LOS ANGELES - Sedrick Ellis and his Southern California teammates want to put one of the most surprising upsets in college football history behind them.
The best way is to perform well today against Arizona, and that might not be easy if the Trojans don’t do a much better job in the turnover and penalty departments.
“The main focus on my mind is to get our offense the ball more,” said Ellis, the nose tackle who had six tackles, including three sacks, in USC’s 24-23 loss to 41-point underdog Stanford last weekend. The Trojans had their 35-game home winning streak snapped by the Cardinal and dropped from second to 10th in the AP Top 25.
“As a defense, I think we’ve been playing really well, but we’ve got to get more turnovers,” Ellis said. “Sometimes in football, things don’t go your way. We’ve had a heightened intensity this week. We’ll just come out and play our game.”
USC (4-1, 2-1 Pac-10) has usually been on the plus side of the turnover ratio under coach Pete Carroll, but the Trojans have committed 14 this season including five against Stanford while forcing only seven.
USC has another issue — injuries. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will make his first career start today, and he’ll play behind a makeshift offensive line that was often ineffective against Stanford.
In addition, leading rusher Stafon Johnson might have to sit out his second straight game because of a sprained left foot.
Sanchez, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound redshirt sophomore, hasn’t started a game since 2004, when he was a senior at nearby Mission Viejo High. He’s replacing John David Booty, who broke the middle finger on his throwing hand against Stanford. Booty will be available for emergency duty if needed.
“We’ll be excited to see him get this opportunity,” Carroll said. “He had a very, very good week and he’s been waiting for this for years.”
Sanchez has completed 2 of 3 passes for 23 yards with one interception this season and is 5-of-10 for 86 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in his career.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said. “If anybody’s ready for this, I think I am. I need to be conservative and play well and play smart.”
Johnson said he’ll be a game-time decision.
“It’s up to the coaches,” he said. “I feel about as good as I’m going to be.”
Arizona at USC
When: 12:30 p.m. today
Where: Los Angeles
TV/Radio: Ch. 15/KFNX (1100 AM)