NCF Nation: Nico Grasu

Pac-10 Week 2: Did you know?

September, 10, 2010
9/10/10
11:57
AM ET
Some quick notes to get you through the hours until Saturday.
  • Five Pac-10 players accounted for at least three TDs last weekend: California's Shane Vereen, Oregon's Kenjon Barner (5 TDs), USC Ronald Johnson (4 TDs), Arizona State's Deantre Lewis and Arizona State's Cameron Marshall.
  • Three Pac-10 QBs rank among the nation's top seven in passing efficiency: Stanford's Andrew Luck at No. 3, USC's Matt Barkley at No. 4 and California's Kevin Riley at No. 7.
  • Seven different Arizona receivers caught at least three passes last week at Toledo.
  • Arizona State kicker Thomas Weber is 3 for 3 from beyond 50 yards in his career after booting a 52-yard field goal vs. Portland State. He was one of three conference kickers to connect from beyond 50 yards (Washington's Erik Folk, 54 yards, and Washington State's Nico Grasu, 56 yards).
  • Cal is 2-2 all-time with Colorado, but this is its first meeting since 1982.
  • Oregon is one of eight teams nationally that produced shutouts last weekend.
  • Ducks CB Cliff Harris returned two punts for TDs -- for 61 and 64 yards -- in the win over New Mexico. Two punt returns for TDs has only been accomplished twice before by Pac-10 players: USC's Mike Garrett in 1965 vs. Cal; UCLA's Sam Brown in 1954 vs.Stanford.
  • Oregon State safety Lance Mitchell leads the conference in tackles after recording 18 vs. TCU. Fellow safety Suaesi Tuimaunei is tied for third with 14.
  • UCLA leads its series with Stanford 45-32-3.
  • UCLA kicker Kai Forbath tied two NCAA records after going 3 for 3 vs. Kansas State. His 27 games with at least two field goals ties Georgia's Kevin Butler and his 13 with at least three ties Arizona State's Luis Zendejas. Forbath has made 40 consecutive field goals inside of 50 yards. His 75 career field goals are just 12 short of the NCAA record of 87.
  • USC has won 31 consecutive night games (USC-Oregon kicked off at 5 p.m. last year).
  • Washington QB Jake Locker made his college debut as a redshirt freshman at Syracuse in 2007. The Huskies won 42-12.
  • Dating back to the last part of the 1975 season, the Huskies have gone 35-14 when playing at home the game after a loss on the road.
  • Washington State is trying to snap a 10-game losing streak Saturday vs. Montana State. The Cougars are 6-0 all-time vs. the Bobcats.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
 Washington State head  coach Paul Wulff holds the Apple Cup trophy in the locker room after Washington State beat Washington, 16-13, in double overtime Saturday.

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Wearing flushed faces and unbelieving grins, they leaped over the railing at Martin Stadium and stormed the field, a spontaneous and joyous crimson tide flowing over the turf and meeting in a pulsating mass for a raucous celebration.

"Wooooooo! No. 1 baby!" bellowed a middle aged man as he flung himself into the swirl of humanity.

Victory. So sweet.

It looked and felt like the scene at Texas Tech a few weeks back, when the Red Raiders announced themselves as national title contenders.

Only this was Washington State, and the team trudging off the field with grim and nearly catatonic faces was Washington.

Washington State had triumphed in the 101st Apple Cup, 16-13, in double-overtime, overcoming a 10-0 halftime deficit.

The Cougars and Huskies entered the game with a combined 1-20 record, the lone victory being Washington State's win over Portland State, a mediocre FCS team.

The stakes were simple, thereby earning this train wreck of a game national attention. The loser would be known as the nation's worst BCS conference team.

"That's really disrespectful but there's really nothing you can do about it," Washington State cornerback Romeo Pellum said. "We are one of the worst teams in the nation."

Still, that the Cougars, a touchdown underdog at home to a winless team, hung that dubious distinction over the mantle of their archrival, well, that's the greatest thing in the world.

"It's the best feeling I've had in my life -- ever," Pellum said.

Amid the craziness, the Huskies slouched off the field. Some raced up the tunnel, looking for quick escape. Others walked slowly, seeming to purposefully take in the scene as if they were picking at a wound.

Tears streamed down senior offensive guard Jordan White-Frisbee's face. Limping badly, he required the assistance of tackle Cody Habben and defensive lineman De'Shon Matthews to get off the field. The threesome, arm in arm, wandered into the darkness of the stadium tunnel.

The game was the Huskies to lose. And they found a way to do so for an 11th time this season and 13th time in a row overall.

