Pac-12: Andy Phillips

Kickers are football players, too ... and the ones listed on the Lou Groza and Ray Guy watch lists are some of the best in the country.

Lou Groza (kicker)
  • Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State: A returning Groza semifinalist, Gonzalez led the nation with 25 made field goals last season, equaling the all-time record for a freshman kicker.
  • Will Oliver, Colorado: Also a returning semifinalist, Oliver has connected on his last 60 PATs and needs seven more to break the Colorado record.
  • Andy Phillips, Utah: The former U.S. Ski team member had a great first season of football -- at any level -- last season, connecting on 17 of 20 field goals and all 41 of his PATs.
  • Jordan Williamson, Stanford: Williamson enters his fourth year as the Cardinal's starting kicker after a solid junior year in which he was 18-of-22 on field goals -- including just two misses inside 50 yards.
Ray Guy (punter)
  • Tom Hackett, Utah: Led the Pac-12 in just about every punting metric last season when he was named first-team all-conference.
  • Cole Leininger, California: Leininger was a member of the watch list last year when he dropped 14 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line with only two touchbacks.
Other watch lists
Eight Pac-12 players were named first-team preseason All-Americans by Athlon's on Monday, while 11 others were named to the other three teams.

Oregon, Stanford and USC each had a pair of first-team selections. The Ducks were represented by center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Stanford's pair was OT Andrus Peat and kick returner Ty Montgomery, while USC was represented by WR Nelson Agholor and DT Leonard Williams.

The other two first-team selections were UCLA LB Myles Jack and Washington LB Shaq Thompson.

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, the Pac-12's top Heisman Trophy candidate was second-team behind FSU's Jameis Winston, who won the trophy last year.

On the third team were three defenders: UCLA LB Eric Kendricks, USC LB Hayes Pullard and Washington DT Danny Shelton. Agholor also was named a punt returner, so he got two spots.

On the fourth team: Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong, Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo and USC O-lineman Max Tuerk, who was listed as a guard even though he plays center. Stanford safety Jordan Richards was fourth team with the defense, while Utah kicker Andy Phillips was a fourth-team specialist.
Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues with place-kickers.

Arizona: Casey Skowron, Bret Miller and Michael Unzicker are all in the mix this spring to replace Jake Smith, who converted 12 of 19 kicks (63.2 percent) last season, including a long of 53. The 12 converted field goals were the lowest in the conference, as was the conversion percentage.

Arizona State: No team in the Pac-12 attempted more field goals in 2013 than the Sun Devils -- and Zane Gonzalez was one of the few bright spots for an otherwise dismal ASU special teams unit. The freshman All-American converted 25 of 30 attempts (83.3) and had a streak of 18 straight.

California: With Vincenzo D’Amato gone (he was 17 of 20 last season), it’s looking like James Langford, Noah Beito and Matt Anderson will all get looks. Langford might have the edge as the kickoff guy with Beito a potential early frontrunner for field goals.

Colorado: Senior Will Oliver is back after converting 17 of 24 kicks last year (70.8 percent). He was perfect inside the 30 (7 of 7) and missed just once inside of 40 yards. Three of his misses came from 50-plus (2 of 5). He’s a potential All-American candidate. Strong-legged Diego Gonzalez from Guadalupe, Mexico, is waiting in the wings.

Oregon: Oregon’s kicking adventures weren’t as interesting in 2013 as they’ve been in the past. While the Ducks attempted the fewest field goals in the conference, Matt Wogan was a solid 7 of 9, and Alejandro Maldonado was 3 of 5 for a combined 71.4 percent -- seventh in the conference. Wogan returns and should be considered the frontrunner to handle all kicking duties, including punting.

Oregon State: Trevor Romaine returns as a fourth-year starter after converting 14 of 20 attempts last season. He was mostly money inside of 40 yards, converting 11 of 13 attempts. But struggled on the longer kicks, converting just 2 of 5 between 40-49 yards and 1 of 2 beyond 50.

Stanford: Jordan Williamson is back after connecting on 18 of 22 kicks in 2013, including a long of 48. Of his four misses, two of them came from 50 yards or longer, where he was 0 for 2. He was automatic inside the 30 and 15 of 16 inside of 40 yards. Time to finally put the 2011 Fiesta Bowl to rest. He's one of the league's most consistent kickers.

UCLA: Ka’imi Fairbairn returns after a hit-and-miss year where he connected on 14 of 21 kicks with a long of 48. He had a stretch where he converted on eight in a row. But also had some inconsistent games (2 of 4 against Nebraska, 2 of 4 against ASU).

USC: Andre Heidari had an up-and-down season. He struggled greatly in the 40-49 yard range, converting on just 3 of 8 kicks. Overall, he was 15 of 22, and his 2013 will most likely be remembered for his 47-yard game-winner against Stanford. Heidari also handled almost every kickoff, though punter Kris Albarado is available if needed.

Utah: "Automatic" Andy Phillips returns after making quite the splash in his first season of football. The former skier became a household name -- well, at least a name in Pac-12 households -- after converting on the first 11 field goals of his career. He’s got a big leg, converting on 9 of 11 from 40 yards or longer.

