August 21, 2008

Scrimmage Insider: Corp, Mustain have good days

Almost every day after practice, USC head coach Pete Carroll speaks to the media about his quarterback situation.

After Thursday's simulated game at the Coliseum, this happened again.

While Carroll has taken a wait-and-see approach to the quarterback situation, the guys taking the snaps are starting to feel the heat.

The season opens in just over a week, and the guy named starting quarterback back in the spring continues to heal like Lazarus.

"I think it's our last shot," Mitch Mustain said. "We've got a few more practices, but this was the last big one. I definitely feel a sense of urgency."

With all the pressure and scrutiny heaped upon Mustain and Aaron Corp after Mark Sanchez's knee injury, the two quarterbacks managed level performances in front of 8,000 Trojan fans.

The pair led the White offense to a 28-7 victory over the Cardinal.

Crop started the game and completed 8-of-10 passes for 85 yards, and Mustain went 10-14 for 92 yards and touchdown.

Still, neither knows where he stands heading into game week.

"I don't know how they'll evaluate our performance," Mustain said. "And a lot of it depends on Mark."

Prior to the scrimmage, Sanchez, dressed in full pads, worked with the team in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills.

"He legitimately threw it," Carroll said. "Mark's going to be back to prepare if he makes it back from this work today.

"I think in the next couple of days, he'll be practicing full speed with us."

While the offense waits for news on Sanchez and his left knee, things moved forward with the two quarterbacks competing. Neither Corp nor Mustain turned the ball over or were at the helm for a major communication breakdown - perhaps the most promising news coming out of the scrimmage.

"That's the one thing we preach more than anything," Mustain said. "I've struggled with that off and on. Today was just a pretty solid day."

After a slow start for Corp and the offense, the unit picked up steam.

"I got better today, I think," Corp said. "I still need to keep learning. But, I'm more relaxed and more confident."

Carroll said he didn't have much chance for an immediate evaluation, but he didn't see anything that would lead to a sleepless night.

"We made it through," he said. "It was just another day for those guys growing. It worked out fine."

Moore big plays

Defensive end Kyle Moore made life plenty tough on Garrett Green and the Cardinal offense.

On the first drive of the game, Moore rushed into the backfield to pick up a sack. Then with the offense backed up against its own end zone, Moore got to the quarterback right as he threw, batting the ball up into the air.

Defensive end Everson Griffen easily caught the swatted ball for the game's first touchdown.

"It's an exciting time. The season's getting close," Moore said. "It's refreshing because we're getting ready to finally play someone else. This is a game we've been waiting to play since January."

We need numbers - stat

Some final stats from Thursday's scrimmage:

White Team

PASSING - Corp 8-10, 85 yards. Mustain 10-14, 92 yards, 1 touchdown.

RUSHING - S. Johnson 3-11. Bradford 6-39. McKnight 3-32 1 touchdown.

RECEIVING - Hazelton 5-44. Ayles 3-65. Patterson 2-25.

Cardinal Team

PASSING - G. Green 9-19, 134 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions.

RUSHING - B. Green 3- 17. Tyler 1-4.

RECEIVING - Cameron 3-81, Shoemate 3-34, Butler 3-19, 1 touchdown.

KICK RETURNS - Shoemate 3-63.

Extra points

Joe McKnight showcased his toughness again on Thursday, practicing with heavy padding on his injured fingers. McKnight averaged over 10 yards per carry and broke free for a dazzling 26-yard punt return.

"He's a really tough competitor," Carroll said. "He's fighting, politicking his way to get out here. His attitude and what he's saying tell me he doesn't want to miss anything."

• After the scrimmage, Garrett Green left the locker room, talking to one of his teammates about his day at quarterback.

"I was running for my life," Green said.

• Garrett Green did hook up with Jordan Cameron often early in the scrimmage. The biggest gain of the day came when Green scrambled and fired to Campbell down the middle.

The drive ended with Green finding Brice Butler for a 12-yard scoring pass.

• Mustain and Allen Bradford connected for a two-yard touchdown pass late in the scrimmage.

Blake Ayles had a big day, but he did fumble as he fought to get into the end zone. Luckily for the offense, Zack Heberer fell on the ball for the touchdown. One official on the field said there's no doubt that the call would've been reviewed.

• A big list of players didn't participate in the scrimmage including Fili Moala, Shareece Wright and David Ausberry. Carroll said none of the injuries were serious, and he said this is the healthiest team he's had going into week one.

C.J. Gable said he expects to practice as soon as Monday. He was on the sideline, walking without crutches.

Luthur Brown and McKnight exchanged heated words after McKnight was tackled near the sideline.

Drew McAllister led all defenders with eight tackles.

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