NCF Nation: Anthony Jefferson

Pac-12's best of 2013

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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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.

Pac-12 all-bowl team

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
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Who were the Pac-12 standouts this bowl season? Here are our picks.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBrett Hundley finished the season with a strong performance in the Bruins' bowl win.
QB Brett Hundley, UCLA: Hundley accounted for four touchdowns in the Bruins' 42-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. He rushed for 161 yards on 10 carries -- 16.1 yards per run -- with two touchdowns and he also completed 16 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two scores. Other QBs had nice games, but Hundley put up big numbers against an outstanding defense.

RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: In the AdvoCare V100 Bowl win over Boston College, Carey rushed for 169 yards on 27 carries and two scores, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. He decisively outplayed Boston College RB Andre Williams, who won the Doak Walker Award and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

RB D.J. Foster, Arizona State: Despite being banged up, Foster rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries -- 6.6 yards per carry -- in the Sun Devils' 37-23 loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. He also caught five passes for 23 yards.

WR Marqise Lee, USC: In his career finale, Lee caught seven passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns in USC's win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

WR Nate Phillips, Arizona: Phillips, a true freshman, caught nine passes for 193 yards in the Wildcats' win over Boston College.

WR Josh Huff, Oregon: Huff caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Oregon's 30-7 win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA: Su'a-Filo led the Bruins' offensive line against a tough Virginia Tech defense. UCLA rushed for 197 yards against a top-10 rushing defense and yielded only two sacks.

OL Abe Markowitz, USC: The sixth-year walk-on stepped in at center for an injured Marcus Martin -- the Trojans' best offensive lineman this season -- and played well in the 45-20 win over Fresno State. The Trojans yielded only one sack and rushed for 154 yards. He was named the "Offensive Outperformer of the Game" by his coaches.

OL Jake Fisher, Oregon: Fisher led a strong effort from the Ducks' offensive line in the win over Texas. Oregon rushed for 216 yards and yielded only two sacks. Fisher did a good job against Texas' top defender, end Jackson Jeffcoat.

OL Micah Hatchie, Washington: Hatchie, the Huskies' left tackle, was the biggest reason BYU didn't record a sack in the Fight Hunger Bowl, a 31-16 Huskies victory. Washington also rushed for 190 yards.

OL Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State: Seumalo led perhaps the Beavers O-line's best effort of the season. Oregon State rushed for 195 yards and yielded no sacks.

K Travis Coons, Washington: Coons made a 45-yard field goal against BYU -- the longest Pac-12 postseason field goal -- and was good on all four of his PATs.

DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State: Crichton had three tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and pass breakup in the win over Boise State.

DL Taylor Hart, Oregon: Hart had a game-high 11 tackles, with half a sack and a forced fumble in the Ducks' win over Texas.

DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington: Kikaha had nine tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov had nine tackles, three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble in Stanford's 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

LB Jake Fischer, Arizona: Fischer had a game-high 14 tackles in the Wildcats' win over Boston College. He also had a sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Arizona held Williams to only 75 yards on 26 carries.

LB John Timu, Washington: Timu had a game-high 14 tackles, a sack and an interception in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Jabral Johnson, Oregon State: Johnson had a game-high 12 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry in the Beavers' win over Boise State.

DB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: Reynolds had 10 tackles and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the Beavers' win over Boise State. The fumble returns went for 70 and 3 yards.

DB Avery Patterson, Oregon: Patterson had nine tackles and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the win over Texas.

DB Josh Shaw, USC: Shaw held Fresno State receiver Davante Adams to nine receptions for 73 yards in the Trojans' win over the Bulldogs. He finished with six tackles and had an interception in the end zone.

DB Anthony Jefferson, UCLA: Jefferson had seven tackles, shared a tackle for a loss and had a pass breakup in the Bruins' win over Virginia Tech. The Hokies completed only 15 of 36 throws for 176 yards.

P Ben Rhyne, Stanford: With five punts, Rhyne averaged 49.8 yards per boot in the Rose Bowl.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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Taking stock of Week 6 in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: The name of the game is winning, so Stanford gets the tip of that cap here, even if the Cardinal should feel fortunate to escape with a 31-28 win over Washington. The Huskies dominated nearly every statistic, most notably a 489 to 279 advantage in total yards and a 30-14 advantage in first downs. But coaches always talk about "all three phases," and that includes special teams, where Stanford held a decided and decisive advantage.

[+] EnlargeTy Montgomery
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsStanford receiver Ty Montgomery had a huge game versus Washington, returning a kickoff for a touchdown and adding another TD pass.
Best game: While UCLA's nail-biting win at Utah was pretty darn entertaining, college football fans who stayed up got a real treat with the Stanford-Washington game. It featured big plays on both sides of the ball, as well as fantastic individual performances. Even the controversial ending -- was there enough video evidence to overrule Keith Price's fourth-down "completion" to Kevin Smith? -- added intrigue as the Twitter debate lasted well into the wee hours of the morning.

