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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
|USC quarterback Mark Sanchez led the Trojans in a convincing 52-7 win over Virginia on Saturday.|
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The soft black Bio Slim brace protecting USC quarterback Mark Sanchez's left kneecap looked more like an accessory on Saturday than it did a necessity.
It certainly didn't prevent him from completing 26-of-35 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Sanchez , who dislocated his kneecap earlier this month, he felt "100 percent" following the Trojans' 52-7 drubbing of Virginia.
He looked it, too. Sanchez was able to move around in the pocket, get the ball downfield, and manage the offense.
"That was the big question mark coming into the game," Sanchez said. "... When the first news came out four weeks, (the doctors and trainers) didn't want to hear it. That's the kind of attitude I like and I'm glad they got me back out. I moved when I needed to and was really happy out there."
USC coach Pete Carroll said Sanchez has been ready since he was cleared to play on Tuesday.
"He was fine," Carroll said. "The recovery was extraordinary. The guys working with him ... those guys did a great job. Every step of the way they knew what they were doing, they took care of him. Mark was diligent about working and it wasn't a factor. It just wasn't. Once he was back, he was back. He had to prove it to himself as well. He moved around beautifully in the pocket. His resourcefulness back there is what gives you that second chance."
Not that USC needed one.
"USC was a big, powerful, fast team with superior quarterback play today," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "We were anything but big and fast and our quarterback turned the ball over too many times."
So much for Groh's surprise element at quarterback.
Peter Lalich completed 18-of-35 passes for 155 yards and one interception and he was sacked twice -- something Sanchez didn't have to worry about.
The Trojans dominated every phase of the game, and it all started up front, where USC's offensive line had no problem blocking against a defensive line that struggled to replace Chris Long and defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald.
"These guys played beautifully," Carroll said of his offensive linemen. " There were a number of times in this game when Mark had forever back there."
How much time?
"A lot," Sanchez said, laughing. "A lot. That's good. Coach (Pat) Ruel always calls it, in practice he says, 'We're cooking steaks back there because we've got that much time,' and that's the way it felt. The whole line takes pride in that, not letting me get hit and me having ample time to make the right decision and get the ball out of my hands. It felt good. I love that feeling."
Sanchez played conservatively against Virginia, and will speed up the offense in coming weeks. Odds are, he'll have less time to think against the Ohio State defense. But yes, how smoothly everything went for Sanchez and his knee today will only help with his confidence and preparation for the Buckeyes.
"I can keep doing my rehab, that rehab stuff never stops it's going to go all season long," he said. "The doctors and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's exciting to know I've got one under my belt with this whole knee deal and I'm back to 100 percent. I feel good and we're ready to start preparing for Ohio State."