Sanchez appears likely to get start

Times Staff Writer

John David Booty tested his broken finger by throwing passes Tuesday, but Mark Sanchez appears on track to start at quarterback for USC on Saturday against Arizona.

Sanchez, a third-year sophomore, spent part of the afternoon fielding dozens of questions from reporters after Coach Pete Carroll’s weekly news conference.

“I need to be conservative and play well and play smart,” Sanchez said, describing his possible role as “taking the keys to this awesome sports car we have here and not crashing.”

Sanchez continued to get comfortable with the controls by taking all of the snaps with the first-team offense.


Meanwhile, Booty threw passes for the first time since Saturday, when he had four passes intercepted against Stanford.

Booty, who broke a bone in the middle finger of his right hand during the first half, threw about 50 balls.

“It felt better than I expected, it’s just my accuracy is not where I quite want it to be,” Booty said, adding, “I’m not going to go out there if I don’t think I can play the way I’m capable of playing.”

Booty said that he would continue to ice the finger with hopes that the swelling would subside.


Carroll, however, sounded as if he was leaning toward playing Sanchez and allowing Booty to fully recover.

During the news conference, Carroll said: “It could turn out that if John is OK, that we hold him in reserve and go with Mark through the preparation. . . . If we needed him in an emergency, maybe we could do that.”

After the practice, Carroll said, “If we give him a break, maybe he can come back strong and be ready to finish the season. I don’t know that, we’re just kind of guessing, but we’ll try and wait to see how it responds.”

Sanchez said his father, Nick, a fire captain in Orange County, eased any nervousness by leaving him a funny voice mail after a brief conversation Monday night.

“He said, ‘Hey Mark, it’s your dad. One of the guys at the fire station said they have some tickets for Disneyland. We’re going Saturday if you’re not doing anything around 12, so call me back,’ ” Sanchez recalled.

USC’s game against Arizona begins at 12:30 p.m.

Sanchez, asked to describe the post-Stanford mood on campus, said: “I don’t think I’ve gotten through a single class without somebody mentioning something. . . . One of the teachers said, ‘Am I going to be disappointed if I go to the game this week?’

“He wasn’t directly talking to me, but I’m sure he knew I was in the class.”


Center Matt Spanos did not practice again because of cuts on his right pinkie and ring finger, but he said he would play against Arizona regardless of whether “it opens or closes, if it’s infected or not. I could care less what it looks like.” . . . Tailback Stafon Johnson (foot) did some running and said, “if I’m 90%, I’m playing.” . . . Linebacker Thomas Williams (ankle) did not practice. Clay Matthews appears on track to start at strong-side linebacker. . . . Tailback Joe McKnight sat out much of practice because of illness, Carroll said.