NCF Nation: John Ross


A couple of up-tempo teams squared off in the Fight Hunger Bowl. But it was a big special teams play that propelled the Washington Huskies (9-4) to a 31-16 win over BYU (8-5). Here’s how it all went down Friday in San Francisco:

It was over when: Holding a 31-16 lead late in the fourth, Washington’s John Timu picked off BYU quarterback Taysom Hill with 2:28 left to play. It was BYU’s only turnover of the game and squashed the possibility of any late-game heroics. The Huskies ran down the clock, making BYU's final offensive drive moot.

Game ball goes to: Though he missed the fourth quarter, Washington running back Bishop Sankey turned in his usual workmanlike performance, rushing for 95 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns on the ground.

Unsung hero: Washington’s special teams -- particularly kick return -- were a huge difference early in the game. John Ross returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to give Washington a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. Then Jesse Callier had a 47-yard return that set up Sankey’s second score of the game. In his only field goal attempt of the game, Travis Coons hit a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: The Cougars outgained the Huskies in total offense, 473 yards to 316, but struggled in the red zone, settling for field goals in lieu of touchdowns. They also held a time of possession advantage of more than four minutes, but Washington’s special teams touchdown and long return contributed to shorter drives for the Huskies.

What it means for Washington: The Huskies pick up their ninth win for the first time since 2000 and head into the Chris Petersen era with a little bit of momentum. There are a lot of questions lingering -- such as the makeup the Petersen’s new staff (pretty good audition for Marques Tuiasosopo), which players are staying or going, etc. But for a team that came into the year with fairly high hopes, the Huskies proved they deserve a spot in the final top 25 rankings.

What it means for BYU: The loss snaps BYU’s streak of four straight bowl wins and brings an end to a very difficult schedule. Eight wins is nothing to scoff at, and their 2013 resume includes victories over Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State. Hill is a player, and with him at the helm the Cougars offense will be dangerous again next year against an easier schedule.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Fight Hunger bowl, click here.

Freshmen impact in the Pac-12

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
10:30
AM ET


Pretty much every team plays true freshmen. But how much of an impact are those freshmen having on the game? Through four weeks, some have made immediate impacts. Others have seen some mop-up time. Across the ESPN blogosphere this morning, we’re looking at the five teams in each conference who have had freshmen make the greatest impacts on their team.

[+] EnlargeJared Goff
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesCal signal-caller Jared Goff is off to a big start in his career.
1. California: The quarterback is the most important position, and anytime you have a true freshman playing quarterback, it’s going to have a significant impact on the outcome of the game. So far, quarterback Jared Goff has risen to the occasion, even if it hasn’t translated into wins for the Bears. He leads the country in total offense. He’s completing 61 percent of his passes (103-of-168) and has seven touchdowns to four interceptions. Goff is one of seven true freshmen who have seen time for the Bears. Running back Khalfani Muhammad is tied for second on the team with 21 carries (97 yards, one touchdown).

2. UCLA: The Bruins have played 16 true freshmen so far, which, as of last week, was second in the country only to Texas A&M. Linebacker Myles Jack has had the biggest impact with 14 tackles, including two for a loss and a team-high four pass breakups. They are also getting good production from Eddie Vanderdoes, who had two tackles for a loss against New Mexico State, and offensive lineman Alex Redmond has started all three games at guard.

3. USC: The Trojans have gotten impact performances on both sides of the ball from their freshmen. Seven have seen the field for the Trojans. Safety Su’a Cravens has been as advertised so far with 18 tackles, half a tackle for a loss, and an interception. With Silas Redd out, running back Justin Davis has supplemented Tre Madden nicely. In four games, Davis has rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 47.2 yards per game and a team-high 5.9 yards per carry.

4. Washington State: The Cougars have gotten quality -- not necessary quantity -- out of their true freshmen. They have only played four. But two of them are getting quality playing time and making significant contributions. Cornerback Daquawn Brown made his first career start against USC and posted a team high 11 tackles while breaking up two passes. He also had an interception against Southern Utah. Wide receiver River Cracraft is fourth on the team with 10 catches for 111 yards.

5. Colorado: The Buffs aren’t going as young as they did last year, but they are still getting production from their rookies. And they have found something special in linebacker Addison Gillam. Through two games he’s the Buffs leading tackler with 20 stops -- including a sack, two tackles for a loss and five stops on third down. He also blocked a punt. Defensive end Jimmie Gilbert should also continue to see time. In 64 snaps he has three tackles and a sack.

Honorable mentions

These guys have been impactful, but chances are their teams would still have had success if they weren’t on the field based on quality of competition and/or depth at a position. But their contributions shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • Oregon TE John Mundt: Five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Oregon RB Thomas Tyner: 12 carries for 80 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Arizona LB Scooby Wright: 13 tackles, three for a loss.
  • Oregon State KR Victor Bolden: 19 returns, 365 yards, 19.2 average.
  • Utah LS Chase Dominguez: Haven’t heard his name before? Good. You shouldn’t. He’s a long snapper.
  • Arizona State K Zane Gonzalez: Has converted 4 of 7 field goals with a long of 40 and is 3-4 inside 40 yards. 13 of 13 on PATs.
  • Washington KR John Ross: Six kick returns for 112 yards (18.7 average). Three punt returns for 16 yards (5.3 average).

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