Sep 21, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Oregon State Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion (4) drops back to pass during the first half against the San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Last week was impressive. This week served as an appetizer to next week’s Pac-12 opener. The Pac-12 went undefeated (again) this week, though I don’t know if facing the likes of Idaho, Idaho State and New Mexico State really feed the idea that this conference is the best conference this year. I believe they are, especially after last week, but some blowhards may just go back to hating on the Pac-12 since this week was subpar in terms of opponents.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the weekend in Pac-12 action:
Stanford 42, Arizona State 28
I got in a lot of trouble for writing this article the other day. The reason why I got in so much trouble was because I wrote that Stanford could have lost the game this weekend. I stand by that. The truth is: Stanford played a hell of a first three quarters, leading the game 39-7 heading into the fourth quarter. The problem is: Stanford’s conservative play calling led to a legitimate comeback for Arizona State. In fact, they had the momentum when they had Stanford on a 4th and short four or so left in the fourth, and committed a substitution infraction (too many men on the field) and gave Stanford a free first down. Stanford would score and take a 14-point lead with
A good team doesn’t let a 39-7 game become interesting. I’m not saying that Stanford is a bad team; I’m just saying that you have to protect the scoreboard when you’re up by that much. Arizona State’s fast-paced offense was not able to deal with the power game that Stanford runs (and has run so well over the last four years). Specifically, the tactical defense of the Cardinals was able to get two turnovers (both on Taylor Kelly interceptions) and keep the key skill players in the Sun Devils line-up at bay (Marion Grice, one of the most prolific players in the Pac-12, to 82 all purpose yards rushing and two touchdowns).
What Stanford did so well was run the ball. They rushed for 240 yards on 49 carries as a team. The rushing attack was led by running back Tyler Gaffney, who rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Going forward, the goal for both these teams is still the same, but I think both showed some weaknesses (Stanford’s conservative play calling, Arizona State’s week run defense) that could be preyed on going forward.
Washington 56, Idaho State 0
Washington was able to roll up 680 yards of total offense behind a balanced attack that accounted for nearly the same amount of passing yards (310 yards) as rushing yards (370). Keith Price had a solid game, going 16-for-21 with 213 yards and three touchdowns. The craziest part of the pass attack was that it included ten different receivers, four of whom scored. The top receiver, Kasen Williams (who had four receptions for 78 yards), didn’t find the end zone. Runningbacks Cyler Miles and Bishop Sankey accounted for 166 yards on 8 carries, an average of 20.8 yards per carry, and a score. The longest run of the night came on the back of Miles, who rushed for 61 yards on a hand off that would lead to a Deontae Cooper score in the fourth.
Defensively, Washington limited Idaho State’s run game to 22 total yards. Quarterback Justin Arias had the worst day, rushing for -43 yards on ten carries, plus his 18-for-39 night included two interceptions. The odd part of the night comes in the form of the nearly split possession time the two teams shared. Considering the score and the lack of offense Idaho State had going (164 total yards of offense), you’d think the number would be skewed in the Washington column.
Washington is a team worth watching. Some teams are overrated in the top-25, but some are vastly underrated, and Washington is starting to look that way. They have beaten every team handily thus far, including a good Boise State team who was ranked entering the season. Look for Washington to make some noise going forward, including next weekend against an Arizona team that may not have the offense to keep up with Washington.
USC 17, Utah State 14
After a week where Cody Kessler could do no wrong, he really looked like average on Saturday against Utah State. But more importantly, the USC offense looked bad for the second time in three games (their only impressive win so far this season has been against a horrible Boston College team). Kessler went 13-of-27 for 164 yards and a touchdown, but the problem was his inability to connect with open guys for stretches of time. I guess you can credit that to Utah State’s defensive backs.
Utah State tied the game up in the third quarter at 14, but were unable to do anything against USC’s defense, which has been a bright spot this entire season. The Aggies were unable to even get into USC territory during the entire fourth quarter. If USC is going to make a run at the south division title, they are going to do it on the backs of their defense, who is tough to score on. That said, they have yet to take on the kind of offensive juggernaut (Washington State has potential to be a good offensive team, but they still make errors that keep them from blossoming) that can break down their defense. Next week’s game against Arizona State will pit the D against a fast paced offense.
