Recapping Week Eight in the PAC-12
October 29th, 2012 By Danny Sheehan
This past week saw two of the three Top 10 teams in the conference lose, and the other score 56 points in the first half. Read more as Danny Sheehan recaps Week Eight in the PAC-12.
#2 OREGON 70, COLORADO 14
A matchup of conference rivals that could not be less even at this point, featured two teams with totally different identities. Oregon's fast break offense and underrated speed on defense, was bludgeon to a Colorado team that has yet to settle into the conference after two years. Against Oregon, the undisputed class of the conference at this point, they were not even be on the same block. Oregon's high-octane offense put up over a half-century worth of points in the first half against Colorado's defense; even backup quarterback Bryan Bennett got in on the fun. Bennett rushed for three touchdowns after relieving freshman Marcus Mariota, who is making Ducks fans forget about Darron Thomas. Mariota threw for two scores and ran for another as the Ducks amassed 617 total yards, 425 rushing. Those eight first half touchdowns came on eight possessions, as Colorado’s defense offered the sort of resistance Wile E. Coyote’s umbrella does to a boulder.
As for Boulder, Colorado, some soul-searching is surely going on right now as the once proud Buffaloes could not look more outclassed against their conference’s elite. Meanwhile, the Ducks are again looking like the fastest team outside of the SEC and are positioning themselves for another run at the national championship game. They have playmakers all over the place on offense, the unique stylish uniforms, and the best Gangnam Style parody on YouTube. Yes, these are the good old days for Oregon football, who has positioned themselves as the top dogs in one of college football’s highest profile conferences.
WASHINGTON 20, #7 OREGON ST 17
A big upset in Seattle as the Huskies upset the Beavers and dealt a major blow to Oregon State’s season. Three straight losses coming into the game did not deter the Huskies, who defeated its second ranked top ten opponent this season.
Keith Price, the talented Huskies quarterback, has been struggling behind a beat up offensive line that has had him receiving hits far more often than preferred. The junior signal-caller posted an underwhelming stat line of 194 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception, but led the team on a go-ahead drive for a field goal with under four minutes to play. Price had been sloppy with the ball lately coming into the game, with ten turnovers over the three game losing skid.
It was Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion who played that part Saturday, throwing four interceptions and eventually being replaced by Cody Vaz, who threw the game-tying touchdown pass with under five minutes to play. Vaz, who has won two games in relief of an injured Mannion this season, may have put head coach Mike Riley in a potential quarterback controversy leading into Oregon State's next contest. With games against Stanford and Oregon still to come, Riley has to make the right decision if he wants to keep Oregon State's dream season alive.
ARIZONA 39, #10 USC 36
The other big upset of the weekend in the Pac-12 was the Wildcats beating the Trojans in a offensive shootout. This game resembled the game between the two last year avenging, but with the Trojans prevailing with a victory. Both teams’ offenses got the better of their opponents, with USC losing despite 618 yards of total offense to Arizona’s 588. Quarterback Matt Scott had one the best games of his career, posting 369 yards through the air and another 100 on the ground, while adding four scores (3 passing, 1 rushing).
Matt Barkley’s play continues to be a little more erratic, as he accepted for two out of five turnovers for the Trojans. Despite throwing for three touchdowns, he does not look like the preseason Heisman, top draft choice, National Champion candidate everyone predicted he would be. Unfortunately this was not a well-polished contest, as there were a combined 27 penalties and 14 of those were committed by the winning team. Ultimately, it went to the team that protected the football best, even if they did not exactly play the most disciplined brand of football.
As for being aware, someone should let the Wildcats know that Marquise Lee wears number 9, plays wide receiver, and is eligible to catch passes for USC, because he obliterated the Wildcats secondary. His 16 total catches for 345 yards and two touchdown set a new single-game PAC-12 record. Those are the kind of numbers that are normally reserved for high school heroics and video games. Lee is a complete star for the Trojans, and by the time he is done he may re-write more records on his way to the next level. It has to be disappointing for USC to waste that performance. Wildcat defenders may want to pay more attention to him next time.
