NCF Nation: Kenny Lawler

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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Taking stock of Week 10 in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: USC, injury-riddled, coach-less and written off just more than a month ago, has won three of four games since Ed Orgeron took over for Lane Kiffin as interim coach, including a 31-14 win at Oregon State on Friday. And it just missed at Notre Dame (literally -- see two missed field goals). The Trojans might end up making some noise in the Pac-12's South Division after all.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesUSC wideout Marqise Lee caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown versus Oregon State.
Best game: California pushed Arizona to the brink in the Wildcats' 33-28 victory. The Bears pulled within a touchdown with 1:42 remaining on a 19-yard scoring toss for Jared Goff to Kenny Lawler, but Arizona recovered the ensuing onside kick and burned the clock down to zero after a 17-yard Ka'Deem Carey run gave the Wildcats a first down.

Biggest play: USC QB Cody Kessler hit Marqise Lee for a 71-yard touchdown on the Trojans' first offensive play, which seemed to ignite the Trojans at Oregon State, a place where they had lost three consecutive games.

Offensive standout: Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly accounted for seven touchdowns in the Sun Devils' 55-21 blowout win at Washington State, earning a 95.4 QBR for the performance. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 275 yards with five TDs and one interception. He also rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries with two TDs.

Defensive standout: USC turned in another scintillating defensive performance at Oregon State, holding the Beavers to 14 points and 361 yards. The Beavers had been averaging 40.1 points and 487.4 yards. The Trojans had three interceptions, which matched Oregon State QB Sean Mannion's total through the first eight games. USC also got two sacks from outside linebacker Devon Kennard.

Special-teams standout: Oregon State might have lost to USC, but it wasn't punter Keith Kostol's fault. He averaged 45.8 yards on five punts, killing three inside the Trojans' 20-yard line with no touchbacks. His long was 49 yards.

Smiley face: While the North Division -- Oregon & Stanford -- gets much of the attention, the South Division also features two ranked teams: UCLA and Arizona State. They could play a critical game on Nov. 23 that will garner national attention, but they have to take care of business beforehand. Both did just that as favorites this week, with Arizona State rolling at Washington State 55-21 on Thursday, and the Bruins taking down the pesky Buffaloes 45-23 on Saturday. There have been plenty of years in the Pac-12 when ranked teams went rear-end-over-tea-kettle against seemingly overmatched foes, killing chances for a marquee matchup between ranked foes a few weeks down the road.

Frowny face: Oregon State's chances of returning to the national ranking are probably done for the season. In fact, the blowout loss to USC at home opens up the question whether the Beavers will win again against a troika of tough foes down the stretch: at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon.

Thought of the week: It's Oregon-Stanford time. While Stanford's loss at Utah watered down this matchup a bit, it still remains the Pac-12 game of the season, the one that determines the North Division and conference front-runner. Oregon is aiming for an unbeaten season and a berth in the national title game. Stanford is aiming at a second consecutive upset of the Ducks, Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl victory. Buckle up.

Questions for the week: Who's going to rule the South and try to stop the Ducks or Cardinal from achieving their BCS bowl goals? The plot thickens Saturday with UCLA's visit to Arizona and Arizona State's trip to Utah. The Wildcats could throw themselves thickly into the race with a win over the Bruins, while the typically road-adverse Sun Devils need to win a second consecutive game away from Sun Devil Stadium. And, by the way, USC, which visits California on Saturday, is lurking.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
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Five things we learned in the Pac-12 from Week 10:

  1. When consistent, ASU is really good: The Sun Devils picked up their first road win of the season with an extremely impressive 55-21 win over Washington State on Thursday night. Here's the kicker ... running back Marion Grice didn't get in the end zone! Quarterback Taylor Kelly was dominant, completing 22 of 31 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 66 yards and two scores, giving him seven on the day. Since dropping a 37-34 game to Notre Dame, the Sun Devils have outscored Colorado, Washington and Washington State 162-58. If the Sun Devils can maintain this consistent, high level of play, the rest of the Pac-12 South will be hard-pressed to keep pace. As for the Cougs, after a 4-2 start, they have dropped three straight, and the defense has given up at least 52 points in all three losses.
  2. [+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
    Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC is 3-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, who celebrated Friday's win in Corvallis with the band.
  3. The Trojans aren't done yet; the Beavers might be: Despite everything that has happened to USC, the Trojans are a factor in the South Division. They need to win out and probably get a little help along the way, but after a fairly convincing 31-14 road win over Oregon State, the Trojans look like a team to be reckoned with down the stretch. Since the Lane Kiffin firing, USC is 3-1 under Ed Orgeron. Conversely, Oregon State suffered a big setback and is now an even longer shot to win the North Division. There is still hope, but the Beavers also need to win out and hope for some help.
  4. Colorado is gritty: Say what you want about the wins and losses, but Colorado is a tougher team than it was last season. UCLA won 45-23, and the final score isn't particularly shocking. But the Buffs led midway through the second quarter, and true freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau looked very poised on the road, going 25-of-36 for a touchdown and zero interceptions. They matched UCLA's physicality and even showed a bit of swagger -- be it from receiver Paul Richardson or Liufau. Culture change takes a long time. But we are starting to see the makings of a team that isn't satisfied with being pushed around. On the flip side, good performance from UCLA to get back on track. Brett Hundley looked like he was still a little uncomfortable with his young offensive line, but he looked stronger. If the Bruins can survive a trip to Arizona and home date with Washington, Nov. 23 is high noon with ASU coming to town.
  5. About those Cats: Arizona has won three in a row, including back-to-back road games to become bowl-eligible for the second straight year under Rich Rodriguez. A fine accomplishment, considering everyone they lost in the offseason through injury, graduation or attrition. Quarterback B.J. Denker turned in another steady performance, completing 24 of 38 passes for 261 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. But he's also emerged the past couple of weeks as a solid complementary runner to Ka'Deem Carey. Denker rushed for 44 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Cal. Carey, meanwhile, continues to shred defenses. Although he didn't reach the end zone against the Bears, he rushed for 152 yards, giving him 1,072 for the year. A big date with UCLA awaits next week. Can't overlook the performance of Cal, either, which sold out to stop the run early and showed a lot of life. Kenny Lawler finally had that breakout game with three touchdown catches, two of them spectacular.
  6. South rising? The early disparity between the North and South seems to be shrinking. The South scored two major victories this week with USC's win at Oregon State and ASU's win at Washington State. Arizona's win over Cal was expected, but again, we give the Bears credit for the strong showing. As it stands, the North still holds a two-game edge over the South with an 8-6 record. Oregon is the only team to be perfect in inter-division play. Stanford, ASU and Oregon State are all 2-1. It stands to reason that the North is still probably considered the stronger division with Oregon and Stanford ranked in the top five. But the South has made a strong play of late with its depth, which includes five of six teams at .500 or better.