Biggest play: Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against the Huskies. With the Cardinal offense struggling much of the night, those points would prove precious.

Offensive standout: Not everything can be about Stanford-Washington, and Washington State QB Connor Halliday turned in a gutty performance in the Cougars' 42-22 win at California. Despite suffering an upper-body injury -- shoulder? ribs? both? -- that knocked him out of the Stanford game the week before, Halliday passed for 521 yards against the Bears, which was just 10 yards short of the program record set by Alex Brink in 2005. He completed a school-record 41 passes on 67 attempts with three TDs and an interception. Further, the Cougs broke an eight-game losing streak in Berkeley -- they hadn't won at Cal since 2002.

Offensive standout II: Hard to ignore seven touchdowns. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota had five touchdown passes and two rushing TDs in a 57-16 win at Colorado. He completed 16 of 27 throws for 355 yards with no interceptions. He also rushed seven times for 43 yards.

Defensive standout: UCLA S Anthony Jefferson snagged two of the Bruins' six interceptions in their 34-27 win over Utah. He also tied for second on the Bruins with seven total tackles.

Defensive standout II: Stanford OLB Trent Murphy had two sacks and his fourth-quarter deflection of a Price pass led to an interception by A.J. Tarpley inside the Cardinal's 10-yard line. Murphy, who is making a strong case for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, had six total tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss.

Special-teams standout: No doubt about this one. Montgomery accounted for nearly 300 total yards for Stanford in the win over the Huskies, including 204 total yards on kick returns. In addition to his 99-yard touchdown, he also had a 68-yard return that set up an easy Stanford TD. Oh, by the way, he also caught a 39-yard TD pass. Simple as this: Montgomery is the reason Stanford won.

Smiley face: It's pretty cool that the Pac-12 produced a pair of outstanding games UCLA-Utah on Thursday and UW-Stanford winding up another great weekend of football. It's also meaningful, as Kevin noted, that the top teams held serve. Oregon and Stanford have fully justified top-five rankings, while UCLA continues to shine. Further, there was nothing inglorious about how Washington went down.

Frowny face: Arizona State blew its opportunity for a special start to the season with a 37-34 loss to Notre Dame. The Sun Devils had three turnovers, couldn't run the ball and made a previously struggling Notre Dame offense look potent. So, for a second time this season, Arizona State fell out of the national rankings. Further, ASU still seems to be a completely different team on the road than inside the friendly confines of Sun Devil Stadium, which bodes ill for the potentially critical visit to UCLA on Nov. 23. While many Sun Devils fans would have taken a 3-2 start in the preseason, the schedule turned out to not be as tough as it looked in August. So the present record could be termed a disappointment.

Thought of the week: Last season, we had two major Pac-12 upsets before October arrived: Stanford over No. 2 USC on Sept. 15 and Washington over No. 8 Stanford on Sept. 27. So far this season, we've had no major upsets. But you'd have to guess at least one will shock us at some point. The teams most on upset alert are the highly ranked unbeatens: Oregon, Stanford and UCLA. The Ducks have a tough trip to rival Washington on Saturday. That's a team the Ducks have beaten nine consecutive times by at least 17 points, but this matchup feels far more likely to be competitive. Stanford is at Utah. That also feels like a potentially tricky game, particularly after the emotions of the win over the Huskies on Saturday. And the Bruins shouldn't be overconfident against California, a team that is dangerous because it can throw the ball well.

Questions for the week: Who is USC going to be under interim coach Ed Orgeron? Are the Trojans going to unite around a new, fiery leader and play inspired football? If they do, they could cause some problems for teams with high aspirations. Stanford and UCLA each still play the Trojans. Or do they continue to be a distracted, seemingly indifferent group of individuals? We should get a good idea on Thursday when Arizona visits the Coliseum.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 3

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
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A look at what we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 3.

