UCLA: Nick Pasquale

Pac-12's best of 2013

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
10:00
AM PT
Today we put a bow on the 2013 season (almost -- a few more review posts are coming up, and then probably a few more after that). But today across the blogosphere, we’re categorizing some of the top moments and individuals from the Pac-12 season. These are set in stone and in no way open to argument or interpretation.

Best coach: Arizona State's Todd Graham was voted as the league’s coach of the year by his peers. And it’s hard to argue with that, given the fact that the Sun Devils had the best league record and won their division. But you can’t discount the job of the L.A. coaches (interim or otherwise). Ed Orgeron did a phenomenal job in relief at USC before Steve Sarkisian was hired, and Jim Mora shepherded his team through a difficult time early.

Best player, offense: Ka’Deem Carey was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the year. And the Pac-12 blog agrees. Certainly, cases can be made for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was on the Heisman Trophy track before being derailed by a knee injury. And there is the debate between Carey and Washington running back Bishop Sankey, which will rage until the end of days.

Best player, defense: The coaches went with Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton. And there’s nothing wrong with that selection. But cases certainly can be made for outside linebackers Trent Murphy (Stanford) and Anthony Barr (UCLA).

Best moment: Lots of them. Shocking upsets (see below) and stellar individual performances dusted the landscape of the 2013 Pac-12 season. But in terms of moments that were seared into our memories, it’s tough not to think about UCLA’s come-from-behind win at Nebraska way back on Sept. 14, following the death of Nick Pasquale. Specifically, Anthony Jefferson recovering a red zone fumble and then sprinting off the field to give the ball to Mora, followed by a big hug. It was as authentic and genuine a moment as you’ll find in sports.

[+] EnlargeKodi Whitfield
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesStanford's Kodi Whitfield had a highlight touchdown grab against UCLA.
Biggest upset: Take your pick between Utah topping Stanford or Arizona topping Oregon. Both were road losses for the favorites and both shook up the national and league landscape. Granted, Utah’s win over Stanford came earlier in the season, and early-season losses are easier to rebound from. Oregon’s loss to Arizona came at the end and cost the Ducks all kinds of postseason possibilities.

Best workhorse performance: It’s a tie between Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney and Carey -- both of whom put in the work in their teams’ victories over Oregon. Carey rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries; Gaffney carried 45 times for 157 yards and a touchdown.

Best play: One of the most subjective categories, for sure, but Kodi Whitfield’s one-handed touchdown catch against UCLA was nothing short of spectacular. He elevated between two Bruins defenders and backhanded the ball out of the air for a 30-yard touchdown. Something about UCLA-Stanford brings out the one-handed catches. Recall in 2011, Andrew Luck hauled in a one-handed catch against the Bruins, and a few plays later, Coby Fleener snagged a one-handed dart from Luck for a touchdown.

Best performance, offense: Again, wildly subjective. Take your pick from Ty Montgomery’s five-touchdown day against Cal, Marion Grice’s four touchdowns against USC or Wisconsin, or Myles Jack’s four touchdowns against Washington. Brandin Cooks had a pretty nice day against Cal with his 232 receiving yards. There were games with seven touchdown tosses from Mariota and Taylor Kelly. Connor Halliday’s losing effort against Colorado State was spectacular. In terms of impact, it’s hard not to go back to Carey’s effort against Oregon.

Best performance, defense: As in every other category here, plenty to go around. But think way back to Washington State’s win over USC. Damante Horton had a 70-yard interception return that tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter. Then, after Andrew Furney’s 41-yard field goal put the Cougars ahead 10-7 with 3:15 left in the game, Horton picked off Max Wittek, which allowed WSU to run out the clock.

Midseason report: UCLA

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
4:30
AM PT
The first half of the season has been anything but routine for the UCLA Bruins. Tragedy struck early with the death of wide receiver Nick Pasquale, forcing the Bruins to come together in a way football can’t replicate.

Head coach Jim Mora handled the situation with honor and class, being emotionally available for his players while letting football serve as a necessary distraction, but not a priority. As a result, the Bruins are 5-0 with a marquee road win over Nebraska.

Quarterback Brett Hundley looks more polished than he did last season, a clear indication that he has a fuller understanding of Noel Mazzone’s offense. And the questions in the running game appear to have been cleared up by Jordon James, who despite missing last week has rushed for 463 yards and five touchdowns in four games with an impressive per-carry average of 6.3 yards per handle.

The second half sets up as a tough haul for the Bruins, who have already gone through both bye weeks. They close with seven straight games -- four of them on the road -- including back-to-back road trips starting this week with No. 13 Stanford and then at No. 2 Oregon. A two-game stretch at home vs. Washington and Arizona State will go a long way toward finalizing the league pecking order before they close out the year with a trip to USC.

With a 5-0 mark and a top-10 ranking, the season couldn't have started any better for UCLA on the field. Off the field, Mora has done an admirable job of celebrating the life of a beloved player while giving his team some lessons about character that the players will carry far beyond their college days.

Offensive MVP: Brett Hundley. He looks like a much more efficient quarterback than last season. Hundley is more poised in the pocket, going through all of his progressions and is making better decisions. He’s completing 68.1 percent of his throws with 12 touchdowns to 4 interceptions, and he’s also rushed for 260 yards and three scores.

Defensive MVP: Anthony Barr. As expected, Barr has emerged as a front-runner for the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year. He’s posted 26 tackles in five games with 4 sacks and a league-high 10 tackles for a loss.

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2014 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
B. Hundley336242287320
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
P. Perkins21312625.97
B. Hundley1425664.08
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
J. Payton6187014.37
D. Fuller503907.81
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense208.5278.2486.6
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring3527.27.8