Washington: No easy task replacing Travis Coons, who handled kicking and punting for the Huskies. He was the Pac-12’s most accurate kicker in 2013, converting on 15 of 16 attempts. Cameron Van Winkle handled some kickoffs before an injury set him back, and Tristan Vizcaino comes in this fall and should be in the mix.

Washington State: Strong-legged Andrew Furney is gone. Wes Concepcion and Erik Powell are the kickers on the roster. Powell was a walk-on, but the coaching staff is high on him. Concepcion likely will handle punting but could kick if needed.

Previous positions

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Cornerback
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Pac-12 names all-conference team

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
3:50
PM ET
The Pac-12 has announced its first- and second-team all-conference squads and postseason awards for 2013.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsPac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Ka'Deem Carey was the only unanimous first-team pick.
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has been named the league's offensive player of the year. Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton joins an elite fraternity, earning his second straight Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award. Washington's Steve Emtman is the only other player to win the league's defensive player of the year award in back to back years (1990-1991).

UCLA's Myles Jack earned freshman of the year for both offense and defense with his 70 tackles as a linebacker and seven touchdowns as a running back. This is the first time since the awards were introduced in 2008 that the same player has won both sides.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham is the league's coach of the year for guiding the Sun Devils to a conference record of 8-1 and winning the South Division. The Sun Devils host Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 championship game.

The team is selected by the Pac-12 head coaches.

Offensive player of the year: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE Arizona State
Freshman Offense and Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State

First team offense

QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (2)
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (2)
RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado
TE Chris Coyle, Grad., Arizona State
OL Evan Finkenberg, Grad., Arizona State
OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon (2)
OL Marcus Martin, Jr., USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jr., UCLA (2)
OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford (2)

First team defense

DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah
DL Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State
DL Leonard Williams, So., USC
LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (2)
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (2)
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
DB Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
DB Robert Nelson, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford (2)

First team specialists

PK Zane Gonzalez, Fr., Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, So. Utah
RS Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
ST Soma Vainuku, So. USC

Second team offense

QB Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State
RB Tyler Gaffney, Sr., Stanford
RB Marion Grice, Sr. Arizona State
WR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
WR Jaelen Strong, So., Arizona State
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington
OL Jamil Douglas, Jr., Arizona State
OL Cameron Fleming, Sr., Stanford
OL Andrus Peat, So., Stanford
OL Isaac Seumalo, So., Oregon State
OL Khalil Wilkes, Sr. Stanford

Second team defense

DL Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State
DL Taylor Hart, Sr., Oregon
DL Devon Kennard, Sr., USC
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Jr., Washington
DL Tenny Palepoi, Sr., Utah
LB Carl Bradford, Jr., Arizona State
LB Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
LB Hayes Pullard, Jr., USC
LB Chris Young, Sr., Arizona State
DB Dion Bailey, Jr., USC
DB Osahon Irabor, Grad., Arizona State
DB Marcus Peters, So., Washington
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr., Oregon State

Second team specialists

PK Vincenzo D'Amato, Sr., California
P Travis Coons, Sr., Washington
RS Nelson Agholor, So., USC
ST Erick Dargan, Jr., Oregon
ST Joe Hemschoot, Sr., Stanford
ST Ryan Hofmeister, Jr., UCLA

RS: Return Specialist
ST: special teams player (not a kicker or returner)
(2): Two-time first-team selection

Honorable mention

Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.; DL Tevin Hood, Sr.; WR Nate Phillips, Fr.; DB Jared Tevis, Jr.; LB Scooby Wright, Fr.

Arizona State: DL Davon Coleman, Grad.; Gannon Conway, Sr.; ST D.J. Foster, So.; ST De'Marieya Nelson, Jr.

California: DL Deandre Coleman, Sr.; QB Jared Goff, Fr.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.

Colorado: RB Mike Adkins, Fr.; LB Addison Gillam, Fr.; PK Will Oliver, Jr.

Oregon: WR/RS Bralon Addison, So.; WR Josh Huff, Sr.; OL Tyler Johnstone, So.; DL Wade Keliikipi, Sr.; LB Derrick Malone, Jr.; RB Byron Marshall, So.; DL Tony Washington, Jr.

Oregon State: OL Grant Enger, Sr.; TE Connor Hamlett, JR.; QB Sean Mannion, Jr.; DB Ryan Murphy, Jr.; DB Steven Nelson, Jr.; ST Terron Ward, Jr.

Stanford: DL Henry Anderson, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, So.; OL Kevin Danser, Sr.; DL Josh Mauro, Sr.; P Ben Rhyne, Sr.; DB Jordan Richards, Jr.; LB A.J. Tarpley, Sr.

UCLA: OL Jake Brendel, So.; ST Jayon Brown, Fr.; P Sean Covington, Fr.; TE Thomas Duarte, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Sr.; WR Devin Fuller, So.; DB Randall Goforth, So.; QB Brett Hundley, So.; DB Anthony Jefferson, Jr.; LB Eric Kendricks, Jr.; DL Cassius Marsh, Sr.; DL Ellis McCarthy, So.; DB Fabian Moreau, So.; OL Alex Redmond, Fr.; DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.; LB Jordan Zumwalt, Sr.