#19 STANFORD 24, WASHINGTON ST 17
The Cougars put up a good fight against a more talented team, but the Cardinal prevailed in a defensive struggle. Stanford continued to have problems passing the ball and Washington State took advantage by loading the box to stop star running back Stepfan Taylor. Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel threw for 401 yards in Mike Leach’s pass-happy scheme, but it took him 60 attempts to get there. However, they were held to -16 yards rushing, largely due to the Cardinal’s relentless pass rush and defensive schemes up front. The Stanford defense racked up 10 sacks amongst their 15 tackles for loss on Saturday.
This game featured only nine combined penalties and one total turnover, but it was a big one, as Stanford safety Ed Reynolds returned an interception for a score in the 4th quarter to provide the deciding blow to Washington State. Stanford is 6-2, which would have been a reason to throw a parade on the Stanford campus. Similar to its fans, the Cardinals players and coaching staff has to be disappointed with their offense’s inability to move the ball. 256 total yards was all the Cardinal could muster, and Josh Nunes’ 15 pass attempts indicate the team does not fully trust the junior to make big plays in the passing game. Senior Stepfan Taylor is being asked to carry the offense with a struggling quarterback, poor offensive line, and lack of speed amongst the pass catchers. The defense, particularly the front seven, is playing tremendous for Stanford right now, but they need to figure out something offensively against Colorado next week before they play an explosive Oregon Ducks team. That's if they are trying to finish with another 10-win season.
UCLA 45, ARIZONA ST 43
A PAC-12 shootout found light defense and lots of offense as the Bruins got a game-winning field goal from kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn as time expired. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley continues to impress for the Bruins, as he led the team on the game-winning drive after the Sun Devils went ahead with 1:33 to play. Hundley threw for four touchdowns and was efficient threw the air, while Johnathan Franklin did damage on the ground with 164 yards and two touchdowns on the day. The Bruins defense did not offer much resistance to the Arizona State offense, allowing 535 yards of total offense. This was simply one of those games where whoever had the ball last had the best shot to win. Fairbairn's 33-yard field goal may represent one of the biggest losses for Arizona State this season, who now find themselves 5-3 with road games against three ranked teams lying ahead—Oregon State, USC and Arizona. They could very well lose their next two games and would need to beat a bad Washington State team at home just to become bowl eligible.
For UCLA, this was a big win with three of their remaining four games against ranked opponents. Quietly, running back Johnathan Franklin has moved within to 20 yards from breaking UCLA’s career rushing record. He continues to have a monster season, leading the conference in rushing and averaging 6.7 yards per carry when he touches the rock. Unless something awful happens, he’s going to move himself ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew, Freeman McNeil, and all of the other prolific running backs in UCLA history. A few more good games and he’ll break Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s single-season record as well; just don’t ask Franklin to shoot a sky hook like the former basketball star Abdul-Jabbar, because he's too busy breaking ankles on the football field for the Bruins.
UTAH 49, CALIFORNIA 27
Two struggling conference teams faced off in a game that would be limited to offensive production from both teams. The Utes prevailed for their first conference win of 2012 over a Bears team who is seeing their bowl chances fade away with each loss. The Bears need to win out, but they will have to go through Oregon and Oregon State just to become bowl-eligible.
The Utes are fighting for a tenth straight bowl appearance, but they will need to win out as well. They played like the more inspired team Saturday, forcing three turnovers and getting a school record two 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns from Reggie Dunn. Senior running back John White IV rushed for 105 yards on 22 carries to pace a Utes offense that was not explosive. They recorded just two plays over twenty yards, but was efficient enough to move the ball against the Bears defense. Utah had possession of the football for over 37 minutes, which is usually not a good sign for any opponent, especially concerning when two of their touchdowns came on returns.
Cal finds themselves wishing that a playmaker like Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch or DeSean Jackson would come walking through their doors at any moment. Despite the recruiting success they've had in recent years, most of these players have been underachievers in comparison to their predecessors. A few seasons ago the suggestion would have seemed ludicrous, but Jeff Tedford’s job may eventually become in question if the team cannot start producing some victories. It will be the quarterback guru’s job to find his next standout among a couple of highly touted freshman next year if Cal football is to get back on track.
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