By Arash Markazi, SI.com
Mark Sanchez jumped up and down and ran around the field during practice last week to prove that he had fully recovered from his dislocated right knee and could start the season opener against Virginia. Sanchez wouldn't have to use that much energy to show how healthy he was in a surprisingly easy 52-7 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday.
In leading USC on three straight touchdown drives to start the game, Sanchez was given so much time in the pocket that he probably would have been just as effective dropping back with the crutches he used after his injury.
Then again, it isn't hard being an effective quarterback when all you have to do is drop the ball into the hands of Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford -- the Trojans' talented quartet of tailbacks who all scored and combined for 200 yards rushing. For good measure, Marc Tyler, who would be a starter on most teams but finds himself as a fifth-stringer in the Trojans' crowded backfield, scored a 10-yard touchdown at the end of the game.
Sanchez, who finished with 338 yards on 26-of-35 passing for three touchdowns, moved around effortlessly in the pocket. Coaches opened up the playbook for him in the second half after staying fairly conservative in the first. He began the third quarter with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Turner before connecting with Ronald Johnson on a 49-yard score where he actually eluded a rare pass rusher that had broken through USC's offensive line.
USC's defense lived up to its preseason hype, holding Virginia to only one first quarter touchdown. The Trojans allowed just 185 total yards and forced three turnovers, handing the Cavaliers their worst loss since 1987.
While the Trojans were expected to prevail somewhat easily, the manner in which they won was certainly a surprise. The consensus from most coming into the season was that USC would likely be a defensive, field-position team early on, leaning heavily on its experienced defense to win some close games as Sanchez and many of the inexperienced offensive starters around him grew into their new roles. After USC rolled up 52 points and 555 yards in the season opener, it's apparent the learning curve for the offense came quicker (like during pregame warm-ups) than most predicted.