Tape It Up: USC: Good Injury News Better Late Than Never

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USC: Good Injury News Better Late Than Never

After weeks of novel-length injury reports took their toll on the no-longer-title-bound Trojans, in the form of two losses, USC finally has some good news to report. And it comes just in time for this weekend's used-to-be-huge matchup with Cal, too. All-American offensive lineman Sam Baker is still battling injury, this time a sore hamstring, and fullback Alfred Rowe will miss this game as well, but quarterback John David Booty's finger is feeling fine and tailback Stafon Johnson is healthy for the first time since Sept. 29.

Johnson sprained his foot against Washington on Sept. 29 and has not been the same since. He has been limited in his playing time and sat out of two games all together, but still leads the team in rushing, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on his 63 touches with four touchdowns. He has also caught four passes for 15 yards.

This week's game certainly does not mean what virtually everyone thought it would at the season's outset, but every time these bitter rivals take to the gridiron, expect a slugfest. With Booty's broken finger inflammation-free and Johnson healthy for the first time in six weeks, the Trojans should certainly be feeling a leg up as they travel to Berkeley.

"His spirit is different now," head coach Pete Carroll said of Johnson. "You could tell by his energy out there."

Carroll recognizes that this season may have turned out differently, had he immediately pulled Booty after the quarterback smashed his finger on a player's helmet in the first half of that unbelievable upset loss to Stanford on Oct. 6. Booty went on to throw four picks in the second half of that game before sitting out the next three, and Carroll said this week that he made a mistake in not recognizing just how badly Booty's throwing was affected by the break.

When backup Mark Sanchez stepped in for the injured Booty against Arizona on Oct. 13, it was the first time in Carroll's seven-year rein at USC that the No. 1 quarterback sat out a game. Clearly, the absence affected the Trojans more than they thought it would, and they are hoping that the return of Johnson will help them to salvage the rest of this season.

Back on the injured list, with Baker still out at the left tackle position, freshman Butch Lewis will get the start, with sophomore Charles Brown backing him up.

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