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Team Gets a Final Break Before Opener

Times Staff Writer

After 24 consecutive days of practices, meetings or school -- including nearly a week of all three -- USC players finally earned a day off.

A mock game on Saturday was a final chance to iron out mistakes before the Trojans begin game-week preparations for their opener at Arkansas.

“Now I feel like we’ve officially finished camp,” Coach Pete Carroll said. “The excitement and energy level will all pick up naturally as it does and we’ve got to hope we can stay focused and put together a real nice plan.”

Players said they welcomed today’s break and would be ready when practice resumed Monday.

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“Everybody seems to be in tune with the game plan and everyone is running really well together right now,” senior linebacker Dallas Sartz said.

Saturday’s mock game, however, showed there is still work to be done.

Last Sunday, the first- and second-unit offenses and defenses dominated the scout team at the Coliseum.

But on Saturday, the scout team played fiercely and took advantage of two turnovers by quarterback John David Booty, who passed for three touchdowns and connected on several long throws.

The scout team converted an interception and fumbled snap into touchdowns against the second-unit defense for a 14-14 tie at halftime. The starting defense posted a shutout the rest of the way and the offense scored on Booty’s four-yard pass to flanker Steve Smith, tailback Desmond Reed’s eight-yard run and Mark Sanchez’s seven-yard pass to Vidal Hazelton.

Carroll said the day’s main objective was repairing communication and substitution glitches. “We saw some things that we need to fix up,” he said.

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While fellow freshman tailbacks C.J. Gable, Allen Bradford and Emmanuel Moody worked with the first-team offense during the week, Stafon Johnson was relegated to the scout team.

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On Saturday, Johnson scored on a one-yard run and a 38-yard pass from Michael McDonald to buoy the scout team.

“Everybody has to go through a little proving stage to get back,” Johnson said.

Running backs coach Todd McNair, who began an eight-year NFL career on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad, praised Johnson’s effort.

“His attitude is good and he’s working hard now,” McNair said. “All of them, that whole [scout] team was like that today.”

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Moody was absent to attend a wedding in Texas, Carroll said.... Linebacker Brian Cushing did not participate because of back spasms, but said he would be ready to practice Monday.... Linebacker Kaluka Maiava suffered an undetermined shoulder injury.... Receiver Dwayne Jarrett (thigh) warmed up but did not participate in scrimmage situations.... Carroll said running back Chauncey Washington (hamstring) would practice Monday.... Running back Michael Coleman, trying to come back from hip surgery, was absent for the third straight day but will return Monday, Carroll said.


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