Pac-12 Football: Running With the Pac Week 9
The elite teams in the conference (Oregon aside) are struggling to control their opponents, allowing for upsets to emerge from the pack. Washington upending Oregon State and Arizona shocking USC were two of the biggest surprises from a spectacular week of action.
Parity has been prevalent in this conference over the last few weeks, which has many positive and negative attributes. For the short term, I actually enjoy the competitive games on a week-to-basis, but as for the end of the season expect teams to struggle to reach marquee bowl games.
Here is a look at the action from what turned out to be one of the best football Saturdays in the Pac-12 this season.
Washington 20, Oregon State 17
Sean Mannion returned to quarterback for the Beavers but was out of sync the entire night, ultimately costing his team. Mannion completed a season-low 52 percent of his passes, and allowed four interceptions.
The Beavers were shut out in the first half and looked ready to fall into the trap of the upset, but responded with ten points in the third quarter to tie the game.
QB Keith Price was effective for Washington, completing 60 percent of his passes. Bishop Sankey did an excellent job of attacking the Beaver stout defense, racking up 92 yards rushing and scoring two pivotal touchdowns.
A weird sequence of plays should have decimated the momentum for Washington. Early in the fourth, Mannion was picked by John Timu and the INT was returned for a touchdown. But a block in the back limited the return, leaving Washington fans disgusted. Then on the next drive, Mannion was picked again and returned for 30 yards until another personal foul brought them back. The boo birds were loud and proud at CenturyLink Field.
Junior Cody Vaz went under center for Oregon State, completing 7 of 11 passes for 92 yards. But his efforts were all for naught, as the Huskies drove down the field for the game-winning field goal.
The victory puts Steve Sarksian's Huskies at 4-4 on the season, including two top-25 victories. Meanwhile, Oregon State stands at 6-1 and out of the national title discussion.
Oregon 70, Colorado 14
The Oregon Ducks suited up in Oakland Raiders colors Saturday. But unlike the team by the bay, they looked absolutely dominant. Once the game started, the Buffaloes stood no chance against the most explosive offense in college football.
Oregon mustered 50 points in the first half against Colorado, including an insane 73-yard punt return by De'Anthony Thomas, and collected over 400 yards rushing for the third straight week. The Ducks showcased their athleticism, their greatest strength.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota continued his efficient season, completing 10 of 14 passes for 136 yards and added 22 yards rushing on the afternoon. The No. 2-ranked team in the nation is prime and ready for their Pac-12 showdown with USC.
Poor Buffaloes, the last two games have left the worst team in the Pac-12 at a 120-20 scoring streak. Point being, this team should consider moving to another conference because they do not have what it takes to compete.
Arizona 39, USC 36
The highlights for USC begin and end with Marqise Lee, who caught 16 balls for a Pac-12 record 345 yards recieving.
Lee continued to make amazing plays for the Trojans, who were desperate for some consistency on offense. Not only did Lee make big catches, he had a huge kick-off return in the fourth quarter to give USC a chance, and later caught a two-point conversion to put the Trojans within a score.
For Arizona, Matt Scott led the charge, completing 27 passes for 369 yards while also rushing the ball effectively for 100 yards. Lee was not the only one altering the record books; Austin Hill caught 10 balls for 259 yards for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats scored 26 straight points in the second half to pull away. Despite five turnovers, poor offense and sloppy defense, the Trojans were granted one final shot to win with one minute left.
Alas, Barkley led a slow developing drive that ended in a final heave that tipped off the hands of Lee in the end zone. Rich Rodriguez got a signature win for his Wildcats, who have now won two straight and are one victory away from bowl eligibility.
UCLA 45, Arizona State 43
The Bruins defeated the Sun Devils behind a game-winning 33-yard field goal from Ka'imi Fairbairn. Special teams won the game for the Bruins, but QB Brett Hundley definitely gets the game ball for his performance.
Hundley passed for 274 yards with four touchdowns on the afternoon. ASU could not stop the balanced attack that Hundley and RB Jonathan Franklin offered. When it mattered most, the redshirt freshman quarterback made huge plays leading UCLA to their sixth win of the season.
Taylor Kelley was equally impressive in the loss for ASU. Kelley completed 25 of 35 passes for 315 yards while also throwing four touchdowns. D.J. Foster was the big receiving threat on the night, recording 107 yards receiving on seven grabs.
One of the main reasons why this game was so close could be pinned on UCLA punter Jeff Locke. Locke went out for the coin toss because he was preparing for the game, while the other captains took a long time to approach the refs. Locke won the toss and elected to kick the ball first instead of deferring until the second half.
This gave ASU the ball in the first and third quarters, basically giving them an extra possession. Luckily for Locke, the Bruins squeaked out the victory and now are bowl-eligible.
Stanford 24, Washington State 17
Ed Reynolds' pick-six in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach for Stanford. They now stand at 6-2 on the season, with Oregon and Oregon State looming in the not-too-distant future.
WSU outgained Stanford 385-256 on the night, but could not muster positive yardage rushing. I know Leach loves the run-and-gun offense but they will need to implement some kind of running game if they want to compete long-term.
Utah 49, California 27
Congrats to Utah for earning their first Pac-12 victory this season with a win over the Bears. The MVP of the night was Reggie Dunn, who returned two 100-yard kick returns for touchdowns. Running back John White looked right in form, racking in 105 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the run-heavy Utes.
Jeff Tedford's days are numbered at this point due to Cal’s lackluster performance this season. The Bears have struggled to find any rhythm on offense and their defense is starting to falter as the difficult season continues. But receiver Keenan Allen did continue his spectacular season by racking in another touchdown for Cal. His brother Zach Maynard put up lots of meaningless stats in the fourth, finishing the night with 288 yards passing.
Cal and Utah will need to win out if they want to go bowling this winter, not an easy task for either team as their schedules look challenging down the stretch.