Sanchez gets all first-team time

Times Staff Writer

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez practiced with an extra spring in his step Monday, the prospect of possibly starting for the first time a reality.

“I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel any different,” said Sanchez, a third-year sophomore.

Sanchez took all of the first-team repetitions because starter John David Booty suffered a broken finger in the Trojans’ stunning loss to Stanford. Booty did not practice, but said he would try to grip a ball today and practice this week so he can play against Arizona on Saturday at the Coliseum.

“That’s my mind-set right now, to get myself ready,” said Booty, who wore a small splint on the end of the middle finger of his throwing hand. “There’s really not a whole lot you can do but ice it down. That’s what I’ll be doing all week. Hopefully, come Saturday, I’ll be ready to go.”


Nevertheless, USC Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian are moving ahead and preparing Sanchez.

“We have to plan as if [Booty’s] not going to play, and if he can that’s a bonus,” Sarkisian said.

Sanchez, who suffered a broken thumb during camp, has played sparingly this season, completing two of three passes for 23 yards with an interception. Sanchez thought he might play against Stanford when Booty’s finger hit another player’s helmet after a completed pass in the second quarter.

“He just came off and was kind of shaking his hand, and I was like, ‘Uh oh, here we go,’ ” Sanchez said. “Sark said, ‘Get your helmet, get some snaps just in case.’ ”

Carroll and Sarkisian, however, stuck with Booty, who had four passes intercepted in the second half. Booty also had two passes intercepted against Washington.

“When you throw six interceptions in two weeks there’s some decision-making that has to get addressed as well as there has to be attention to detail in route running,” Sarkisian said.

If Booty were healthy, would Sarkisian consider Sanchez?

Booty has “done a lot for this program, he’s played extremely well in big football games, and he had an unlucky second half, really,” Sarkisian said, adding, “As always around here, competition is always open at every position. If he went out and struggled this week in practice and wasn’t very good and Mark played good, then yeah, it might be a topic of conversation.”

Sarkisian took responsibility for a poor play call on Booty’s third interception, which set up the Cardinal’s game-winning drive. The Trojans faced a third-and-19 situation at their 37-yard-line with slightly more than three minutes left.

“At that point, the thought process really should have been something a lot more conservative,” Sarkisian said. “Give us an opportunity to punt the ball and play defense.”

Sarkisian acknowledged hearing fans boo the Trojans.

“The first thing I thought, ‘Man, the same people that were asking me for my autograph are booing us now,’ ” he said, laughing. “That’s football. That’s the way it is.

“You don’t make a big deal out of it. That’s ball, man. We weren’t playing very good.”

Carroll said USC players were not instructed to run off the field without shaking hands with Stanford players after the Trojans’ loss, their first at the Coliseum since 2001.

“I have to apologize for that,” Carroll said. “That was not a statement that was directed in any way. They hadn’t lost there in six years. None of those guys had ever seen a team lose there.”

Tailback Stafon Johnson (foot) participated in only a few light drills and said he hoped to practice by Wednesday. “I have to be patient,” he said. . . . Allen Bradford said he was not frustrated after not playing at tailback against Stanford. Seniors Chauncey Washington, Hershel Dennis and Desmond Reed and freshman Joe McKnight all played. Bradford said Dennis, “showed a lot of commitment to get back on the field. I feel that I can’t complain. Chauncey’s been through a lot, and Desmond has been through a lot. I’m just a sophomore. . . . Whenever my opportunity comes up, I’ll go in and do what I’ve got to do.”