The short explanation is they couldn't make a field goal. Ryan Perkins missed from 37 yards in the second overtime and from 28 yards in the fourth quarter. Jared Ballman, the long kicker, missed from 40 yards, also in the fourth.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. USC's backfield rotation is getting simpler: With Allen Bradford suffering a hip injury that has imperiled his season, and Joe McKnight battling a sore knee -- not to mention inconsistency -- the Trojans backfield rotation likely will feature Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable as options Nos. 1 and 2, with McKnight used as a change of pace guy who doubles as a receiver.

2. Can a freshman tackle handle an All-Pac-10 defensive end?: If UCLA's offense is going to have any success at Oregon, it's going to have to account for end Nick Reed, who was first-team All-Pac-10 in 2007 and is presently leading the conference with six sacks. That falls to freshman tackle Jeff Baca, a former teammate of Reed's at Mission Viejo High School -- and by teammate we mean Baca used to admire Reed from afar. Baca figures to need some help (sliding protection or even a tight end with a max-protection scheme), but the less he needs the better for the Bruins.

3. Welcome to opportunity, Danny Sullivan: Folks didn't give Arizona State much chance at USC even with marquee quarterback Rudy Carpenter, so it is reasonable to assume that if Carpenter can't go the Sun Devils are pretty much doomed. Well, plenty of inexperienced or unknown athletes have stepped up and turned in clutch performances, so why not Danny Sullivan? Let's remember: Stanford, a 41-point underdog a year ago at USC, was led by Tavita Pritchard, an emergency, first-time starter because T.C. Ostrander had suffered a seizure the previous week. What happened in that game?

4. Will Justin Roper retake his spot as Oregon's starting quarterback?: The latest word is that Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly are still cogitating over who will start at quarterback for the Ducks against UCLA -- either Jeremiah Masoli, who has started the past three games, or former starter Justin Roper, who hurt his knee at Purdue on Sept. 13. Masoli has been solid in Roper's stead, and there's a possibility he holds onto the job, but Roper should have a lot more knowledge of the offense compared to the first-year juco transfer.

5. Arizona's defense needs to show it can stop a physical running back: It's been mostly roses and rainbows for Arizona during a 4-1 start, but the face plant at New Mexico is still why some doubt the Wildcats and attribute their early success to an easy schedule. For example, Arizona ranks No. 2 in the nation in total defense, but Lobos running back Rodney Ferguson, a 6-foot, 234-pound bowling ball, bullied the Wildcats for 158 yards and two touchdowns. So there is reason to be concerned about Stanford's power running game led by 230-pound Toby Gerhart and a physical offensive line.

6. Is a true freshman the best running back in the Pac-10?: It might be premature to hail Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers as such but he presently leads the Pac-10 with 110 yards rushing per game, which also ranks 14th in the nation. On Saturday, he faces a Washington State run defense that yields 241 yards rushing per game. If Rodgers hangs up huge numbers to pair with his red-letter performance against USC, he'll become a front-runner to earn First-Team All-Pac-10 honors.

7. USC quarterback Mark Sanchez will announce that he's joining the X-Men this weekend: Know how the X-Man Wolverine heals really quickly? Well, so does USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who appears ready to add a bone bruise to the dislocated knee cap as injuries that failed to keep him from starting a game. Come to think of it, has anyone ever seen Sanchez and Wolverine in the same room? Hmm.

8. Gronkowski and Thomas should run wild against Stanford's secondary: Stanford ranks 112th in the nation in pass defense after giving up 347 yards and three touchdowns to Notre Dame and quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Arizona has a better offense and a lot more weapons than Notre Dame, namely receiver Mike Thomas and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Both of those guys should post huge numbers Saturday.

9. If it comes down to a kicker, Washington State wins: Washington State has notoriously struggled with special teams over the past few years, but kicker Nico Grasu is one of the few bright spots for the Cougars. Meanwhile, Oregon State, which featured former Groza Award winner Alexis Serna for four years, is now floundering with Justin Kahut. Grasu is 5-of-7 with a long field goal of 47 yards and is perfect on his PATs. Kahut is 3-of-7 with a long of 37 and missed a critical PAT at Utah last week.

10. Is there anything else to say about Rick Neuheisel's and Mike Bellotti's relationship?: The first stories of the week were about how Oregon fans and Mike Bellotti hate Rick Neuheisel. But then it turned out that Bellotti and Neuheisel get along well, even play golf together ("Drat!" said reporters). Oregon fans, of course, do dislike Neuheisel for what he did at Colorado and Washington -- you know, compile a 4-1 record against the Ducks. UCLA should be outmanned at Oregon, but don't be surprised if a few coaching tricks keep the Bruins close.

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