USC: P Kris Albarado, So.; RB Javorius Allen, So.; WR Nelson Agholor, So.; DB Su'a Cravens, Fr.; OL Kevin Graf, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, Jr.; QB Cody Kessler, So.; WR Marqise Lee, Jr.; DB Josh Shaw, Jr.; DL J.R. Tavai, Jr.; OL Max Turek, So.; DL George Uko, Jr.

Utah: WR Dres Anderson, Jr.; OL Vyncent Jones, Sr.; DB Keith McGill, Sr.; PK Andy Phillips, Fr.; LB Jason Whittingham, So.

Washington: OL Dexter Charles, So.; PK Travis Coons, Sr.; OL Mike Criste, Jr.; OL Micah Hatchie, Jr.; DB Sean Parker, Sr.; QB Keith Price, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, Jr.; LB Shaq Thompson, So.

Washington State: OL Elliott Bosch, Sr.; WR River Cracraft, Fr.; PK Andrew Furney, Sr.; DB Damante Horton, Sr.;

Some notes on the teams:

By School: Arizona State and Stanford placed the most players on the first team with six selections each.

By Class: Of the 27 first-team selections, two are graduate students, 11 are seniors, nine are juniors, four are sophomores and one freshman.

Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches -- RB Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona.

Two-time Selections: Ten players are repeat first-team selections from last year.

All-Academic: Two first team All-Pac-12 performers also were named to the Pac-12 All Academic second team -- RB Bishop Sankey of Washington and DB Ed Reynolds of Stanford, while Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and Pac-12 All-Academic first team. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly earned second-team honors on both the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic teams.
Tags:

USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, USC Trojans, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Jordan Zumwalt, Washington Huskies, UCLA Bruins, Devon Kennard, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Bears, Tyler Gaffney, Stanford Cardinal, Deandre Coleman, Utah Utes, Will Sutton, Colorado Buffaloes, Todd Graham, Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, Xavier Su\'a-Filo, Andy Phillips, Shayne Skov, Keith Price, Evan Finkenberg, Sean Parker, Soma Vainuku, Cassius Marsh, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Hayes Pullard, Marquis Flowers, Taylor Kelly, Hroniss Grasu, Josh Huff, Sean Mannion, Eric Kendricks, Paul Richardson, Anthony Barr, Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Chris Coyle, Anthony Jefferson, Cody Kessler, Chris Young, Brett Hundley, Vincenzo D'Amato, Kevin Graf, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jordan Richards, Shaq Evans, Deone Bucannon, Bishop Sankey, Danny Shelton, Marqise Lee, Khalil Wilkes, Kevin Danser, David Yankey, Davon Coleman, Dion Bailey, Alex Carter, Alden Darby, Terron Ward, Dres Anderson, Randall Goforth, Derrick Malone, Damante Horton, Connor Hamlett, Isaac Seumalo, Andrew Furney, Henry Anderson, Gannon Conway, Scott Crichton, Rashaad Reynolds, Ka'Deem Carey, Andrus Peat, Shaq Thompson, Will Oliver, Ben Gardner, Trevor Reilly, Ty Montgomery, A.J. Tarpley, Cameron Fleming, Trent Murphy, Su'a Cravens, Byron Marshall, Ben Rhyne, Josh Mauro, Nelson Agholor, Josh Shaw, Ellis McCarthy, Marcus Mariota, Erick Dargan, Joe Hemschoot, Devin Fuller, Leonard Williams, Max Turek, Grant Enger, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Jared Tevis, Marcus Martin, Keith McGill, Marcus Peters, Ed Reynolds, Jamil Douglas, Bryce Treggs, Elliott Bosch, Tony Washington, Marion Grice, Eddie Vanderdoes, Ryan Murphy, J.R. Tavai, Carl Bradford, River Cracraft, Myles Jack, Thomas Duarte, Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel, Dexter Charles, Mike Criste, Tom Hackett, Bralon Addison, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Travis Coons, Robert Nelson, Tyler Johnstone, De'Marieya Nelson, Jaelen Strong, Tenny Palepoi, Steven Nelson, Tevin Hood, Micah Hatchie, Vyncent Jones, Jason Whittingham, Addison Gillam, Scooby Wright, Zane Gonzales, Sean Covington, Kris Albarado, Hau'oli Kikaha, Fabian Moreau, Javorius Allen, Jayon Brown, Osahan Irabor, Ryan Hoffmeister, Nate Phillips, Mike Adkins

This is the only way that you can hope to survive. Because life is not a movie. Everyone lies. Good guys lose. And love does not conquer all.
It was "statement Saturday" in the Pac-12.

Some teams, Stanford and Arizona State to name a couple, made huge statements. Other statements were significant, if not understated. Still, others failed to make statements with the weight of increased scrutiny bearing down on them.

[+] EnlargeCody Kessler
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesCody Kessler and the USC offense couldn't get much going in the loss to Notre Dame.
USC stumbled on a national stage at Notre Dame. UCLA failed to beat the Cardinal for the third time in 10 months. Arizona State absolutely stuffed Washington. Utah failed to follow up its big win last week with a win on the road. Perhaps the most shocking of all ... Andy Phillips missed! Twice! Gasp! Strange things were certainly afoot in Week 8.

