Each week in this space, Avinash of California Golden Blogs will be reviewing the weekend's West Coast college football action, with commentary from SB Nation's Pac-10 communities. Enjoy:
TCU 30, Oregon State 21. It was arguably the best road game debut by a Mike Riley team. It was also another loss, as with it the Beavers continue to hold the burden of not being able to win in September.
The Horned Frogs dominated the line of scrimmage, dominating with almost a two-to-one margin in yardage, first downs, and time of possession. Stephen Paea had four tackles, one for a loss and a sack, but TCU rarely needed to double team him and they managed to pick apart the Oregon State defense over and over. The reliable front seven was marginalized, as AndyPanda of Building the Dam explains:
Mitchell led Oregon St. with 18 tackles, and Suaesi Tuimaunei was next, with 13. When your safeties make 31 tackles, your opponent has gotten far too deep into your defense far too often.
Knowing TCU is such a strong running team, and that Dalton gives them an extra running threat on every play, Oregon St. had Tuimaunei up in run support a lot of the time. Which had a lot to do with some of what happened in the secondary. On one occasion, Mitchell took a penalty, but a close look at the tape reveals that Mitchell was the only defender with three TCU receivers in the area. Allowing only a 15 yard penalty gain out of that isn't so bad a decision.
Cornerback Brandon Hardin got burned for a deep seam route for a 52 yard gain in the second quarter. Hardin had no inside help, as Mitchell was picking up a crossing route underneath, and Tuimaunei was up in rush support. This is the kind of coverage mistake that can't happen, but often does early in the year, especially against a team like TCU.
The Horned Frogs were exceptional with their goal-line offense. On the first touchdown, the Beaver front four could not get any pressure on Dalton when he dropped back to pass. Mitchell lost contain on the left side of the field when he and the two linebackers chased the intermediate route-runner to the right, allowing Dalton to skip toward the end zone once he got out of the pocket. Dalton also bootlegged to Jeremy Kerley (the motion man) when he saw the mismatch on defensive end Gabe Miller. He used the zone-read to draw in defensive end Taylor Henry on the go-ahead-for-good score.
On the other side, the TCU defense forced Ryan Katz into a subpar game, with under a 50% completion rate. Katz did display an impressive deep ball, finding James Rodgers on a deep post route and then Jordan Bishop on a long corner route. He nearly hooked up with Rodgers again on another deep ball late that could've gone for six if not for Greg McCoy breaking up the pass with one final burst, but other than those routes, Katz was very ineffective, only managing to convert 4 of 11 3rd downs. The front seven managed to hold Jacquizz Rodgers to 75 yards on 18 carries. Jacquizz did have a few good runs in the 3rd quarter, including one where he bounced to the outside after a missed Horned Frog tackle and got the edge. It was only the mistiming between Katz and on the shotgun snap led to the crucial safety that eventually did Oregon State in.
Still, although being plenty outmatched, the Beavers were impressive holding their own against a national title contender, creating turnovers at just the right moment against Dalton and keeping it close throughout. If Oregon State can bring Katz along, they will be a force to reckoned with in November and December.
USC 49, Hawaii 36. I wonder how much Trojan fans miss Taylor Mays now.
Matt Barkley was near perfect against a Hawaii defense that could not tackle, or defend, or get a 3rd down stop to save its life. Marc Tyler showed impressive burst as USC's new starting running back (particularly on a huge runback). The offensive line was a huge factor, and Ronald Johnson showed the potential of being one of the top national receivers in the country.
It's the other side of the ball that should worry the Men of Troy. The Trojan secondary was always slightly suspect (the whole unit had been revamped), and it was indeed an inauspicious debut for the Monte Kiffin defense. Although the grizzled old coordinator said he wasn't prepared for the pistol variants that Hawaii threw out in their run-and-shoot game (and the fact Tampa 2 doesn't do well against the run and shoot anyway), it didn't look like USC's backline was prepared for action on many plays. Missed tackles permeated the entire back seven, particularly by the safeties, as five to ten yard pickups turned into twenty to third yard gains. Devon Kennard went back to double cover (as his responsibility in the Tampa 2), but then overpursued and let the Hawaii receiver jump straight up without having to worry about the double coverage. Keep in mind Kennard was one of the top defensive end recruits in the country and now he's being asked to play deep coverage safety packages. The growing pains are still there. There was another play where USC's defensive end went out to cover while the linebacker blitzed; Hawaii's quarterback Bryant Moniz recognized this switch and dumped it off to the receiver, who juked out the end and got the edge on the outside. This is a Trojan defender people. Eventhe third stringer was threading the needle between USC's secondary, which looked more and more lost with each passing play.
