Monday, October 31, 2011
Weekend rewind: Pac-12
By Ted Miller
Taking stock of the ninth week of games in the Pac-12.
Team of the week: Stanford. The Cardinal, winners of 10 in a row by 25 or more points, proved it could win a nailbiter when it outlasted USC 56-48 in triple overtime.
Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Cardinal take down the Trojans in three OTs to remain unbeaten.
Best game: Stanford-USC featured a little bit of everything, with both teams playing at a high level throughout. The centerpiece, though, was: 1. Stanford QB Andrew Luck tossing a pick-6 interception to Nickell Robey that gave USC a 34-27 lead with 3:08 left; and, 2. Luck leading a 10-play, 76-yard TD drive to tie the game with 38 seconds left. In overtime, both offenses ruled over the exhausted defenses until a Trojans fumble ended the game suddenly. Hard to believe Stanford led 10-6 at halftime.
Biggest play: In order to not make this all about USC-Stanford, this incredible play from Arizona defensive back Robert Golden has to be seen to be believed. Washington QB Keith Price hit receiver James Johnson, who bobbled the ball into Golden's hands. Then Golden rambled his way for a circuitous 91-yard interception return for a TD. Sure, the Wildcats lost, but this was clearly the play of the day.
Offensive standout: Washington running back Chris Polk scored five touchdowns and became the first player in school history with 100 yards rushing and receiving in a single game. Polk had 34 carries for 144 yards and four TDs and he caught four passes for 100 yards with another score in the Huskies 42-31 win over Arizona.
Defensive standout: UCLA's freshman safety Tevin McDonald, who has stepped in for the injured Tony Dye, intercepted three passes in the Bruins' 31-14 win over California. Those picks set up two touchdowns and a field goal. He now has three career interceptions. He also had three tackles. And, yes, I can't believe I missed this while handing out helmet stickers Saturday night.
Special teams standout: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown in the Ducks' 43-28 win over Washington State. He scored just after the Cougars had narrowed the gap to 29-20 with 3:52 left in the third quarter. He also rushed four times for 26 yards and caught two passes for 54 yards, including a 45-yard TD.
Smiley face: A week after perhaps UCLA's worst performance of the year -- and perhaps Rick Neuheisel's tenure in Westwood -- at Arizona on ESPN, the Bruins bounced back with one of their best, dominating California 31-14. And if the Bruins upset Arizona State on Saturday, guess who suddenly controls their own South Division destiny? And if the Bruins win the South, how could Neuheisel possibly be fired?
Frowny face: California. Wow. That was really, really bad. A week after stomping Utah, the Bears waved a white flag at UCLA. And after QB Zach Maynard tossed four interceptions, it's hard to believe coach Jeff Tedford isn't reviewing his options at the position. Oregon State is the runner-up here after getting pushed around at Utah. Bad Bears! Bad Beavers!
Thought of the week: Oregon visits Washington on Saturday in the final game before Husky Stadium begins a major renovation. Ducks-Huskies is the most bitter rivalry in the Pac-12. No offense to other rivalries, but it seems as though just about any post on the Pac-12 blog -- Who's the best backup kicker? -- degenerates into a back-and-forth between Ducks and Huskies. That said: it's been a mismatch for a long time in Oregon's favor. The Ducks have won seven in a row, their longest streak in the series, by at least 20 points. The average margin of victory during the run is 26.4 points. If you are 18 years old, you can barely remember when the Huskies were even competitive in the series, which isn't a good thing in recruiting. So what's the thought of the week? It's this: At some point, Washington is going to beat Oregon again.
Questions for the week: California, Utah and UCLA are all 4-4. Each, therefore, needs two wins to earn bowl eligibility. The Pac-12 clearly lacks depth this year, but the conference really could use a few more bowl-eligible teams to fill out its seven bowl contracts. The question is: Which, if any, of these inconsistent teams finds enough gumption to win two more games?