And yet, isn’t this exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Pac-12? Just when we think we’ve got a handle on things, Arizona rises, Arizona State romps, Kodi Whitfield makes a one-handed grab and Washington stumbles. Parity reminded us all that each week brings unpredictability.

Speaking of the Huskies, that national goodwill they’ve garnered the last few weeks is officially all used up in the wake of a 53-24 loss to Arizona State. National opinion-makers appreciated their 4-0 start -- which included a win over then-ranked Boise State. And despite back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon, the once-15th-ranked Huskies only slipped to 20th. Come Sunday morning, they might not even be getting votes following a third straight loss.

“That was embarrassing,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We weren’t good enough. We weren’t well-enough coached, we didn’t perform well enough and we didn’t play physical enough ... give Arizona State credit. They outcoached us and they outplayed us.”

We will give them credit. The Sun Devils' run defense was vicious, holding Bishop Sankey to just 22 yards on 13 carries. Marion Grice continued his touchdown tirade with two on the ground and one in the air. Don’t be shocked if the Sun Devils re-enter the Top 25 rankings for the third time this year.

“What an impressive performance,” said Arizona State coach Todd Graham. “It might be the most impressive performance as a team that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

[+] EnlargeByron Marshall
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsOregon tailback Byron Marshall ran for 192 yards and three touchdown vs. Washington State.
And then there were the Trojans. Oh, those Trojans. After scoring on two of their first three drives (with a missed field goal in between), USC went scoreless the rest of the game. Its next 10 drives consisted of six punts, a missed field goal, an interception and twice turning it over on downs. Much like last season's showdown with Notre Dame, it seems the takeaway from this season's 14-10 defeat is that USC lost the game rather than Notre Dame won it (and let’s not get started on the penalties).

Stanford reminded everyone that power running and defense can still win football games -- even in a league in which 80 pass attempts from one quarterback doesn't seem all that shocking.

UCLA and Arizona State still look like the front-runners in the South, but the rest of the division is a mess following Arizona’s 35-24 win over Utah -- which still has to be on the road for three of its final five games. Give Utah credit. With starting quarterback Travis Wilson sidelined for the second half, the Utes battled back behind Adam Schulz and took the lead in the third quarter. But Ka’Deem Carey and his 236 yards on the ground proved to be too much.

Colorado took care of business against an overmatched FCS team. Oregon State did what it does best against Cal, as Sean Mannion threw for 493 yards and four touchdowns.

But even Oregon’s 62-38 win over Washington State had a touch of drama. Marcus Mariota set a conference record with 265 pass attempts without an interception. But he did fumble. Cue the dramatic music.

Week 8 will go down in the books as the week that set the stage for some outstanding showdowns the rest of the way. As teams scratch and claw for bowl eligibility and postseason prestige, teams like Utah, Washington, UCLA and USC will look to Week 8 and wonder where it went wrong. Of course, there is no right answer. It’s just another week in the Pac-12.

Pac-12's midseason All-Americans

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
5:30
PM ET

ESPN's Mark Schlabach released his midseason All-America team and there's a healthy representation of the Pac-12 in all three phases of the game.

As you'd expect, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota headlines the group. Fueled by 25 total touchdowns and zero turnovers, the Oregon quarterback is the Heisman Trophy frontrunner through the first half of the season and has shown no indications of slowing down.

Here's Schlabach's take on Mariota:

"He leads FBS players with a 97.0 QBR rating. Even better: Mariota hasn't thrown an interception in 165 pass attempts and has been sacked only five times in six games. The trigger man in the country's most explosive offense looks like the guy to beat in the Heisman Trophy race."

Here are the Pac-12 players on the list:

Offense

Defense

Special teams

Not much to complain about here. We expect Pac-12 skill players to be highlighted – QBs, RBs, WRs, etc. That's the reputation of the conference, even if some elite defensive players have emerged. There are plenty of outstanding defensive players, but stats often get skewed because the offenses are so prolific. And I think Oregon's secondary in particular has been outstanding as a unit – which makes it tough to single out one guy and say you're an All-American, but the guy next to you isn't.

But it's nice to see the offensive line – which is usually reserved for 17 SEC players – involve a couple of Pac-12 players. Both are deserving.

Also nice to see Utah kicker Andy Phillips get the recognition. The Pac-12 had a horrific kicking season last year as a conference. It was last among all the conferences – not just the BCS conferences, all of them -- in total field goal percentage. Phillips' impact has been significant, both in field goals (11 of 11 with a long of 48) and onside kicks, where the Utes are 2 of 2.

Pac-12 names players of the week

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
6:00
PM ET
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week, along with defensive player of the week Rashaad Reynolds of Oregon State and special teams player of the week Andy Phillips of Utah.

