Each week, Avinash Kunnath of SB Nation's California Golden Blogs recaps the weekend of Pac 10 football.
Oregon 48, Tennessee 13
It was an inspiring performance. The Volunteers came out and hit the Ducks in the mouth. Their front four dominated the line of scrimmage. They methodically picked apart the much-heralded Oregon front seven with great fundamental blocking on the undersized linemen, and they unleashed their seldom used tailback Tauren Poole. They pressured Darron Thomas and attacked the zone read with exuberance.
They outgained the Ducks 198-56 early on and seemed like the better team early on, bullying and battering their way to a 13-6 lead. They went into the locker room proud that they'd given it their full effort, and that they were the better team on the field for the entirety of game action.
There was one problem. It was halftime.
The Oregon Ducks are like that young kid you're babysitting that you keep on playing with to try to tire them out, and then the minutes pass by, and they turn into hours, and eventually you want to close your eyes...and the kid always wins. With LaMichael James, Cliff Harris and Kenjon Barner, the Ducks had three of those kids in Knoxville Saturday night. Without doing much on offense for most of the game, Oregon turned an upset special into a laugher in the matter of minutes. The power of Chip Kelly prevails.
A respectable effort by the Volunteers, and they managed as much as they could with the limited experience (14 true freshmen starting!) they had. But they wore down to the experience and grit of the Ducks. Oregon should enter Pac-10 play unscathed and very much alive in the national title hunt.
SB Nation Reactions
Addicted to Quack (Oregon): "There were some issues that Oregon will want to work on before Pac-10 play: problems controlling the power run game, so issues on both lines both with getting push and with penalties (Carson York had three holding penalties), and Darron Thomas is still working on his accuracy (though he had a very good game overall). However, it could be said that going into SEC country and blowing Tennessee out while still having things to work on and keep the team focused is the best possible result in this situation."
Rocky Top Talk (Tennessee): "Oregon figured out how to stop Poole, and Tennessee couldn't execute any contingency plan. It was still 13-13 going into the half, but in the second half, the Vols couldn't get anything going on offense, and as the game wore on, the defense got tired, and with the fatigue came poor tackling, and with the poor tackling, came points. In bunches. 45 unanswered points, to be exact."
USC 17, Virginia 14
We move from the present Pac-10 power to the team that abdicated the throne last year. And it's not clear if they're ready to challenge anyone to anything this season.
The Trojans offense moved at a sluggish and methodical pace. Matt Barkley was at best average, making a few nice goal-line throws but didn't complete 60 percent of his passes. When he did throw on target, the USC receiving corps showed their inexperience, as everyone including Ronald Johnson dropped pass after pass after pass. Virginia sold out to stop the run.
Virginia's defense made USC's offense work all the way. Virginia got four tackles for a loss, two sacks, forced a fumble on Barkley, and broke up three passes. They forced Barkley to deliver throws -- which he couldn't do for 57 of 60 minutes of the game. You can imagine this'll be the game strategy for every Pac-10 opponent down the road.
The good sign for USC is that their defense returned to form, and they looked ok holding Virginia to two touchdowns. It was a welcome change for a secondary that had been much maligned, although they still gave up plenty of yards and missed plenty of tackles. You'd have to figure if it was a competent offense, a lot more points would've been marked up on the scoreboard.
Oh, I forgot about the penalties. There were 13 in all for the Trojans, and 150 yards taken back off the board. USC fans took note.
SB Nation Reaction
Conquest Chronicles (USC): "Some of the dumb penalties last night to show little progress in the area of discipline. Lane Kiffin thinks the same thing when you listen to his post game commentary. You can only use the excuse of youth and inexperience for so long ... At some point a light bulb has to go off in a players head not to hit an opposing player out of bounds. Questionable calls or not, 'SC has always been the target of the officials to try and level the playing field. I have always thought that 'SC was held to a different standard. Unfortunately, because of depth you can't bench everyone to get the message across so it is a work in progress. I have never seen a team that lacks the discipline that we are witnessing right now. In fact, I think it will get worse before it gets better."
Stanford 35, UCLA 0
If there's anything that'll give the Trojans joy, it's that they won their display of wretched football. No such occurrence was happening for their crosstown rivals in the Rose Bowl.
This score does not reflect Cardinal defensive greatness as much as it does Bruin offense incompetence. Kevin Prince did not look like a quarterback who knew what to do with the Pistol Offense. He constantly misread the defensive lineman, or couldn't make the right decision with the handoff to the running back, or run the ball, or throw the ball, or do anything remotely close to what a quarterback should do.
The Bruins defense is taking some heat for the 35 points they gave up, but they played pretty valiantly until attrition and time of possession wore them out. It wasn't the defense that wouldn't go down at contact, or committed an unconscionably dumb penalty inside their red zone to kill a UCLA drive. It wasn't the defense that threw an ill-advised interception on third down within field goal range. Sacramento State put up more points on Stanford than UCLA did, and they're not even a great FCS team. The Bruins problems are offensive, first and foremost.
As for Stanford, I came away more impressed with their defense than their offense. The Bruins were only able to generate 233 yards, and much of it is due to the Cardinal's defense ability to stuff the inside running game, which forced UCLA to go to the air with Prince and later Richard Brehaut. Safety Michael Thomas led the way with an impressive fumble recovery, where he wrested the ball away from Prince for a game-clinching score.
Andrew Luck looked more impressive with his legs than with his arm. He barely completed half of his passes (although two of them were for scores), and two drives he led stalled at the goal-line--another one was a 4th and goal stop away from being turned back. He did gallop for 63 yards on 9 carries on a variety of scrambles, zone reads, and designed runs. The Cardinal run game was ok, but the Stanford offense was not .