    [+] EnlargeJim Mora
    Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY SportsJim Mora's Bruins had an emotional come-from-behind win at Nebraska on Saturday.
  1. UCLA ... simply awesome: It doesn’t matter what team you cheer for, it’s hard not to feel good for UCLA and what it did in Lincoln. Trailing 21-3, the Bruins looked like they had a lot on their minds in the first half -- and they did. But in the second half, they were nothing short of sensational in their 41-21 win over Nebraska, which snapped the Huskers’ 14-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents. How’s this for second-half adjustments? In two games against UCLA (2012 and 2013), Nebraska has put up a combined 558 yards and 45 points in the first half against the Bruins. In the second half of those games, a combined 225 yards and six total points. There were plenty of great moments, but the Pac-12 blog got a little choked up when Anthony Jefferson recovered Nebraska’s red zone fumble in the fourth quarter and ran off the field and gave the ball to Jim Mora, followed by a hug that was pure emotion.
  2. Challenge accepted: After rolling through a considerably easy slate of nonconference opponents in Week 2, the Pac-12 had a serious step up in competition on the Week 3 agenda ... including four head-to-head matchups with the Big Ten. The Pac-12 went 3-1 against its Rose Bowl partners with wins from UCLA, ASU and Washington. Ohio State was the Big Ten’s lone winner after topping Cal. Overall, the league went 8-1, with USC, Washington State, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona all scoring victories. Plus, it likely knocked a pair of ranked Big Ten teams out of the Top 25, bringing ASU into the fold. Don’t be shocked to see the Bruins sniffing the top 10, either.
  3. Wake-up calls: In the eight nonconference games the Pac-12 won on Saturday, only three of them were wire-to-wire victories. The rest of the league had to overcome early deficits. Arizona, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA all gave up the first points of the game and ASU trailed 14-3 after going ahead 3-0. Of course, UCLA’s comeback was the most emotional one of the day. But the strangest goes to the Sun Devils, who were bailed out by Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave and his phantom kneel. USC, Washington and Washington State were the only teams to get an early lead and hold it. Washington led 31-10 at one point, before clinching a 10-point victory over Illinois. The Trojans were up 28-0 on Boston College, and the Cougs broke it open in the second half versus Southern Utah.
  4. Offensive business is booming: The lowest scoring team in the Pac-12 this week was Arizona State -- yeah, the Sun Devils with their explosive, high-octane offense “managed” a measly 32 points. In total, the 11 Pac-12 teams combined for 454 points in Week 3, an average of 41.2 points per team. The most offensive state of the week award goes to Oregon -- which saw the Ducks and Beavers both crack 50 points (59 for Oregon, 51 for Oregon State). The shootout of the week award goes to the Beavers and Utes, who combined for 99 points and 1,030 yards of offense. Sean Mannion’s five touchdowns matched a school record. Utah receiver Dres Anderson went for 101 yards, giving the Utes three straight games with a 100-yard receiver. And in case you were wondering, the latest update as of 3:20 a.m. PT, Storm Woods is doing well. Oh yeah, Oregon’s offense is pretty awesome, also.
  5. Next week could be fun, maybe: Week 2 was a bunch of yawners. Week 3 was exhilarating. Week 4 should be a mix of both. Arizona State and Stanford meet in what should be a marquee conference battle between two ranked teams. Both had their Week 3 issues. Stanford got off to a sluggish start against Army (time zone might have had something to do with that), and ASU avoided a disastrous meltdown when Stave failed to kneel before Zod. USC takes on a very talented Utah State squad, and the Utes try to rebound in the Holy War against BYU. The newly-invigorated Beavers travel to San Diego to face an Aztecs team that is off to a terrible start (they, too, lost to an FCS team in Week 1), while the state of Washington takes on the state of Idaho in a four-way showdown. Colorado, after having its game against Fresno State postponed, gets a much-needed bye to address needs much greater than football.

Pac-12 spring preview: South Division

February, 22, 2013
2/22/13
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Here are some keys and storylines to watch this spring in the South Division. Yesterday Ted looked at the North Division.

ARIZONA WILDCATS

Start date: March 3

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. New battery: The Wildcats are looking to replace a top-notch quarterback-center combo in Matt Scott and Kyle Quinn. The rock-solid duo helped produce one of the top offenses in the league. Jesse Scroggins and B.J. Denker are among those in the mix to run the offense and several returning offensive linemen are versatile enough to move around. Chris Putton and redshirt freshman Beau Boyster could be in the mix at center.
  2. Many happy return(er)s: Arizona returns a big chunk of its offensive production -- including running back Ka'Deem Carey and receiver Austin Hill. Both should be on all sorts of preseason teams and awards watch lists. But behind the big names, there's also David Richards, Johnny Jackson, Tyler Slavin and Garic Wharton back in the mix.
  3. No learning curve: Last spring, the talk was about Rich Rodriguez calling out his team for its lack of physical conditioning. The fact that the majority of the team understands what is expected -- and they don't need to spend the whole spring learning new systems, should be a huge help. Consider that the Wildcats return their entire defense from a group that was, at times, shaky, but will certainly benefit from another full season of playing in the 3-3-5 scheme.
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Plugging the middle: One of the few losses to ASU's roster is middle linebacker Brandon Magee -- a leader on and off the field and an all-around heck of a player. Carlos Mendoza looks to be a good fit -- though he's likely to miss spring while continuing to recover from a shoulder injury suffered against Illinois. Folks might remember his two interceptions before going down for the year.
  2. Catching on: Unlike last spring, the Sun Devils have their quarterback. And he's a good one. Now, they need to find folks he can throw to. JC transfers De'Marieya Nelson (H-back, 6-3, 230) and Jaelen Strong (WR, 6-4, 205) are both big bodies who could step in and contribute immediately.
  3. Wait and see: The kicker here is a lot of these players who are expected to compete won't arrive until the fall. So in the meantime, a lot of the younger players and redshirts will get a ton of reps in the system. And speaking of kicker, don't underestimate how much of an impact Josh Hubner made at punter. Iowan Matt Haack, who arrives in the fall, is a rugby-style kicker who can kick with either foot. That's just cool.
COLORADO BUFFALOES