Here’s some more on the trio, per the Pac-12’s release:
Mariota, a sophomore from Honolulu, Hawai’i, completed 24 of 31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns and ran for an additional 88 yards and another score in Oregon’s 45-24 victory at No. 16 Washington on Saturday. He countered four Husky scoring drives by leading the Ducks to scores on three occasions and his rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter secured the win to keep No. 2 Oregon unbeaten at 6-0. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns and zero turnovers on the year, helping Oregon to a No. 2 national ranking in total offense (630.50 ypg). Mariota is fifth in the country in passing efficiency (182.40 QB rating) and sixth in total offense (358.30 ypg). He is the second Pac-12 multi-week winner of 2013 and the first to earn the honor in consecutive weeks.

Reynolds, a senior from Pacoima, Calif., intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles and recorded six tackles as the Beavers’ scored 35 unanswered points in the second half on their way to a 52-24 win over Washington State in Pullman. He led an Oregon State secondary that had four interceptions in the game and leads the Pac-12 with 12 total, which is tied for fourth in the nation. Reynolds has three interceptions on the year, tied for 19th in the country (0.3 pg).

Phillips, a freshman from Draper, Utah, made two field goals that proved to be the difference in the Ute’s 27-21 upset over No. 5 Stanford on Saturday. He hit from 22 and a career-long 48 yards to improve to 11-11 in his first season of football at any level. His 48-yarder extended the Ute’s 4th-quarter lead to 27-14 with a little over 14 minutes remaining in the game. Phillips added three PATs on three attempts to move to 27-of-27 on the year.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Brett Hundley of UCLA; running backs Marion Grice of Arizona State and Bubba Poole of Utah; and wide receiver Nelson Agholor of USC. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Derrick Malone of Oregon and Trevor Reilly of Utah; defensive ends Davon Coleman of Arizona State and J.R. Tavai of USC; and safety Randall Goforth of UCLA. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State, Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA and Kris Albarado of USC and wide receiver/kick returner Ty Montgomery of Stanford.
SALT LAKE CITY -- Stanford’s margin of victory so far hasn’t been as tight as it was last season -- but last week the Cardinal played their closest game of 2013, topping Washington 31-28. The big difference in that game was special teams – specifically Ty Montgomery -- who had two big returns, including one for a touchdown.

Will special teams be a factor today? Possibly. Utah kicker Andy Phillips is still a pristine 9 of 9 on field goals with a long of 45. Only he and Washington’s Travis Coons can boast kicking perfection coming into this week. And should things get dicey in the closing minutes, the Utes are 2 of 2 on onside-kick attempts. Phillips is 3 of 3 from beyond 40 yards.

Both teams rank in the top four in punting -- with Utah’s Tom Hackett tied for the conference lead in punt return average (44.0), punts inside the 20 (11) and punts of 50-plus yards (7).

Montgomery enters the game leading the league in kick return average with 33.5 yards per kick and Stanford is the only school with a kick return for a touchdown. Utah’s kick coverage team ranks seventh in the conference.

Both David Shaw and Kyle Whittingham are big believers in the field-position game, so if offenses stall, look for the punters/kickers/returners to possibly play a significant role.

Pac-12 names players of the week

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
5:15
PM ET
The Pac-12 has named Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota the offensive player of the week, Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy its defensive player of the week and Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery the special teams player of the week.

Some more on the trio, per the Pac-12’s release:
Mariota, a sophomore from Honolulu, set a school record with 42 points accounted for in Oregon’s 57-16 win at Colorado on Saturday. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns. Mariota also ran for an additional 43 yards and two more scores. He is eighth in the country in passing efficiency (176.30 QB rating) and ninth in total offense (339.20 ypg), helping Oregon to a No. 2 national ranking in total offense (630.40 ypg).

Murphy, a senior from Mesa, Ariz., recorded six tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, in Stanford’s narrow 31-28 win over Washington at home on Saturday night. He also deflected a pass that led to a Stanford interception that ended a Huskies’ drive late in the fourth quarter. The forced turnover proved to be pivotal in the Cardinal’s three-point victory.

Montgomery, a junior from Tahlequah, Okla., set a school record with 204 kickoff return yards that included a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game against Washington. He added a 39-yard touchdown reception and ended the game with 290 all-purpose yards on nine carries (32.2 yards per touch). Montgomery currently ranks sixth in the nation in all-purpose yards (176.6 ypg).

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Brett Hundley of UCLA and Connor Halliday of Washington State; and wide receivers Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, Chris Harper of California, and Dres Anderson of Utah. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Addison Gillam of Colorado, Eric Kendricks of UCLA and Jared Norris of Utah; safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State; and defensive back Damarious Randall of Arizona State. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State, Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA and Andy Phillips of Utah.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 4

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
10:15
AM ET
A few storylines to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 this week.