Paragon SC of Conquest Chronicles says that there is still reason for optimism:
We won't see a better passing offense this season. Hawaii's offense literally threw everything they had against the defense and we still won. This will only make the secondary stronger and more experienced. Hawaii showed us "the pistol" so we will have some film of it when we play UCLA later in the year.
We have an inexperienced defense and it showed, why some are surprised by this is mind boggling. Guys are still getting comfortable with new positions (Kennard) and the increased level of competition (Robey) so it will take some time for things to shake out. You usually have a pretty good idea of what you have by the third or forth game of the season, so let it play out.
The tackling must improve. 'SC was in a number of plays last night that could have been contained but poor tackling, for whatever reason, made those plays big gainers.
Now, perhaps this was the sign of a budding Hawaii offensive juggernaut that just happened to catch the Trojans defense off guard. Perhaps it was just opening day jitters--remember Oregon's offense didn't look so hot a year ago on opening day in Boise, and things didn't end quite so badly in Eugene. Still, it should be a major concern for a unit that was suspect last season to the run, and looks even more suspect to the pass this season. And there are a lot of good passers in the Pac-10 this season who are ready to take advantage. Such as...
Arizona 41, Toledo 2. I'm fairly certain Nick Foles could have won one of those ring toss games with the way he was precisely hitting his men from 5 to 10 yards. Foles is the master of the short/intermediate pass, and he showed it Friday by hitting his receivers with precision, going 32 for 37 with 2 touchdowns. Foles was impressive. He threw a great goal-line fade to the back of the end zone to find David Douglas when Toledo dared him to throw to the back. He ran a little option keep at the goal-line before halftime, using his size and strength to get over the goal-line. He even showed off the deep ball on more than one occasion, finding his main target Juron Criner in the corner on a deep fade that Criner managed to extend and catch to make it 34-2.
(For reasons that elude me, Matt Scott entered the game for one drive early in the second quarter. Coincidentally, Toledo immediately got their only points. This might mean something. Although it also might mean nothing.)
Criner had a field day, hauling in 11 catches and 187 yards. The finally healthy Nic Grigsby broke open a 7-2 game with his specialty cutback run. At Toledo's 38, Foles ran the draw play for Grigsby, who bounced through the hole thanks to terrific Wildcats blocking, then found the crease opening on the right side. Grigsby ran diagonally, than made the only free tackler with a good angle (Toledo sophomore corner Byron Best) miss with a little juke, and ran straight to the end zone. But that was all Arizona's run game could manage in terms of big-time gains, getting only 69 rushing yards otherwise. The Airraid and Foles seems to be the key to success this season, because Arizona's run game, while a little bit more versatile, is nothing to totally fear.
The Arizona defense wasn't seriously tested--and they won't be until Iowa comes to town in two weeks. AZ Desert Swarm gives the much-questioned linebackers their props:
Paul Vassallo was an animal. He recorded 10 tackles and one tackle for loss. I watched the tape again this morning and he filled a hole almost as quickly as the back got the ball. He crushed him. Jake Fischer had three tackles and a sack. Derek Earls had an interception. The best part was they were always in the right spot. All we have been hearing all week long is that they are still missing their reads and missing their assignments. It sure didn't look like it on Friday. Props to the interior D-Line as well. Arizona liberally rotated in the backups all night. D'aundre Reed, Willie Mobley, and Justin Washington all got a lot of playing time and made the most of it. They kept the I was also really impressed with Justin Washington on the DL last night. He was shucking blockers and creating havoc when he was in there. He obliterated a running back in the second quarter. He also had a great sack where he got rid of his blocker and went straight after the QB. (Just watched more tape. Washington was all over the place last night. Great news for the Cats going forward. ) The defense limited Toledo's standout wide receiver Eric Page to only 43 yards on 4 receptions.
