Dowd, who grew up in Tucson not far from Arizona's campus, anticipates that about 100 friends and family members will attend the game.

O'Dowd, a sophomore, regularly attended games at Arizona Stadium and the Wildcats were among his top three choices coming out of Salpointe Catholic High.

"It's going to be like every other game," O'Dowd said. "It's just that I'll recognize a lot more people on the side."

Arizona Coach Mike Stoops is very familiar with a player who has become the leader of the Trojans' offensive line.

"His family has been in Tucson a long time," Stoops said. "In fact, I'm supposed to give his mother some tickets, so maybe he'll take it easy on us."

Said O'Dowd: "He was just joking around."

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Quick kicks

Tailback Joe McKnight (toe) was limited to only a few drills but said he would play Saturday. . . . Juniors Nick Howell and Alex Parsons continued to work with the first unit at right tackle and right guard, respectively. . . . Fullback Stanley Havili is nursing a sore ankle.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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Up next

USC (5-1, 3-1)

at Arizona (5-2, 3-1)

Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Prime

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