Start date: March 7

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Meet your QB: Whomever it will be. There are five on the roster and a sixth coming in. Safe to say, quarterback play was extremely inconsistent last season for the Buffs. With an entirely new coaching staff coming in and installing the pistol, this could be one of the more interesting and wide-open position battles in the league.
  2. Curious defense: One needs only to review Colorado's national rankings last year to realize they struggled. As one Buffs insider mentioned to me, they were ranked No. 1 in a lot of categories. Unfortunately, that "1" was followed by two more numbers. Only three defensive ends have playing experience. However a secondary that lacked experience in 2012 has a lot more looking into 2013.
  3. Receiver options: The Buffs welcome back Paul Richardson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Colorado's premier offensive playmaker will be a nice veteran presence to whomever wins the quarterback job. Grayshirt Jeff Thomas also is back. An improved passing attack should help give the quarterback some confidence and open up the running game.
UCLA BRUINS

Start date: April 2

Spring game: April 27

What to watch:
  1. Life after Franklin: The Bruins say goodbye to the best statistical back in school history -- leaving a huge void in the backfield. Johnathan Franklin was a great presence for young quarterback Brett Hundley, but now someone has to step up to fill that role, either solo or along with a committee. Look for Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen to all get looks.
  2. New No. 1: The Y-receiver, aka hybrid tight end, was filled wonderfully by Joseph Fauria -- Hundley's favorite red zone target. Darius Bell and Ian Taubler both had looks last year, but Fauria too will be tough to replace. Shaq Evans, Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien round out a pretty good receiving corps.
  3. Secondary solutions: The Bruins must replace two corners and a safety -- Sheldon Price, Aaron Hester, Andrew Abbott -- and there isn't a ton of starting experience. Randall Goforth has five starts, but veterans such as Brandon Sermons and Anthony Jefferson have more special-teams experience than actual secondary play. Keep an eye on the secondary too when the Bruins start fall camp to see if any freshmen jump into the mix immediately.
USC TROJANS

Start date: TBD

Spring game: April 13
  1. New defensive scheme: The Trojans will move to a 5-2 defensive scheme under Clancy Pendergast, and the spring drills will be the first opportunity to see the defense in action. The Trojans will have an experienced front seven, but four new starters are expected in the secondary.
  2. Replacing Barkley: Max Wittek got the first extended audition in the battle to take over for Matt Barkley, but he didn’t do enough in two late-season starts to claim the job. Cody Kessler and freshman spring enrollee Max Browne also will be looking to take the reins at one of the glamour positions in college football.
  3. Lane Kiffin on the hot seat: The Trojans are coming off a disappointing season, and the fans are howling in protest, but so far his boss Pat Haden has maintained full support for his coach. Now is the time for Kiffin to show why that support is warranted. -- Garry Paskwietz, WeAreSC
UTAH UTES

Start date: March 19

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Erickson impact: The biggest question was what sort of role Dennis Erickson would play in the offense once he arrived. We'll know sooner than later. He already has talked about putting an identity on the Utah offense. That starts in spring when routines are established and expectations are set. And with Erickson on board to give the offense a push, the expectations will be much higher.
  2. Wilson maturing: That leads us to the presumptive starting quarterback -- Travis Wilson -- who jumped in midseason after Jordan Wynn got hurt and Jon Hays struggled to produce. Wilson went from OK to pretty good in just a few weeks. A nice jump considering his experience level. With an entire offseason knowing he'll be the starter -- and with Erickson and Brian Johnson molding him -- it will be interesting to see what progress he makes this spring.
  3. D-line makeover: The Utes lose some talent on the defensive line -- specifically All-American defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Look for DE/LB Trevor Reilly to spend more time with his hand down. Tenny Palepoi, LT Tuipulotu and JC transfer Sese Ianu could all see time in the mix at defensive tackle.

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