Ok, we're about ten days away from the Rose Bowl and I have a feeling that come Wednesday of this week most of you are going to drop off the PSU blogdar until New Years day. So we better give you at least a little bit of a USC preview before then. Today we'll take a look at the bio of USC's quarterback, Mark Sanchez.
Mark Sanchez has had an up and down year. By most accounts, Mark Sanchez had a really good year. Take a look at the stats.
|2008 - Mark Sanchez||12||159.1||213||331||64.4||2794||232.8||8.44||30||10|
Not too shabby. Heck, 2794 yards and 30 touchdowns would be all-time seasonal records at Penn State. You might think USC has higher standards considering they've had two quarterbacks win the Heisman trophy this decade. But compared to some of the great USC quarterbacks of recent years it's not bad at all.
|2002 - Carson Palmer*||13||149.1||309||489||63.2||3942||303.2||8.06||33||10|
|2004 - Matt Leinart*||13||156.5||269||412||65.3||3322||255.5||8.06||33||6|
|2005 - Matt Leinart||13||157.7||283||431||65.7||3815||293.5||8.85||28||8|
|2006 - John David Booty||13||144.0||269||436||61.7||3347||257.5||7.68||29||9|
Sanchez's stats compare pretty nicely to Matt Leinart's Heisman Trophy year of 2004 considering he still has a game to play. So why wasn't Sanchez included in any of the Heisman talk this year (beside the fact he doesn't play in a Playstation conference like the Big XII)?
It doesn't take much to change the perception of a quarterback from a winner to a fool. You're scrambling late in a game to make a play. You dive for the extra yard. If you make it and get the first down you're John Elway. They will sing your praises all the way to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. If you fumble, you're Anthony Morelli and all the gaudy stats in the world won't change that. This year Mark Sanchez had a few Anthony Morelli moments.
Sanchez threw three interceptions on a forgettable Saturday afternoon in the Coliseum against Arizona State. For bad measure, he turned the ball over a fourth time when he lost a fumble.
For good measure, he threw a touchdown pass, scored on a quarterback sneak and led his team to a 28-0 win over Arizona State.
The bad stuff all happened in one quarter, the third, in 13 plays.
He was fortunate to have the best defense in the country backing him up that day. The USC defense shut out the Sun Devils making Sanchez's ugly day just a blip on the stat sheet. But there were other moments of concern for Trojan fans as well. Keep in mind the Arizona State game was witnessed through the prism of the Oregon State loss earlier in the season.
Down by seven in Corvallis in the final minutes of the game, Sanchez threw an interception from his own 14 yard line which Oregon State ran back to the two yard line. It set up an easy Jacquizz Rogers touchdown that handed the Trojans their only loss on the year.
USC fans have been open in their criticism of Sanchez including SBN's own Conquest Chronicles.
At this point in his career I don't think that it too much to ask to want to see Sanchez be a little more farther along in his decision making. It is easy to point to play calling and coaching but the players still have to execute and Sanchez needs to learn how let the bad plays go, while learning from them, and move on with the game and make solid plays. He has had the opportunity to learn from his predecessors and he should use those lessons that they learned and adapt them to his game. Its OK to be like Matt Leinart...
I realize that it won't perfect every time but it would be nice to see a little better effort in some of these games.
In fairness to Sanchez, he has struggled with injuries through much of the season. He missed a lot of preseason practice with a dislocated kneecap. Then he bruised his knee during an awkward tackle against Oregon. So it may be possible that the Arizona State follies were a result of him not being 100%, though Sanchez and USC denied the injury had any effect on his play.
What does this mean for the Rose Bowl?
Penn State fans are all too aware of how poor quarterback play can hold back a good offense. Our best hope for victory in the Rose Bowl will be Tom Bradley getting inside Sanchez's head. Penn State will have to diguise their coverages and keep him guessing. Make him think there is an opening where there isn't one. Then we need the pass rush to be effective to force him into quick decisions. Sanchez has a reputation as a gun slinger. He's going to take some chances, but Penn State can't allow him to sit in the pocket and feel safe. If he has time he'll make good decisions and dump the ball off to his talented running backs. Penn State has to press Mark Sanchez until he gets frustrated and tries to force the issue.