Southern Cal has little margin for error after stunning upset


Now that Southern California coach Pete Carroll has analyzed over and over what went wrong, he's ready to move forward.

He really doesn't have much choice following one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

"I'm excited about trying to fix this thing. I take a lot of responsibility for it," Carroll said Tuesday &

three days after 41-point underdog Stanford rallied to beat then-No. 2 USC 24-23, handing the Trojans their first loss at the Los Angeles Coliseum in six years.

Carroll said one of the prices he paid in the aftermath was a loss of sleep.

"It's a tumultuous time in a mind like mine," he said. "The next night, you collapsed. The wins go away, the losses don't go away. Fortunately, we haven't had very many over the years. I wouldn't be able to think straight.

"That's behind us, as far as we can control it. We'll direct our focus toward Arizona."

The 10th-ranked Trojans (4-1, 2-1 Pac-10) face the Wildcats (2-4, 1-2) Saturday at the Coliseum before hitting the road for four of their last six games.

Carroll realizes they have little margin for error if they hope to contend for the national championship. But he also knows his team can't win the rest of its games in one weekend.

"It's the very next step we take that's the most important," he said.

There's a good possibility the Trojans will have to take that step with sophomore Mark Sanchez making his first career start at quarterback, replacing the injured John David Booty.

That scenario worked for Stanford against USC, with Tavita Pritchard stepping in for T.C. Ostrander.

"We're preparing for Mark to start," Carroll said after practice Tuesday. "He had a good day today. We have to get him ready to go. John David might be able to play by Saturday. We're trying to wait and see how it responds.

"We're not sure what's going to happen with John David this week. It could turn out that if John David's OK, we might hold him in reserve."

Booty passed for 364 yards against the Cardinal, but broke a bone in the middle finger of his throwing hand in the second quarter and threw four interceptions after that.

The Trojans were aware of Booty's injury at halftime.

"He felt OK, he was throwing the ball all right," Carroll said. "He had good zip on the ball, he had good touch. It was the energy of the game that kept him going."

Sanchez took all the first-team reps in practice Monday and Tuesday. Booty wore a splint Monday and a smaller wrap Tuesday, when he said he made about 50 throws on the sideline.

"It felt better than I expected," he said. "My accuracy isn't where I want it to be. I was surprised the way it did feel throwing the ball. (But) it doesn't feel great. I've got to live with that. Tomorrow I'll try and extend it a little bit."

Booty said none of his throws were more than about 20 yards.

"I sure hope so," he replied when asked if he thought he could play Saturday. "In my mind, I can't tell myself anything but that. I'm just icing it as much as I can. I can deal with the pain, it's whether or not I can be accurate."

Carroll said he wouldn't wait until Saturday to name a starter, but didn't set any other deadline.

"We're in an interesting situation, we'll see how it goes," he said. "We've always been excited about the time Mark's going to play. We love the guy. It takes a while."

Booty, a fifth-year senior, spent three years watching Matt Leinart play quarterback before getting his shot. Sanchez has been waiting and watching for 21/2 seasons.

"It's an exciting opportunity for me," Sanchez said. "I've just got to be ready to play if they need me. It's just about being prepared. It's a tough atmosphere not to get excited about that. I've just got to be cool.

"If anybody's ready for this, I think I am. I haven't done this many interviews since high school. I'm cherishing the moment. It's a matter of taking the keys to this awesome sports car we have and not crashing."

Carroll pointed to turnovers along with a lack of execution as USC's main problems. The Trojans committed five turnovers while forcing only one against Stanford, giving them 14 to their opponents' seven overall.

"That's football, and it always has been," he said. "Right now, we have to stop it."

Carroll also said there was a lot more involved to USC's problems than Booty.

"The quarterback always gets the blame and gets the credit and gets the Heismans," the coach said. "That's so obvious. All in all, it's a contribution by more than one guy who makes us have a result like that.

"He knows he's got to play better than he did. He's got to hope for good complimentary help from everyone else."

Carroll specifically mentioned the wide receiver position as an area where the Trojans needed improvement.

"Our young guys are still finding their way," he said. "They're talented, they're good. In this game, I really wished I could have helped them a little more."

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