  1. Keep it rolling: The Pac-12 is 23-4 in its nonconference games this year and 16-3 against FBS competition. It’s also 8-0 against Mountain West teams. USC and Oregon State can extend that streak with matchups against Utah State and San Diego State. Washington State also renews its border war with Idaho for the first time since 2007 -- a series the Cougs have owned 70-17-3.
  2. Air it out: Eight Pac-12 quarterbacks rank among the top 16 in total offense, headlined by Cal’s Jared Goff (429.7 ypg). Through three weeks, three Pac-12 quarterbacks (Goff, Marcus Mariota and Sean Mannion) have combined to throw for 440-plus yards four times. Only two other seasons in Pac-12 history have seen league quarterbacks throw for 440 or more yards more than four times -- 1998 (six times) and 2002 (five times).
  3. Speed it up: Pac-12 offenses are scoring, and scoring fast. There have been 195 scoring drives, and so far 83 have taken less than two minutes. As you’d expect, Oregon tops the list with 23 of its 28 scoring drives taking less than two minutes. Utah is next on the list with nine.
  4. [+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
    Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY SportsUCLA QB Brett Hundley was impressive against Nebraska and should be even more so this week.
  5. Heisman moments? Mariota, who sits atop the ESPN.com Heisman poll, is off this week. But Brett Hundley has a chance to bolster his numbers against a New Mexico State team that is allowing nearly 50 points per game. Look for Mannion to continue rolling against a San Diego State team that is yielding 41 points per game. Same for Washington running back Bishop Sankey against an FCS Idaho State squad.
  6. The headliner: For the first time this year, we have two ranked Pac-12 teams squaring off with No. 23 ASU’s trip to No. 5 Stanford. The focus is, and should be, on the lines. Stanford wants to do what Stanford does -- pound at ASU’s interior defense. The Sun Devils were pretty good defending at Wisconsin's inside rushing attack but were caught off guard by sweeps. Will be interesting to see if Stanford goes after the edges the way Wisconsin did.
  7. Sankey rolling: Sankey now has rushed for at least 100 yards in six of his past seven games -- including a career-high 208 yards in the win last week over Illinois. Through three weeks and two games, he’s the national leader in average yards per game with 184.5. Dating back to last year, he has rushed for 1,142 yards in his last seven games.
  8. Take a breather: Four byes this week, with Arizona, Cal, Colorado and Oregon all getting the week off. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, whose team had an unscheduled bye last week, said his team is back to practicing after several players were displaced by flooding.
  9. Running like a Mad(den) man: Only six players have started the season with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games. We don't want to assume, but Sankey probably will have his third straight this week. For now, USC’s Tre Madden is the only Pac-12 player among those six (Paul James, Rutgers; Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin; Mark Weisman (FB), Iowa; Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, Arkansas). Per our friends at ESPN Stats & Information, USC is running the ball on 62 percent of its plays this year, up 18 percent from last year. Of those six mentioned, Madden is the only one who has faced three FBS opponents. He leads the Pac-12 with 149 yards after contact.
  10. Mobile Hogan, mobile Kelly: Also from Stats & Info: Kevin Hogan and Taylor Kelly are the only Pac-12 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 20 percent of their passes outside the pocket over the last two seasons. Kelly leads all AQ quarterbacks with 115 passes attempted from outside of the pocket. When out of the pocket, Hogan has completed 76 percent of his passes, including 20-of-24 passes on designed rollouts. In comparison, Kelly has completed a lower percentage of his passes thrown outside the pocket, but his average throw travels 10 yards, 4.5 yards longer than Hogan.
  11. Goodbye for now, Holy War: The Utah-BYU rivalry will go on break for a couple of years after Saturday. Kyle Whittingham insists that doesn’t mean anything. I’m guessing having two extra years of bragging rights, however, means plenty to the fans. Utah has won four of the past five and holds a 56-34-4 edge in the series, which dates back to 1896. Though BYU doesn’t recognize six games, split 3-3, from when it was Brigham Young Academy. But since this is the Pac-12 blog, we’ll recognize it, cause we’re cool like that. And Utah SID Liz Abel is awesome at her job for bringing that nugget to our attention. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is coming off of a 142-yard rushing performance -- the second most ever by a Utah quarterback and the most since 1979. Should this one be a nail-biter, it's worth noting that both kickers -- Utah's Andy Phillips and BYU's Justin Sorensen -- are 5-for-5 on field goals this season. Neither has missed a PAT.

Pac-12 names players of the week

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
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The Pac-12 conference has announced its players of the week. Offensive honors go to Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, with the defensive honors going to UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. Mannion’s teammate, kicker Trevor Romaine, was named special teams player of the week.

Here are the details, per the Pac-12’s release:
Mannion, a junior from Pleasanton, Calif., completed 27 of 44 passes for a career-high 443 yards in a 51-48 overtime win over Utah. His five touchdown passes tied a school record while his yard total is the fourth most in team history and the highest total for a Beaver since 2003. Mannion currently co-leads the nation in touchdown passes (12) and ranks second in the country in total yards (1,237) and total offense per game (404 ypg).

Barr, a senior from San Pedro, Calif., led the Bruins’ defense in a come-from-behind 41-21 win over No. 23-ranked Nebraska on the road. He collected a career-high 11 tackles, including two for a loss, as the Bruins held the Cornhuskers scoreless for the final 37 minutes of the contest. Barr forced three fumbles on the day, with the third one ending Nebraska’s best chance to score in the second half on the 12 yard-line. The Barr-led Bruins held the then ninth-ranked rushing team in the nation to 128 yards on 42 attempts.