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
9:00
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So who deserves a helmet sticker for a job well done?

Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State: Kelly accounted for seven touchdowns in the Sun Devils' 55-21 blowout win at Washington State. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 275 yards with five TDs and one interception. He also rushed for 66 yards on 13 carries with two TDs.

Javorius "Buck" Allen, RB, USC: A forgotten man under former coach Lane Kiffin, Allen rushed for 133 yards on just 16 carries -- 8.3 yards per rush -- in the Trojans' upset 31-14 win at Oregon State. He scored three TDs -- 52, 18 and nine yards. He also caught four passes for 41 yards.

B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona: Another strong performance from Denker, who accounted for four touchdowns in the 33-28 win over Califonria. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 261 yards and a TD and rushed for 44 yards and three scores.

Kenny Lawler, WR, California: Lawler only caught eight passes for 72 yards in the Bears loss to Arizona, but he accounted for three touchdowns, one of which was an absolutely spectacular one-handed grab.

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: After struggling against Stanford and Oregon, Hundley bounced back with a strong performance in the 45-23 win over Colorado. He completed 19 of 24 for 273 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also led all Bruins rushers with 72 yards on 11 carries -- 6.5 yards per rush -- with two TDs.
On the low end of the bell curve, California's wide receivers will probably be productive. But youth, packaged with a new offensive system, might mean they'll need another year to get up to speed.

On the high end of the bell curve, California might have one of the most explosive wide receiving corps in the Pac-12.

It's that wide open when you measure the depth and potential of the youngsters.

Chances are, they'll probably fall somewhere in the middle. But there is no disputing that new coach Sonny Dykes has some very good talent at the position that can't wait to break out in the new "Bear Raid" system.

[+] EnlargeChris Harper
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsChris Harper is expected to be part of a deep Cal receiving corps.
"It's an interesting group," Dykes said. "We've got a lot of different kinds of guys. We've got longer guys with great ball skills. We've got big guys. Fast guys. A lot of range."

In the pro-style attack of former head coach Jeff Tedford, Keenan Allen was the guy -- totaling 205 catches, 2,570 yards and 17 touchdowns in a three-year career. It didn't hurt that his brother was the quarterback. But relations aside, Allen was the kind of talent that it didn't matter who was throwing the football, he was going to be the primary receiver.

In the new system, there is room to spread the wealth. Sophomore Bryce Treggs (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) is fast, shifty and good in space. Redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler might be the most complete of the bunch at 6-3, 185, with the ability to stretch the field.

"We didn't know at first what we were getting with him," Dykes said. "But he came in and had as productive a spring as anybody. He was really good at going to get the football and he has some outstanding ball skills. He still needs to learn to play the position. But he's been a pleasant surprise."

Sophomore Chris Harper (6-0, 165) was second only to Allen last year, catching 41 balls for 544 yards and two touchdowns. Injury, however, limited him this spring.

"We didn't get a great chance to evaluate him," Dykes said. "But we're starting to get a sense now for how he moves and we're pleased. Athletic, quick guy.

Then there is sophomore Darius Powe (6-3, 212), sophomore Maurice Harris (6-3, 205), sophomore Maximo Espitia (6-2, 215), former tight end, sophomore Richard Rodgers and about five or six other players who could be impact guys.

It's a unit loaded with youth -- which also means it will grow up together and might eventually emerge as one of the top receiving corps in the league.

But first things first.

"We still need a quarterback," Dykes said.

Oh yeah, details.

"From a talent standpoint, the ingredients are all there," Dykes said. "Maurice Harris has a chance to do some good things. Richard Rodgers has lost about 25 pounds. If he's good at inline blocking, we'll stick him out there and let him block. But that's not really his strength. His strength is being able to run routes and cover people up with his body."

There is room for cautious optimism that personnel is a silky fit for what Dykes wants to bring to the Bears.

"I think we have the makings of having a pretty good offense," he said. "There are question marks at spots. We have to stay healthy at running back. We probably need to get some depth from a true freshman, which is never a good thing. But there are reasons to be optimistic."

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