NCF Nation: Alex Hoffman-Ellis

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

October, 3, 2011
Taking stock of the fourth week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Washington State. While the Cougars buddies in Seattle deserve a tip of the cap for winning at Utah, it's not an exaggeration to say Washington State's comeback, 31-27 victory at Colorado was the most important result of the Paul Wulff Era. It was a show of mental toughness that will be nearly as important as improved talent for the Cougs' return to relevance.

[+] EnlargeMarquess Wilson
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireWashington State's Marquess Wilson, right, celebrates with John Fullington after his fourth-quarter TD catch against Colorado.
Best game: The Cougars came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit with two TDs in the final 2 1/2 minutes, then forced a fumble to clinch the win. The key play was a 63-yard TD pass from Marshall Lobbestael to Marquess Wilson with 1:10 remaining.

Biggest play: Well, in order to spread the wealth -- Lobbestael-Wilson duly noted above -- Arizona State running back Cameron Marshall, playing on a nagging sprained ankle, turned in a physical, multi-tackle breaking 37-yard TD run against Oregon State that put the Sun Devils up 28-20 in the third quarter of a surprising tight contest with Oregon State.

Most memorable play: New category here to commemorate Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's unbelievable, one-handed 13-yard reception against UCLA that also included him athletically getting a foot in-bounds. Hey, if the quarterback thing doesn't work out, there's always tight end (and we're only half-joking; he could play tight end).

Offensive standout: There will many outstanding offensive performances, but USC quarterback Matt Barkley completed 32-of-39 passes for a school-record 468 yards with four touchdowns in the Trojans' 48-41 victory against Arizona.

Defensive standout: Washington State linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis had 14 tackles -- 12 solo -- and two sacks against Colorado.

Special teams standout: Jamal Miles, Arizona State's multi-purpose star had a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in the win against Oregon State.

Smiley face: The state of Washington. As Bud Withers of the Seattle Times pointed out, Washington and Washington State won road conference games on the same day for the first time since Oct. 18, 2003. Might the Apple Cup have some real stakes for both teams this year?

Frowny face: The new Pac-12 members. Colorado and Utah are now a combined 0-3 in conference play and 3-6 overall. The Buffaloes blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against Washington State, and Utah might have lost quarterback Jordan Wynn for a few weeks with a shoulder injury.

Thought of the week: Pac-12 defenses need to pick it up. No conference team ranks in the top-25 in total defense -- Stanford and California are 26th and 27th, respectively -- and eight rank 50th or worse. Here's a guess that the teams playing for the Pac-12 title on Dec. 2 will have top-50 defenses.

Questions for the week: Does Arizona State (4-1, 2-0) sew up the South Division on Saturday at Utah? The Utes, widely viewed as the Sun Devils top competition for the division title when the season began, are 0-2 in conference play and likely won't have Wynn. USC isn't eligible due to NCAA sanctions, and Arizona, UCLA and Colorado haven't shown much thus far.
On Friday, we looked at offensive three-headed monsters -- the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver troikas -- so it also makes sense to also look at their defensive counterparts, the best threesomes from each of the three levels of defense: defensive line, linebacker and defensive back.

Here's the tally from last season, if you are interested.

1. Arizona State

DE Junior Onyeali, LB Vontaze Burfict, CB Omar Bolden

The Skinny: No question on No. 1 here. Onyeali was the Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Burfict is the nation's best inside linebacker. Bolden was unanimous first-team All-Pac-10.

2. Stanford

DE Matt Masifilo, LB Shayne Skov, SS Delano Howell

The Skinny: Masifilo, the lone returning starter on the Cardinal defensive line, was honorable mention All-Pac-10, as was Skov, who was playing as well as any linebacker in the conference over the final third of the season. Howell was second-team All-Pac-10.

3. California

DE Trevor Guyton, LB Mychal Kendricks, S Sean Cattouse

The Skinny: Guyton had 8.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks despite being a part-time starter. Kendricks was second-team All-Pac-10. Cattouse earned honorable mention.

4. Oregon

DE Terrell Turner, LB Josh Kaddu, CB Cliff Harris

The Skinny: Two solid returning starters and a second-team All-Pac-10 cornerback who figures to be a preseason All-American after earning second-team honors from the Associated Press and Walter Camp Football Foundation in 2010.

5. Washington:

DT Alameda Ta'amu, LB Cort Dennison, FS Nate Fellner

The Skinny: Ta'amu earned honorable mention All-Conference honors and seemed to find himself over the latter half of the season. Dennison had 93 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and two interceptions. Fellner tied for second in the conference with five interceptions.

6. Arizona

DT Justin Washington, LB Paul Vassallo, CB Trevin Wade

The Skinny: Washington's numbers fell off when he got banged up, but he still had 11.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks as a redshirt freshman. Vassallo was honorable mention All-Conference. Wade had an off year last fall, but was second-team All-Pac-10 in 2009.

7. USC

DE Armond Armstead, LB Chris Galippo, FS T.J. McDonald

The Skinny: This actually could be one of the best threesomes in the conference, but Armstead and Galippo have injury issues and only put up middling numbers last fall. McDonald was second-team All-Pac-10 in 2010.