Romaine, a junior place-kicker from Corona, Calif., made all three of his field goal attempts in Oregon State’s overtime win over Utah in the first Conference game of the season for both squads. His three kicks sailed through the uprights from 20, 36, and 49 yards, the latter being a career-high. The Beaver’s kicker has made five of six attempts on the season and now ranks ninth in team history with 184 career points.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks B.J. Denker of Arizona, Jared Goff of California, Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Brett Hundley of UCLA, Cody Kessler of USC, Travis Wilson of Utah and Connor Halliday of Washington State; and running backs Marion Grice of Arizona State, Tyler Gaffney of Stanford and Bishop Sankey of Washington. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were safeties Demetrius Wright of USC and Deone Bucannon of Washington State; linebacker Jourdan Grandon of Arizona, cornerback Osahon Irabor of Arizona State, defensive end Josh Shirley of Washington and Taylor Hart of Oregon’s defensive line. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Zane Gonzales of Arizona State, Vincenzo D'Amato of California and Andy Phillips of Utah; and punters Drew Riggleman of Arizona, Sean Covington of UCLA and Kris Albarado of USC.

Pac-12 players of the week

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson, Arizona safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant and California kicker Vincenzo D’Amato have been named the Pac-12 players of the week.

Some info on the trio, per the Pac-12's release:
Richardson, a junior from Los Angeles, Calif., caught 10 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns in the Buff’s 41-27 season-opening win over Colorado State on Sunday. Two of his receptions went for 75 yards or more, including an 82-yard touchdown reception from Connor Wood to open the game. It was Richardson’s first game back after missing all of the 2012 season rehabbing a knee injury that ended his 2011 campaign early. The over-200 yard performance was the only one in the nation over the weekend and just the fourth in Colorado history. Richardson now owns two of those four efforts, with the first one coming against California in 2011 where he set the school mark of 284 receiving yards.

Bondurant, a junior from Vallejo, Calif., led the Wildcat defense in a 35-0 shutout against Northern Arizona on Friday night. The Arizona safety collected a game-high seven tackles, including one for loss, and picked off a pair of passes. The first one came just after half time when Bondurant stepped in front of a tipped pass and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown, his second career interception return for a score. Later in the third quarter he jumped in front of another pass, securing his first career multi-interception game.

D’Amato, a senior place-kicker from Lake Forest, Calif., accounted for a career-high 18 points in the Bears’ 44-30 loss to Northwestern on Saturday night. D’Amato thew a 10-yard touchdown pass to holder Jackson Bouza on a faked field goal attempt at the conclusion of California’s first drive. The senior converted three field goals in his first three attempts to tie a career-high and made all three of his extra-point attempts.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Travis Wilson of Utah, Brett Hundley of UCLA and Sean Mannion of Oregon State, running backs Daniel Jenkins of Arizona, Tre Madden of USC and Bishop Sankey of Washington, and wide receiver Chris Harper of California. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Addison Gillam of Colorado, Eric Kendricks of UCLA, and John Timu of Washington, safety Josh Shaw of USC and defensive end Nate Orchard of Utah. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Will Oliver of Colorado, Andre Heidari of USC and Andy Phillips of Utah, and linebacker Kenny Orjioke of UCLA.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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Taking stock of Week 1 in the Pac-12:

Team of the week: Washington opened fancy, renovated Husky Stadium with a dominant 38-6 win over No. 19 Boise State. Quarterback Keith Price was outstanding, and the defense kept the Broncos from scoring a touchdown. It was Boise State's worst loss since 2005.

Best game: While Oregon State's 49-46 loss to FCS school Eastern Washington was the biggest nail-biter, the Pac-12 blog isn't in the habit of celebrating a conference loss to an FCS team. So we're going with Utah's 30-26 comeback win over Utah State. The Utes trailed 23-14 early in the second half but stormed back after following up a 45-yard field goal with a successful onside kick. It was a gutsy call that led to the Utes' go-ahead points.

Biggest play: Colorado had taken a 26-24 lead over Colorado State early in the fourth quarter, but the Rams had driven to midfield and looked poised to counter on their next possession. On second-and-8, a Garrett Grayson pass to Kapri Bibbs looked like it was going to earn a first down, but Buffs defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe came from behind Bibbs and slapped the ball out. Greg Henderson got a nice bounce and scooped and scooted lickety-split down the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown that changed the game.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenKeith Price was stellar in Washington's win over No. 19 Boise State.
Offensive standout: Price completed 23 of 31 passes for 324 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for 25 yards in the win over Boise State. Moreover, he did all that after throwing a pick on his first pass, showing mental toughness by not letting an early mistake in a high-pressure environment get him down. His efficiency rating for the game -- 176.8 -- would have led the nation in 2012. Price also now has 56 career TD passes, a school record.

Defensive standout: Colorado's Addison Gillam was just the second true freshman to start a season opener at inside linebacker in school history, but that's not why he's noted here. He's here because he recorded 14 tackles, with two coming for a loss, and a sack. He also had a pass breakup and a key tackle on fourth down. The Buffaloes' defense, which was just awful last year, held Colorado State to 295 total yards.

