quack quack quack *gunshots* *silence*
After a quiet 20 minutes to open the Trojans first game since losing to Oregon State last Thursday, USC sprang to life. The running game never really hit full stride, and the Trojans relied on the arm of Mark Sanchez for a 44-10 Duck Demolition. However, it was the arm of Sanchez that concerns the Trojan faithful this morning.
It's his leg.
With under four minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, USC leading 34-10, Sanchez got yanked down from behind - not quite a horsecollar as some 'SC fans were shouting at the Coliseum, but a dangerous hit on a quarterback nevertheless - apparently hyper-extending his knee and briefly knocking him out of the game. While the USC starting QB only missed on series (in which his backup Mitch Mustain threw an interception), fans around me in the Coliseum began grumbling about Pete Carroll leaving Sanchez in the game during a blowout.
For all those Monday Morning Quarterbacks out there who want to second-guess Carroll's decision to have Sanchez in the game at the point he got injured, let's look at the facts.
While it's easy to get upset about seeing a QB with so much talent go down in a heap, it's even easier to let that anger take you to a place of sports-irrationality. Taking Sanchez out anytime before that point would have been the wrong decision.
+ The Trojans lead by 24 points (minimum three scores) with more than 18 minutes to play in the game.
+ The Trojans been up on teams before by three scores during the Pete Carroll era and have allowed teams to come back late, thus creating a need to keep the pressure on the opponent. (video)
+ Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and John David Booty seemingly always finished the third quarter and would routinely play into the fourth quarter before being lifted for the backup.
USC is in a position where they need what can only be described as style points. They have to win and win big after dropping a game to Oregon State. The Top 10 becomes easy to reach as the season moves along, however the top two spots are the ones that take something extra. The Trojans must win by large margins as they have in all three Ws this season to impress voters, writers, coaches all across the country. That is the biggest outside factor on their season. The only way to control how people vote is to give them a reason - a 44-10 victory over a ranked team reason - to bump the Trojans up.
While Sanchez sat out a series before returning to lead USC on one more drive, that swan song was really more for the Trojans to show the world - if not at least themselves - that Sanchez was indeed okay (however, his limping after handing the ball off suggests otherwise).
He'll have the week to recover and should be fine next week versus the Sun Devils. But don't fault Carroll or the Trojans coaches for leaving him in when it's still the third quarter. After all, it's the 2008 season that the Trojans must look out for.