Monday, July 22, 2013
Five games nobody saw coming in 2012
By Ted Miller
See the 2013 schedule. Pencil it out. And then rethink it: Where are the upset specials? Where are the games that will bite overconfident prognosticators in their rear ends?
Are upsets completely random? Or should we have seen them coming?
Of course, hindsight has the benefit lasik surgery, and there tends to be a lot of after-the-fact "Saw it coming!" when, in fact, such an announcement rarely preludes a shocking result.
Before the 2012 season, the GAME OF THE PAC-12 CENTURY was expected to be Oregon's visit to USC. Didn't turn out that way.
That should be a warning to us that we can't take for granted that Oregon's visit to Stanford on Nov. 7 will be the GAME OF THE PAC-12 CENTURY.
So let's backtrack and look at the games that shocked us last fall.
Stanford 21, USC 14: Perhaps we should have seen this coming because it was the Cardinal's fourth consecutive win in the series, but the second-ranked Trojans were thought to be a juggernaut at the beginning of the season, and Stanford was replacing Andrew Luck. This was a thorough beatdown, with Stanford outgaining the Trojans 417 yards to 280, even though things weren't decided until late in the fourth quarter. The Trojans couldn't run and, under constant pressure, QB Matt Barkley had a poor day. The excuse from the USC end was the absence of the Trojans top two centers, most notably Khaled Holmes. Redshirt freshman center Cyrus Hobbi was overwhelmed, and Stanford exploited him throughout the game, so much so that Holmes came to Hobbi's defense later on Twitter. As it turned out, this was just the first of six USC losses, which watered down the shock we felt in the first month of the season.
Washington 17, Stanford 13
: So 12 days after whipping the Trojans and rising to No. 8 in the polls this happened, with the Huskies beating a team that had dominated them the previous three years. The Huskies, just two weeks before, had been dismantled at LSU. How strange was this one? Washington outrushed Stanford 136 yards to 65. The Cardinal rushed for 446 yards in the 2011 matchup. Stanford's only TD came on a 40-yard interception return. Big plays were the key for Washington, which trailed by 10 late in the third quarter before Bishop Sankey
went 61 yards for a TD on a fourth-and-1 play. The winning points came on a third-down screen pass to Kasen Williams
, who broke a tackle and went 35 yards for a score. An interception by Desmond Trufant on the Huskies 8-yard line iced the game.
Stanford 17, Oregon 14 (OT)
: What if De'Anthony Thomas
blocks Devon Carrington
and Marcus Mariota
finished a 92-yard touchdown run? What if officials decided Zach Ertz didn't catch that fourth-quarter TD pass? What if Alejandro Maldonado
didn't miss a 41-yard field goal to open overtime? What if David Shaw and Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason didn't outsmart and outcoach Chip Kelly? Well, if those "what ifs" had led to a Ducks victory, Oregon would have been celebrating a national championship victory in the early third quarter after blowing out Notre Dame. Ah, but if wishes were fishes then cows would fly (my dad used to say that to me... meaningless and annoying).
Washington State 31, Washington 28 (OT): The results themselves of the above games were surprising, and the same could be said of this game, too. But the shock of this final was as much about how it happened. The Huskies were heavy favorites and, according to form, they led by 18 points in the fourth quarter. The Cougars, losers of eight consecutive games, including a 46-7 white flag effort the previous week at Arizona State, were surely ready to pack it in and bury a horrible first season under Mike Leach in an unmarked grave somewhere along the Palouse. Yet the Cougs stormed back with 21 consecutive points, and the Huskies wilted in one of the sloppiest efforts you'll ever see, getting flagged 17 times for 127 yards. It was the largest comeback in the 105 meetings between the schools.
California 43, UCLA 17
: California entered this game 1-4, and coach Jeff Tedford was on the hotseat. UCLA was 4-1 and ranked 25th, and folks were starting to think Jim Mora had something going in Westwood. Cal QB Zach Maynard
threw a bad interception on his first pass. Same old Maynard, same old Cal, right? Nope. Instead, Maynard turned in maybe the best game of his spotted career -- completing 25 of 30 passes for 295 yards with five total TDs, one rushing -- while UCLA QB Brett Hundley
was at his worst, tossing four picks. In the fourth quarter, a Cal team that had shown little poise, outscored the Bruins 14-3. Of course, maybe we should have seen this coming because UCLA never wins in Berkeley. This was the Bears seventh consecutive win in the series in Memorial Stadium.