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Trojans pick Buckeyes

Sanchez airs it out for 172 yards, four touchdowns

Posted: September 13, 2008 11:01 p.m.
Updated: November 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

With the nation's No. 5 team's quarterback grimacing and squinting on the grass with under three minutes to play in the second quarter Saturday night at the Rose Bowl at Pasadena, a stampede of one kicked up turf right behind him.

The stampede of one, the nation's No. 1 team's prized linebacker, then dove into the end zone - adding emphasis to the punishment.

That linebacker, USC's Rey Maualuga, took a Todd Boeckman pass 48 yards to paydirt late in the second quarter and the Trojans' defense along with the passing of Mark Sanchez helped Southern California throttle a Chris Wells-less Ohio State team with a 35-3 beating Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

"He's a stud," said USC quarterback of Maualuga. "He has this big-play capability. We're lucky to have him because he could be playing on Sundays. He's the heartbeat of the defense."

The game, hyped as the 2008 college football regular season's top heart-pounder, didn't live up to expectations.

Ohio State (2-1) lacked any offensive identity, shuffling in and out running backs in place of the injured Wells.

Wells, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and feared rusher, stood on the sideline in track pants, unable to play due to a lingering foot injury suffered in the Buckeyes' season-opening win Aug. 30 against Youngstown State.

Instead, the USC defense dictated the game's flow and the Trojans' offense followed suit.

Maualuga, a preseason All-American and Butkus Award candidate, stepped in front of Buckeyes receiver Brian Hartline at the 50-yard line, then rumbled down the right sideline, bypassing a downed Boeckman and into the end zone, putting the Trojans up 21-3.

Boeckman was later blindsided by linebacker Clay Matthews and fumbled the ball over to the Trojans with 59 seconds to play in the half.

Much was made of the Maualuga-James Laurinaitis linebacker battle before the game, but it was the Trojans' defense as a whole that proved to be the bigger difference.

The Trojans picked off two passes, made five sacks and limited the Buckeyes to just 207 total yards.

Ohio State, though, started strong. The Buckeyes mounted a slow, deliberate drive on their second possession that resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Ryan Pretorius that gave Ohio State the early 3-0 lead. The Buckeyes ate up 8:45 of the first quarter clock, going 69 yards on 17 plays.  But Ohio State showed little differentiation on offense throughout.

Boeckman never managed the big strike and his cohort, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, showed flashes with his legs, but couldn't break the big play.

Neither could any member of the Buckeyes' running game. Wells was missed.

"His presence brings a lot of confidence," said OSU head coach Jim Tressel of Wells. "He's as good as anyone in the country. But that's the way football is."

The Trojans, though, were able to score quickly and often.

USC answered the Ohio State score with one of its own.

Two Joe McKnight runs totaling 20 yards set up a 35-yard touchdown toss from Mark Sanchez to Stanley Havili down the left sideline that gave USC a 7-3 lead with 33 seconds left to play in the first quarter.

The Trojans quickly mounted an attack on their next drive, again with McKnight's lightning on the ground.

The shifty sophomore took a first-down run from the 50-yard line 24 yards. That again set up a Sanchez touchdown pass, this time a 1-yard dart to tight end Blake Ayles for a 14-3 lead.

McKnight ran for 82 yards on seven carries in the first half, racking up five carries of over 9 yards. He tallied 106 yards on the ground on 12 carries.  He was stopped only by a migraine that took him out of the game in the third quarter.
McKnight went further in establishing himself in the Trojans' offense.

But so did Sanchez.

The redshirt junior was 17-of-28 for 172 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.

Midway through the third quarter, Sanchez connected with receiver Damian Williams on a short slant underneath the Ohio State coverage.

Williams took it 24 yards for a touchdown and a 28-3 USC lead.

Before the close of the quarter, Sanchez would again connect with Williams for a touchdown pass, this time a 17-yarder for a 35-3 lead.

USC head coach Pete Carroll was quick to not play up the victory after the game.

"It doesn't mean more than another game," he said. "The players understood that and took it in stride."

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