Sanchez gets clearance to play, but throws interceptions in practice

Updated: August 27, 2008, 12:51 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- On Tuesday, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez officially was cleared by doctors to play this weekend against Virginia.

That much reassured coach Pete Carroll. What did not was Sanchez's practice on Tuesday, when he threw two interceptions during the team's final scrimmage drill.

"There's some rust in there and we've got to hopefully get him clean by the weekend," Carroll said.

Sanchez said the interceptions occurred because of a little carelessness, too much adrenaline after officially being cleared by doctors, and good defensive play, adding that he "felt as close to 100 percent as I've felt in a long time."

"I need to just see that kind of stuff and know that I can't just be throwing the ball anywhere; I've got to be accurate," said Sanchez, who will be wearing a large brace when he plays. "But it's all right. We've got a good defense. I'm excited about them doing that too."

Sanchez's first full practice since dislocating his left kneecap 17 days earlier had been on Monday, and he appeared to be in good shape for Saturday's season opener at Virginia.

Sanchez, the projected starter for Southern California, was carted off the practice field Aug. 8 after making a throw and landing awkwardly. X-rays and an MRI exam revealed no ligament, cartilage or bone damage.

He had been jogging and throwing for more than a week, but wore cleats for the first time Monday since being injured and did most of the work with the first team while wearing a sleeve and a brace on his injured knee.

"It really felt good. We're progressing way ahead of schedule," Sanchez said then. "They warmed me up well. I didn't think about [the knee]. I rolled out quite a bit, the knee didn't give at all. It felt fine."

Sanchez, a fourth-year junior, started three games last season in place of injured John David Booty. He completed 69 of 114 passes for 695 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions in seven games.

Carroll said on Monday that Sanchez's conditioning is something for the coaching staff to watch.

"We've got to be careful about that," Carroll said. "He's not way out of shape, but he's not in his best shape."

Redshirt freshman Aaron Corp and third-year sophomore Mitch Mustain shared the work in Sanchez's absence, with Corp appearing to take a slight lead in their competition.

"We'll see how it goes this week," Carroll replied, when asked if there was a clear-cut No. 2 behind Sanchez. "They both have worked really hard, they both have to get ready to play this week."

The third-ranked Trojans, listed as 19-point favorites over the Cavaliers, fly east on Thursday. After playing at Virginia, USC gets a week off before facing No. 2 Ohio State on Sept. 13 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in an early-season showdown between two of the country's highest-ranked teams.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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