Kansas State 33, UCLA 21. Inexperience and injuries have been the trouble for the Bruins every season under Rick Neuheisel, and they find themselves in the same pickle this season. The UCLA Pistol offense just could not get going, and Norm Chow's offense stuttered and stumbled its way in Manhattan.
That wasn't the only worrying sign. The usually reliable UCLA defense crumbled, giving up 315 yards on the ground. Carson Coffman was held in check to 66 yards passing, but he completed 11 of 16 passes and helped either convert 1st downs or set up shorter fields for the ground game of Daniel Thomas and William Powell to plow through. Nestor of Bruins Nation was less than pleased with the performance:
As for the defense, there is not much else to add about Chuck Bullough. He should certainly be on the clock this season. Yesterday wasn't a total disaster. When I had to leave from watching the game last night there was about 4:40 left in 4th. The score was 17-16 in favor of the Cats. The performance of the D wasn't a total disaster at this point but at the same time wasn't inspiring. Watching our guys, at times was fun but also at other was maddening as it was clear Akeem Ayers was blowing assignments and we were not getting any kind of containment whatsoever.
What was even more maddening to see us package in a vanilla base defense on second and long and then promptly give up chunks of yardage to a mediocre QB with brand new receivers to make the situation more manageable for the Wildcats. When a guy ends up leading with "playing not to lose" mindset, seems like time and again he ends up losing.
Perhaps Bullough has a legitimate excuse as he was breaking in number of new guys including Marsh, Keenan Graham, Nate Chandler, Patrick Larimore (who IMO had a solid game), and few others who are not used to this much playing time. However, he needs to make adjustments fast and put together more aggressive game plan. What we saw yesterday is not good enough, if there are not improvements through rest of the season.
UCLA needs a lot of work, but they'll have no time to change things up too much, as Andrew Luck and the Cardinal come to town next week.
BYU 23, Washington 17. I only caught a little bit of the final fourth quarter, when Jake Locker wasn't able to lead the Huskies back to a last-second victory. Although he converted a huge down and then put the Huskies in scoring position on a deep post pattern to Jermaine Kearse, the Washington drive stalled. Locker was not impressive, missing two fourth down throws and completing only 54% of his touchdowns. Although he aired out
However, most of the blame can probably fall on Steve Sarkisian's playcalling, as John Berkowitz of UW Dawg Pound elucidates:
First of all, not taking the points with 12:24 left in the fourth quarter when down by six is a real head scratcher. We have seen Sark do this before and we will see Sark do it again. You have to wonder how many games the gambler will lose by not playing the percentages correctly? On the road, in a hostile environment, with that many minutes remaining...you have to take the points.
Sark's play calling was off all night. He didn't establish the run early even though the opportunity was there in favor of throwing the ball. The first series was great but as soon as UW started making mistakes on special teams you could see the coaches start to panic, which was reflected by the overall play of the team and its QB.
Jake had a tough night, but you can put a lot of that on Sark's shoulders. You would figure that after two years he would figure out that Jake is best when he is rolling out to his right and has the green light to run. The up the middle draw stuff he called all night never allowed Jake to get a step ahead of the BYU defenders.
Might want to simmer down that Locker Heisman talk for now. A quick turnaround and win over Syracuse could go a long way to turning down the heat.
Oklahoma State 65, Washington State 17. Different season. Same Cougars.
Kendall Hunter had over 200 rushing yards by halftime with the Okies up 38-10. On one run he literally dragged a Cougar along with him to the end zone. Another time Cougar cornerback Nolan Washington spent the entire time running down Cowboy wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Actually, that wasn't one time. It was like three times. Or four. Or the entire game. And it wasn't really running him down, more like trying to catch up to him while he caught another touchdown.
It's like that South Park episode where the Detroit Red Wings take on Stan's Pee-Wee hockey team and literally maul all the kids on the ice. Except that was kind of funny. This is just sad.
CougCenter can say the rest:
The tendency is to blame players, coaches, referees or anybody else that could possibly blamed after a loss like this. Don't. You're all better than this. Try to look at the game, what went wrong and see if it improves in the next week or two.
