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USC FYI

Intensity will pick up soon

September 06, 2008|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Times Staff Writers

After delivering a star-making performance in top-ranked USC's opener against Virginia, quarterback Mark Sanchez is eager to keep the momentum going.

But with an open date today, coaches instructed Sanchez and his teammates to remain truly idle and not work out.

"We don't need the rest, but we'll take it," Sanchez said after an early-morning practice Friday. "We'll be able to sit down and relax this weekend and watch a lot of football."

Many eyes will be on third-ranked Ohio State, which plays Ohio today and then visits the Coliseum next week.

"We'll keep them on our mind," Sanchez said.

Defensive lineman Clay Matthews planned to track his brother, Casey, in Oregon's game against Utah State. He also will watch his cousin, Kevin, play for Texas A&M against New Mexico.

Offensive lineman Butch Lewis has other plans.

"Sleep!" he said.

Sanchez will attempt to relax, but he is returning home to Mission Viejo armed with a DVD of Ohio State action.

On Friday, during a lively scrimmage between starters and reserves, freshman defensive lineman Jurrell Casey intercepted a Sanchez pass and returned it for a touchdown. Walk-on linebacker Ross Cumming also had an interception.

"Oh man, not my best day," said Sanchez, who recovered from the miscues and made an outstanding throw to receiver Patrick Turner for a touchdown.

Coach Pete Carroll, pointing to the two-minute drill that Sanchez engineered for the touchdown, said the quarterback will benefit in subtle ways from having two weeks of preparation for Ohio State.

Sanchez said a sense of urgency will come next week.

"All the studying and hard work we put in the week before is going to pay off so we can practice even faster," he said.

Parting words

As coaches raced from practice to begin a big weekend of recruiting, Carroll counseled players to avoid situations that could lead to trouble.

"We lose control of the guys for a couple days here, so hopefully Rule No. 1 is in effect: Everybody's got mindfulness and consciousness about our team," Carroll said.

Senior linebacker Rey Maualuga expected most teammates to go out.

"Everyone's still young. Everyone's going to go and have fun," he said. "But we've got to take care of each other."

Maualuga planned to play watchdog.

"I've been in that situation. I messed up here and there, but I grew up from it," he said. "I learned from it, and I'm going to make sure nobody else messes up."

Gaining experience

Carroll was pleased with the Trojans' work this week, especially the play of backup linebackers, safeties and young offensive linemen.

"Nothing dramatic turned for anybody, but we got guys closer to playing," Carroll said.

Casey, who is listed at 6 feet 1 and 280 pounds, played in the opener against Virginia and could take on a larger role as the season progresses.

"He started out real fast in camp, then got worn down and didn't do much for about 10 days," Carroll said.

"He's starting to come back around. . . . We're going to get him in there and see if he can help us."

Wells watch

Ohio State running back Chris Wells will not play against Ohio because of a foot injury suffered against Youngstown State, but Carroll expects him to play against the Trojans.

"We're not worrying over it," Carroll said. "We're just figuring he's going to play and we're going to get their best shot."

--

ary.klein@latimes.com

david.wharton@latimes.com

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