Mitch Mustain acknowledged the urgency.
Sophomore Aaron Corp entered USC's quarterback competition with an edge and has done nothing to lose it. Freshman Matt Barkley is closing fast.
So today's scrimmage on campus is a huge day for Mustain, the junior from Arkansas who is trying to remain in the race to succeed Mark Sanchez.
"I've got to really have a solid performance . . . to make something out of it and kind of make a splash," Mustain said after Friday's practice.
Mustain was regarded by some as the front-runner to win the job because of his game experience. Mustain was 8-0 as a freshman starter at Arkansas in 2006 before transferring to USC.
But Corp has played without major error through 11 workouts and Barkley has displayed uncommon poise and command of the offense for a freshman.
Mustain also has had his moments, but he has been hurt by inconsistency and, in some instances, limited opportunities, dropped passes, fumbles by teammates and bad luck.
"I would have liked it to go a little different direction, but we'll see what happens," Mustain said.
Coach Pete Carroll said that while "everything counts" in practices, scrimmages such as today's "always weigh heavily" in evaluating players and their potential roles.
Mustain, though, is under no added pressure, Carroll said.
"It's a big day for everybody, and those guys all want to show something," Carroll said. "Mitch is no different than anybody else in that regard."
That's the ticket
After a slow start caused by economic uncertainty, USC officials said they once again sold out the 59,000 season tickets that are available at the Coliseum.
That figure does not include tickets allotted for students and opponents.
"Everybody wondered what the response would be in the economic environment," Carroll said. "Hopefully, we can do them right by playing well for them."
Craig Kelley, an assistant athletic director, said about 1,300 ticket holders from last season did not renew, but those seats quickly sold out online.
USC is still selling ticket packages that include all home games except UCLA. Single-game tickets go on sale in a few weeks.
Today's scrimmage begins at 11:30 a.m. It will include about 80 plays, Carroll said. . . . Players will participate in the annual "Swim With Mike" fundraiser after practice. . . . Tailback Joe McKnight (foot) did a few drills this week, but he is not expected to participate in today's scrimmage or next week's season-ending scrimmage at the Coliseum.