8. Washington State

DE Travis Long, LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis, SS Deone Bucannon

The Skinny: Long was honorable mention All-Conference, Bucannon, who started as a true freshman, and Hoffman-Ellis were the Cougars' top two tackles in 2010.


DE Datone Jones, LB Patrick Larimore, SS Tony Dye

The Skinny: A solid threesome that is down here more because it gets an "incomplete." Jones missed all of last season with a foot injury, but, if healthy, he's an All-Conference sort. Larimore was solid in seven games before suffering a shoulder injury. Dye led the Bruins in tackles and earned honorable mention All-Pac-10.

10. Colorado

NG Will Pericak, LB Jon Major, FS Ray Polk

The Skinny: Pericak earned honorable mention All-Big 12. Major was the Buffaloes leading tackler before he blew out his knee in Game 7 (a knee injury also killed the junior's true freshman season). Polk was the second-leading tackler.

11. Utah

DE Derrick Shelby, LB Chaz Walker, CB Conroy Black

The Skinny: Honestly don't know how to rank the Utes here. Shelby and Walker are returning starters -- Walker earned second-team All-Mountain West honors. Black was the top backup cornerback last season. But Star Lotulelei might be the Utes' best defensive lineman, and Brian Blechen has moved from strong safety, where he was very good, to linebacker. How highly do the Utes think of him? They list him as an All-American candidate.

12. Oregon State

DE Dominic Glover, LB Rueben Robinson, S Lance Mitchell

The Skinny: Three returning starters, but none of them even earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors. Mitchell was the Beavers' third-leading tackler, Glover had 2.5 sacks, and Robinson split time with Tony Wilson.

Pac-10 roundup, Part 1

September, 20, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

Wow. What a day.

Washington broke through. USC went splat. California proved it can win on the road. Oregon put the loss at Boise State behind it by ending the nation's longest winning streak. Washington State posted a comeback victory.

Here's a look at the early games. Will come back with a post for the three late games.

Washington 16, USC 13: The Trojans were sloppy and quarterback Aaron Corp didn't play well stepping in for the injured Matt Barkley. Washington played well on both sides of the ball and won the critical turnover battle 3-0. All three of USC's turnovers happened deep in Washington territory. A year after finishing 0-12, the Huskies and new coach Steve Sarkisian are 2-1 and 1-0 in the Pac-10. Up next: USC plays host to Washington State; Washington visits Stanford.

California 35, Minnesota 21: Minnesota challenged Cal, tying the game 21-21 in the third quarter, but the Bears responded and won going away. That broke a four-game road losing streak. Jahvid Best scored five touchdowns and rushed for 131 yards, which should establish him as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. With USC's loss, the Bears now become the Pac-10 front-runner. Of course, they've got another -- tougher -- road test coming up. Up next: California visits Oregon.

Oregon 31, Utah 24: Reports of the Ducks' demise apparently were wrong, as they ended Utah's 16-game winning streak and improved to 2-1. While quarterback Jeremiah Masoli continues to struggle -- and Oregon had four turnovers -- the running game got back on track, with LaMichael James rushing for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown. Safety John Boyett, who stepped in for an injured T.J. Ward, had a pick deep in Ducks territory to keep the Utes from tying the game. Up next: Cal comes calling.

Cincinnati 28, Oregon State 18: The Beavers just couldn't stop Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike, who threw for 332 yards, and receiver Mardy Gilyard. Oregon State continues to struggle to both pressure the quarterback -- just one sack -- and protect its quarterback -- the Bearcats had five sacks. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers, though bothered by a sprained ankle, rushed for 73 yards on 20 carries. Up next: The Beavers open Pac-10 play by hosting to Arizona. Both are coming off nonconference losses.

Iowa 27, Arizona 17: Arizona only managed eight first downs at Iowa, and it's clear the Wildcats are still looking for answers at quarterback. Matt Scott and Nick Foles only combined for 105 yards passing, but Foles outplayed Scott, completing 6 of 11 for 55 yards with a touchdown. Scott was 4 of 14 for 50 yards with an interception. The receivers didn't help -- Delashaun Dean dropped what would have been a big pass play. Arizona was 2 of 12 on third down; Iowa was 10 of 19. The Hawkeyes were able to push around a smaller Wildcats defensive front. Up next: Arizona heads to Oregon State to open Pac-10 play.

Washington State 30, SMU 27 OT: The Cougars showed some guts, fighting back from a 24-7 third-quarter deficit to win over overtime. They grabbed four interceptions, including one by Chima Nwachukwu to stop the Mustangs on their first overtime possession. The Cougars' best offense, in fact, was its defense. Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis returned one interception 52 yards for a touchdown, while linebacker Myron Beck grabbed one and went 67 yards for a score. While new starting quarterback Marshall Lobbestael wasn't terribly sharp, he led the Cougars on an 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the game with 28 seconds left in regulation. SMU outgained the Cougs 504 yards to 276, but the Cougs found a way to get their first win of the season.