After USC's 28-0 win over Arizona State Saturday at the Coliseum, reporters lurked inside the Trojan locker room.
With their heads dodging around the room, one question got asked more than any other: "Where's Mark?"
USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and the USC offense had a dreadful third quarter and a pretty bad second half, turning the ball over five times - including three picks.
And in the locker room, Sanchez wasn't there to answer questions.
After the win, though, Sanchez did talk to a handful of people on the field, and USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian watched.
"I don't think he ran from anything. I thought he answered the questions well," Sarkisian said. "He shouldered a lot of it. Things that weren't his fault, he took.
"That's the sign of a great leader."
After Monday's short practice on the turf at Cromwell Field, Sanchez wasn't going anywhere in a hurry, taking extra reps with a handful of receivers.
"It's never as bad or as good as it looks or feels on Saturday. A lot of stuff was just tough football," Sanchez said Monday. "There were good lessons to learn on each drive. When you get to win doing it, it makes it a lot better."
Despite the three interceptions, Sarkisian said only one truly was Sanchez's fault - an under-thrown ball to Ronald Johnson.
"I don't think he was that far off really," Sarkisian said.
Monday, Sanchez took some time to reflect on his play Saturday before moving on to Washington State.
"I just don't want to be careless, and I don't think I was. They were mostly physical mistakes," he said. "I don't think I was forcing anything or doing anything to jeopardize the game.
"It was wild and hard to stomach, but I'm glad it's over."
USC head coach Pete Carroll said he hasn't seen a big shift in Sanchez since the loss, and he expects to see his quarterback much sharper this weekend.
"He's been really hard on himself. He wants to bounce back. We'll see how does," Carroll said. "This should be a good week for him, a really solid week of preparation. He's healthy and should be bouncing right back."
Sanchez and Sarkisian talked Monday about approaching the upcoming week with a level head, leaving the past were it belongs.
"You can't get used to losing, and you can never accept it. But, you can't ever change your routine," Sanchez said. "If on Sundays you hang out with your family, after you lose you can't just blow them off. I tried to stay the same.
"As a football player and the quarterback of this team we'll take a win any day. As a competitor and someone who works hard, I was a little frustrated. That's just the way it goes sometimes."
This little piggy got jammed
Running back Joe McKnight took in Monday's practice from the sidelines, wearing a protective boot on his right foot.
McKnight said he hurt his big toe late in USC's win over Arizona State.
"The last play I had, that's when I came out," McKnight said. "It started hurting really bad."
McKnight's been nagged by a number of injuries, most recently a tweaked knee in the week leading up to Arizona State's visit.
"He never misses a game. He's out there when he needs to be out there. That's all I know," running backs coach Todd McNair said. "Some guys handle little nagging things differently. Some guys acknowledge it. Some guys it doesn't bother.
"He was hurt this week, and he came out and ripped it. I haven't seen anything injury-wise affect him on the field."
Carroll said the team will know more about the injury after an X-ray tomorrow.
"It's a hard one to tell," he said. "This is a really critical and painful injury, especially for a running back."
Carroll said Washington State's artificial surface could exacerbate the injury.
"I don't think it's something that will keep me out Saturday," McKnight said. "I hope not."
• McKnight said he's not been 100 percent for quite some time, stretching back to before he even suited up for USC.
"I came in fresh," he said. "I feel if I keep going to treatment, I'll get back to 100 percent."
• Stafon Johnson (illness), Kaluka Maiava (ankle), Brian Cushing (bruised shoulder) and Charles Brown (undisclosed) all missed Monday's practice.
"There are a lot of guys banged up," Carroll said. "I don't know what it means for the week. No one has been ruled out."
• With McKnight and Johnson out, C.J. Gable and Broderick Green took all the first-team reps Monday.
"It jumps (Green) right into it," Carroll said. "He ran hard. He ran physical and pushed things forward."
Green fumbled on a toss play against the Sun Devils, and Carroll called it "a wild pitch,"
• After practice, Mitch Mustain repeatedly practiced pitching the ball to walk-on quarterback John Manoogian.
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