If there were any doubts about Mark Sanchez and his knee they were answered pretty early on in USC’s rout of Virginia on Saturday. Sanchez seemed to have all the mobility that he had prior to the injury as he commanded the USC offense flawlessly. Sanchez had all the time in the world on a number of plays and there were plays where he hardly moved in the pocket at all with nothing but time as he waited for the play to develop.
We have seen this type of exciting play before and the fans have wanted to see it again since the end of the 2005 season.
USC fans have bemoaned the loss of Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett. Of the breathtaking player. Sanchez offered hope Saturday of a return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
He threw touchdown passes of 49yards to Ronald Johnson and 20yards to Patrick Turner in the second half. He kept the Cavaliers uncomfortably on their heels
It is entirely possible that thi team could bring some of that old magic back, but until we take care of business on Sept. 13th it may be a bit early to reminisce about the past.
It wasn't a perfect day for Sanchez as he forced a few throws, he threw a pass behind Joe McKnight, who was coming across the middle, that ended up being tipped for an interception. It was clear in the early going that Sanchez was following a conservative game plan that was designed to get him comfortable and in the groove. But once he settled in he really took off.
As he became more comfortable, Sanchez debated when to go for home runs and when not to against Virginia’s conservative zone defense. USC coach Pete Carroll wanted Sanchez to stay aggressive. His elusiveness in the pocket opens up big-play possibilities. On his 49-yard touchdown pass to Ronald Johnson in the third quarter, Sanchez stepped up to avoid the pass rush and took advantage of a flat-footed safety.
No disrespect to John David Booty but, we haven't had that the past two seasons. Being able to scramble and make plays adds so much more to an aggressive offense.
One of two things that really surprised me was that when Sanchez went on the move he was able to square up and make the throws that needed to be made. They were crisp and prety accurate and it showed that he was completely comfotable shifting weight from his left to right leg to make his throws. not being able to plant and shift that weight could make the ball sail or fall short of the target, depending on the play.
The other was the offensive line. For all the concern we had read about their inexperience and difficulty early in camp the line they seemed to really come together for this game.
Sanchez often stood still in the backfield because he was given so much time by the supposedly inexperienced offensive line.
"(Offensive line coach Pat) Ruel says we're cooking steaks back there because we get so much time," Sanchez said.
I know we discussed repeatedly here. If the line gave Sanchez time to let the plays develop the affects could be devastating. A lot of us were worried not just how they would do in this game against UVA but how that would translate for the game against Ohio State. While the results against UVA were outstanding I won't feel secure until I see how the line does against a far more experienced defense. One thing is for sure the O line has to have a tremendous amount of confidence in how they have progressed. That bodes well for SC's preparation for Ohio State.
Sanchez had so much time because of the O lines protection that he was able to pick and choose his receivers at will.
[...] Sanchez, throwing to a corps of nine receivers who caught passes, led by newcomer Damian Williams, the Arkansas transfer who caught a game-high seven for 91 yards.
"He's an absolute stud," Sanchez said. "I feel so comfortable throwing him the ball."
There were spectacular plays from holdovers like senior Patrick Turner, who had a slanting catch-and-run for 42 yards and a 20-yard TD on a post pattern one play later, and sophomore Ronald Johnson, who did a stop-and-go on a play-action that had Sanchez lofting the ball from nearly 65 yards away to a streaking Johnson in the back of the end zone.
That one play alone showed us a lot. It showed us Sanchez's mobility as he was able to step up when there was pressure comming. It showed us how well the O line was protecting Sanchez. It was either Butch Lewis or Charles Brown, I'm not sure as it happend so fast, was able to block the the pressure that was coming from behind forcing Sanchez to step up in the pocket and get the throw off. Then it showed us all that we have been wanting to see in regards to the receivers. RoJo completely beat the coverage streaking down the middle of the field for that 49-yard TD pass. All the things we had questions about were pretty much answered on that play.
So, we now we prepare for the big game against Ohio State, in the coming days we will take a look at what could be the most telling game for this team this season.