Booty is in line to start this week

Times Staff Writer

USC quarterback John David Booty, who sat out the last three games because of a broken finger, is on track to start against Oregon State.

“If John feels 100%, and we get through this thing, he’ll play this week,” Coach Pete Carroll said Monday.

Booty worked with the first-team offense during practice and said the condition of the middle finger on his throwing hand had improved to the point where he felt like he did at the start of training camp.

“I got my velocity back, the ball is spinning again,” said Booty, a fifth-year senior. “The last couple weeks it was kind of coming out a little funky because I was pushing it a little bit.”


Booty injured the middle finger on his throwing hand and four of his passes were intercepted in the Trojans’ loss to Stanford on Oct. 6. He was on the sideline as an emergency backup to sophomore Mark Sanchez in victories over Arizona and Notre Dame and Saturday’s loss at Oregon.

Sanchez could start again if Booty’s finger worsens under an increased workload this week. But on Monday, Sanchez worked with the second unit and said he had put two second-half interceptions against the Ducks behind him.

“You’ve got to get past it and learn from the mistakes,” Sanchez said. “There are a lot of good plays in there . . . and there’s a couple we’d like to take back.”

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, under fire on Internet message boards for conservative and questionable play-calling, also would like to have a few plays back.

USC failed to convert a fourth-and-one play at the Oregon 12-yard line early in the first quarter. The Trojans lined up with an empty backfield and gave the ball to running back Joe McKnight, who was in motion moving left to right.

“They had the thing nailed coming off the edge and stoned it,” Sarkisian said. “Obviously, hindsight is 20-20. I’d be the first one to tell you if I had to do it all over again I’d call something else. But I don’t get to do that. It’s not a video game.”

Of the decision to have Sanchez pass on second and one, a play that resulted in an interception, Sarkisian said: “If I had to do it all over again I’d take that decision out of his hands. . . . It’s second and one, we get a first down, we keep playing.”

On having Stafon Johnson rush the ball on the first two plays of the Trojans’ final drive, which began at the USC 17 with 3:10 remaining, Sarkisian said: “The first one, I’m thinking we’re getting 20, 25 (Johnson gained six yards). . . . I probably got stubborn. I called it again because they didn’t change personnel. They didn’t change defenses and their corner makes a heck of a play and makes a tackle in the backfield.”

Carroll said Sunday that play-calling was more conservative because of Sanchez’s inexperience. “Mark has played really tough football for us,” Sarkisian said. “He’s battled. Obviously, he’s not made some of the best decisions that we’d like him to make, but he’s a competitive kid, and he gives us what he’s got.”

Asked if play-calling becomes more aggressive with Booty in the lineup, Sarkisian said, “Oh, there’s no doubt.”

Offensive tackle Sam Baker said an MRI exam revealed a torn but partially attached hamstring but no hip injury. He is doubtful for Saturday’s game. . . . Offensive tackle Drew Radovich on the holding penalty that nullified a touchdown by McKnight: “I just watched it about 10 times on film and thought about it around 1,500 times the previous 24 hours. . . . I got a knockdown for it, but I’d rather have the seven than the knockdown.” . . . Seldom-used tailback Hershel Dennis met with Carroll after practice to discuss his role. “I want so much to help the team win -- I’m healthy, hungry and want to contribute,” Dennis, a sixth-year senior, said before the meeting. “I feel like I’m wasting space. . . . When guys are down, why not look at me to help and contribute?” . . . Offensive lineman Chilo Rachal was absent from practice because of illness, Carroll said.