I expect to see more from this team. We got blown out in the first game of the season, away from home, while starting a bunch of young players that, frankly, looked in over their heads. What we saw yesterday is simply too small of a sample size to judge the 2010 season.
We don't know how good or bad this team is right now. We won't know it next week or the week after that, either. Give it some time before you decide to check out on the season, the players and the coaching staff. I know it sucks right now -- and I feel the same way as all of you do -- but it's not the end of the world. Seeing how this team bounces back is the true test.
Oregon 72, New Mexico 0. While I wrote this, Kenjon Barner just scored another touchdown.
Of course, there are still things for the Ducks to work on, particularly the development of their young starting quarterback, as jtlight of Addicted to Quack explains:
While the Ducks were dominant, there were luckily a few teachable moments. Darron Thomas started Oregon's first drive with an absolutely horrendous interception on a screen. He apparently didn't even look to see where the defense was before dumping it off, a situation I'm sure will be rectified (It now seems like there was a blown assignment on the play, but still, Thomas can't throw that). While Thomas was good overall, and showed some flashes of greatness (including a great pass downfield to David Paulsen for the Ducks third touchdown), he also was a bit erratic with his accuracy. He had a lot of opportunities to hit open receivers, but was throwing high quite a bit. I'm hopeful this was just first game jitters. Overall, Thomas has a solid debut, with enough good and bad to be optimistic about his production this season.
The only other glaring issue with the offense was the penalty problems that the backup offensive linemen had. But getting some game experience against an FBS school will hopefully help straighten that issue out.
California 52, UC Davis 3. Keenan Allen looks very good. California Golden Blogs describes the touted true freshman's first game as a Golden Bear:
But the story on offense was Allen. KA21 started out with a 17 yard run where he burst through the Davis linebackers. On the next drive Allen caught a short pass at the line of scrimmage, then scorched his way for 19 yards. He would catch two simple slant routes from Riley and turn them into 45 and 49 yard footraces respectively (the second a touchdown).
And the play of the game was where Allen rolled right on what looked like a designed wide receiver throw, but then he saw plenty of blanket coverage back. Seeing this, he tucked it in and cut it back the other way to the other side of the field, running diagonally to the end zone and barely being touched along the way. Allen had 4 catches for 120 yards, and I'd say 90 to 100 of those yards came after the catch. It's been a long two years without YAC, and it's nice to see it back.
Arizona State 54, Portland State 9. Perhaps the reports of ASU's demise were premature. It's Portland State, but 54 points on anyone is a fairly impressive mark. House of Sparky was pleased:
Well, we got what we wanted. Steven Threet played well tonight, and was able to confidently lead the offense in his ASU debut. Cameron Marshall only ran the ball four times, but gained 104 yards. He averaged 26 yards a carry!
While I don't expect that trend to necessarily continue, we must submit that the offense played a lot better tonight than we have seen in previous seasons. New Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone has instilled a sense of unpredictability into our scheming.
As a fan, I was pleased with what I saw tonight. The Sun Devils walloped a bad team, but they did it effectively.
Stanford 52, Sacramento State 17. Andrew Luck romped and rolled. But how are the Stanford running backs handling the loss of Toby Gerhart? The Stanford Daily has more:
Other than those incidents, the Cardinal offensive line held back the pass rush quite well, earning many of the plaudits it has received as one of the country’s best units.
The line also succeeded in opening holes for Stanford’s rushing attack, which is using a “backfield-by-committee” approach. With Gerhart’s departure, Harbaugh has chosen to use a rotation of several running backs to replace his production. If this game is any indication, it appears that the offense will feature one running back on each series, rather than constantly switching players on and off the field.
Headlining that rotation are senior Jeremy Stewart and sophomore Stepfan Taylor. While Stewart was limited to five carries for 21 yards before being removed from the game with a minor injury, Taylor took three carries for 17 yards and caught a screen pass for a 59-yard touchdown.
Three other backs — redshirt freshman Usua Amanam, sophomore Tyler Gaffney and true freshman Anthony Wilkerson — also saw significant playing time. After sitting out last season due to injury, Amanam showed a great deal of explosiveness, going for 51 yards on just eight carries. Gaffney and Wilkerson each chipped in with a short touchdown run in the second half.