The majority of the credit goes to the defense for stopping UCLA's offense...or UCLA's offense for stopping itself. It all depends on your point of view.
SB Nation Reaction
Bruins Nation: "Ultimately though the responsibility falls on the head coach for putting together an undisciplined, unorganized and mentally slow squad, which despites all its upgrade at certain skill positions, throughly humiliated those four letters in a big game to start his third home season ... The performance tonight in Neuheisel's third season was simply indefensible and unacceptable. Our expectations at the beginning of this season were fairly modest in terms of W/L records. We knew given our injury issues and our ridiculous schedule we were looking at somewhere in the range of 5-7 seasons. What we really expected though was a UCLA team that would fight, scratch, claw and play its heart out every game, get better through the season, and eventually end up with at least a non losing record in the conference. It will be up to Rick Neuheisel to live up to those reasonable expectations."
Washington State 23, Montana State 22
This is how sad it's become for the Cougars. They needed to rally from 15 down, needed three scores because they missed the two point conversion on the second touchdown, and needed another two interceptions to get the go-ahead score and clinch the win. All this to not only hold off a fairly average FCS opponent at home, but avoid losing by double digits.
I feel quite happy for them, because this is the last victory they'll get this season that won't end up being on Sportscenter titled "SHOCKER OF THE WEEKEND!" That's what poor Wazzu has been reduced to in the third year of the Paul Wulff era. It's an age which has turned Pullman into the football equivalent of Raccoon City, where the fans are all living zombies, hoping to understand what a victory against a meaningful opponent means once again.
I've never felt so terrible and angry after a win. I don't like this feeling. It hurts, it bothers me and it's embarrassing.
Washington 41, Syracuse 20
After a rough week in Provo, Jake Locker responded by throwing to Jermaine Kearse over and over again to stop the bleeding. John Berkowitz of UW Dawg Pound with the story:
The Huskies owned the third quarter starting with Kearse taking a short pass 57 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half. It was one of three touchdowns Kearse scored during the game. Kearse grabbed TD receptions of 5, 57 and 28 yards, doing most of the work himself on the final two receptions, to become the first Washington receiver with three touchdown catches in a game since Reggie Williams during the 2002 season.
Jermaine finished with 179 yards on nine receptions and Jake Locker threw for 289 yards and tied his career high with four TD passes, and the Huskies (1-1) offense showed the offensive firepower that was missing a week ago in a 23-17 loss at Brigham Young.
The much-questioned offensive line held their own against the Orangemen. The defense still has some issues to deal with, but Washington looks back on track. Now comes a stiff test for Locker and his protectors at home against a rugged Nebraska defensive front.
California 52, Colorado 7
Nice victory by the Bears, who hit the fifty mark for the second straight week. Still hard to see what this means, since everyone had pencilled in a Cal victory over a 3-9 Colorado squad with a head coach on the hot seat in the preseason. They did what they were expected to do, even if the wins were a little more impressive than expected.
One good note: The special teams units that have plagued the Golden Bears with weakness and ineptitude finally look like a formidable unit. California Golden Blogs talks about this development:
The one thing that we can take from this is Cal's special teams looks much better. Bryan Anger was back to his old form, booting punts of 66 and 58 and pinned Colorado deep close to their own end zone on another occasion. Ross is really showing he can handle the punt returns. Kick return coverage was good at times, spotty at others. The real pleasant surprise is Giorgio Tavecchio, who hit almost every kick inside the ten, even hitting a kick into the wind deep into the end zone. AND he nailed a 31 yard field goal right down the pipe (to outsiders this might seem amusing; to Cal fans this is dreamy). Replicating those performances in Reno and Tucson would be a huge, huge deal, considering how much more special teams means when trying to pull out road victories.
Arizona State 41, Northern Arizona 20
For three quarters, the Sun Devils were on upset alert, having to battle the Lumberjacks tooth-and-nail before finally pulling away late. Pitchfork Nation talked about how the slow start nearly did them in.
NAU kicked off to ASU, and things just didn’t go very well on that first Sun Devil possession. On their first play from scrimmage, left guard Adam Tello got called for holding. Then on 1st and 20, right tackle Brice Schwab was flagged for a false start. Steven Threet then threw consecutive incomplete passes to Jamal Miles and Aaron Pflugrad, bringing up 3rd and 25–on which Threet was sacked by NAU defensive end Isaac Bond, and was flagged for intentional grounding on the play. On their first possession of the night, the Sun Devils were faced with a 4th down and 36 yards to go for a first down. Not exactly the way to start any football game, and it certainly was a harbinger of a performance that Erickson described as “out of sync”.
No slow starts can be afforded next week, when the Sun Devils take their act on the road to face Wisconsin.
Curious, by the way: How does ASU get away with scheduling two FCS schools when every other Pac-10 school faces one or none? Isn't this a considerable advantage?
Arizona 52, The Citadel 6
Serious question: The Citadel have been paid off to lose by six touchdowns to how many FBS teams in its college football lifetime? They've at least nearly made one round around all the big schools, right?
The Daily Wildcat recapped the impressiveness of the Arizona defense to shut their first two opponents out of the end zone, which is a little less impressive when you realize it's Toledo and the Citadel.
Arizona’s defense certainly did not take The Citadel lightly and showed up big against the triple-option offense, allowing only 171 yards of total offense. The Wildcats had little trouble with the Bulldogs’ attack led by freshman quarterback Matt Thompson, who was 2-for-7 for 12 on passing attempts and rushed for minus nine yards on the night.
“It was exactly what we thought it was going to be — we practiced the same plays that they ran so it was no biggie,” said senior defensive end Brooks Reed.
If I were a Wildcat fan, I'd reserve the celebrations for when Iowa comes to town next week. We should know a lot about the chances of the Wildcats to get to Pasadena then.