Oregon State 34, San Diego State 30
The Pac-12 Network analysts made this seem as if Sean Mannion had a bad game. I didn’t get to watch this one live, but after all the analysis, I thought this game was going to be sloppy or hard to watch. Mannion, instead, put on a clinic, passing for 367 yards on 38-of-55 passing and three touchdowns. The problem that I saw was that Oregon State’s run game disappeared, rushing for a measly 10 yards on 20 attempts.
Oregon State also had defensive lapses, causing San Diego State to have a 13-point lead heading into the third quarter. The fact is, San Diego State has looked horrible this season. They got blown out by Eastern Illinois and Ohio State in the first two weeks of the season, and yet this game was close. Oregon State was lucky to have Mannion, who went 12-for-17 with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Other than a pick-6 that put Oregon State up by four, he accounted for the scoring.
Oregon State is going to have to work on a lot of aspects to their game in order to have a chance to make some noise in the Pac-12 North.
Utah 20, BYU 13
This was a tightly contested match-up between rivals that came down to the fourth quarter. Entertaining, to say the least. Utah and BYU both put up great defensive performances while still giving the fans just enough offense to keep us watching. Both teams racked up over 400 yards of total offense, and were about even in the rushing and passing categories.
What the game came down to was a BYU drive with a little under three minutes to play. Utah already had a 20-13 advantage when BYU started the drive. They got all the way to the Utah 38, and on 4th and 13, Taysom Hill attempted to get it into a pocket on the left side of the field when he was picked off senior Michael Walker.
This makes Utah 4-0 over the last four seasons against their in-state rival. Utah is 3-1 and will need a win on October 3rd against two-time division winner UCLA to put themselves firmly in the Pac-12 South picture.
Washington State 42, Idaho 0
This may be the game where we finally got to see what Mike Leach’s offense can do. Mind you this game was against an Idaho Vandals club which is now 0-4, but the numbers are still impressive. 346 yards out of junior Connor Halliday – he threw for four touchdowns and two interceptions), connected with 11 different receivers, and the passes were crisp and on-point.
The fact of the matter is: Washington State is not going anywhere this season. But if they can be competitive and fun to watch, than they are definitely making strides in the right direction. So long as the Cougars aren’t the team I grew up watching – the boring, dry team that was good for a win per season – then they are worth watching on a weekly basis.
UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13
Very seldom do you find a team impressive during their least impressive game. UCLA had two first quarter turnovers in the red zone, took 13 minutes before scoring against New Mexico, and the offense didn’t look fast or crisp in terms of execution. And yet they still put up 59 points, and they looked great once they settled in during the second quarter, where they scored 24 of their 31 first half points.
Brett Hundley is a real Heisman candidate, and is considered a top-10 draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, but even he looked mediocre, throwing two interceptions and passing for under 300 yards. But, this team as a whole can do lots of damage. The run game was filthy, rushing for 298 yards on 45 carries and five touchdowns.
Earlier this year, UCLA idiotically proclaimed that they are “The Real Linebacker U” on nearly every media outlet available. (USC, of course, had to argue that they too are “The Real Linebacker U” because how dare anyone be better than USC at anything). I won’t get into why neither school is the real Linebacker U, but UCLA may have to be thought of as Tailback U from here on out. The historical talent they have produced is obvious, but the depth they’ve had over the last ten years at tailback is ridiculous. Jordan James looks like yet another man amongst boys coming out of the UCLA tailback depth chart, and his numbers are astounding.
Here is the line-up for this coming Saturday. It is an upgraded slate than the borefest we got this weekend.
Colorado at Oregon State, 12:00 pm, Pac-12 Network
Arizona at Washington, 4:00 pm, Fox
Stanford at Washington State, 7:00 pm, ESPN
USC at Arizona State, 7:30 pm, ESPN 2
California at Oregon, 7:30pm, Pac-12 Network
Next week is the first full slate of Pac-12 games, and the opener for most teams. The most exciting matchup here has to be the Arizona/Washington game. Arizona still has issues at quarterback, but they find ways to win in spite of the quarterback play. Meanwhile, Washington has grown into the vision that Steve Sarkisian had laid out to the Huskies fan base when he was hired. This will serve as a match-up between two aspiring teams on the cusp of a Pac-12 Championship Game appearance. The other notable game is the USC/Arizona State battle. USC had a lot of hopes entering this season, and have had nothing but disappointing results while Arizona State has been good, but suffered a huge setback this past weekend at the hands of Stanford. Essentially, this game will tell us who will emerge as the primary rival for UCLA this season in the south division race, I look for the super USC defense to go up against the fast Arizona State offense.