Defensive standout II: Yes, Washington's Justin Wilcox knows what he's doing as he continues to climb the short list of nation's best defensive coordinators. The Huskies were bend-but-don't-break early against Boise State, and then they took over. Six points was the Broncos' lowest point total since 1997 (a 58-0 loss to Washington State). While Boise State gained some yards -- both teams were running up-tempo schemes, so there were 173 total plays in the game -- the Broncos averaged only 3.9 yards per play. For the sake of comparison, Alabama gave up 4.2 yards per play last year. Boise State's longest running play was 18 yards, and its longest passing play was 16 yards. When you don't give up big plays, you have a chance to win.

Special-teams standout: Utah kicker Andy Phillips, a former U.S. alpine skier who had never played competitive football -- at any level -- before his kickoff against Utah State, kicked field goals of 45, 19 and 38 yards and was perfect on three extra points in the Utes' 30-26 victory. The final two kicks came after the Utes had fallen behind 26-24 in the fourth quarter. Oh, and he perfectly executed an onside kick that might have been the biggest play of the game. His three kickoffs all went for touchbacks. See this video.

Smiley face: The most important thing is to be 1-0 after the opening week, and seven of 10 Pac-12 teams that played can now say that. Two of the teams that lost, California to No. 22 Northwestern and Washington State at Auburn, showed fairly well as underdogs and probably felt they should have won. Washington, Colorado, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon probably feel like they got exactly what they wanted out of the week. USC and Utah are, again, happy to be 1-0.

Frowny face: Oh, man, Oregon State. That defense.

Oregon State was the week's big loser. More like BIG LOSER. A four-touchdown favorite against Eastern Washington -- an FCS power but an FCS team nonetheless -- the No. 25 Beavers went down 49-46 because they simply couldn't stop Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams, who passed for 411 yards and rushed for 107. The Beavers welcomed back seven starters from one of the nation's best defenses, but that unit turned in a miserable performance. What the heck happened to All-Pac-12 defensive end Scott Crichton, who had just two tackles?

It was only the third time that an FCS school defeated a ranked FBS team.

Thought of the week: You can never -- ever! -- take any team lightly. In a week when every Pac-12 team will be favored in nonconference play, that's something to remember.

Questions for the week: USC and Washington State open Pac-12 play this week in the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday, and this game could be revealing. The Cougars showed they are an improved team at Auburn, while the Trojans are hard to pin down. Will Washington State get the upset? If that happens, the Mike Leach era gains momentum while the Lane Kiffin era takes a notable downturn. A secondary question is whether one or the other USC quarterbacks takes control of the starting job.

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 1

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
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A look at what we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 1.

Keith Price
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenWashington's Keith Price dazzled in his 2013 debut, throwing for 324 yards and two TDs.
Washington looks to be legit: Per my co-blogger, Washington quarterback Keith Price was “lights out” in his performance against Boise State. Bishop Sankey picked up where he left off last season, and the defense kept the Broncos out of the end zone. For those nervous about letting their expectations get raised, go ahead and raise them. Oh yeah, and you get the best tight end in the country back next week.

Andy Phillips is now a household name: In his first career game, the redshirt freshman kicker from Utah went 3-for-3, including a 45-yarder on his first career kick -- and executed a perfect onside kick to swing the momentum in the Utes’ victory over in-state rival Utah State.

USC QB TBD: Is it going to be Cody Kessler or Max Wittek at USC? What we learned is we didn’t learn much. Neither looked particularly sharp as USC struggled offensively against Hawaii. Kessler was 10-of-19 for 95 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wittek was 5-of-10 for 77 yards. Both seemed constrained by a conservative gameplan of short throws and swing passes.

Oregon likes to run (well, duh): Three different Ducks eclipsed the 100-yard mark: De’Anthony Thomas, Marcus Mariota and Byron Marshall. In all, the Ducks rushed for 500 yards and a robust 11.1 yards per carry against Nicholls State. It marked the first time in school history three players went for 100 yards in the same game. Yes, it was Nicholls State, but you have to figure rushing records are getting harder and harder to break at Oregon.

DAT the featured back? New Oregon coach Mark Helfrich had been fairly noncommittal when talking about how Thomas would be used. He looked the part of an every-down back Saturday night, carrying 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The 18 carries were a career high.

Utah’s depth will be tested: For the second season in a row, the Utes lost a big-name player for the year at the hands of Utah State. Wide receiver Kenneth Scott will miss the rest of the season after suffering a leg injury in the first quarter. Others will have to step up. Sean Fitzgerald looked pretty good in relief, catching five balls for 79 yards.

They’re serious about this ejection thing: The NCAA’s new targeting rule, which went into effect this season, can lead to an ejection on the spot if the official deems it a head-to-head hit. The first big-name casualty was Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who makes up half of Oregon’s outstanding cornerback tandem with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Miller was ejected late in the first quarter of Oregon’s win over Nicholls State.

Really, Beavers? Maybe more of the offseason focus should have been on the defense, and less about the quarterback competition. Sean Mannion played brilliantly. The defense, not so much, allowing Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams to throw for 411 yards and run for 107. Not that it bears repeating, but this is the second time in three seasons the Beavers have opened the season with a loss to an FCS team.

We’re not done yet: One more game on the Week 1 docket with Colorado and Colorado State squaring off Sunday in Denver.

The Cougs looked better: A gutty effort in SEC country from Washington State, which went toe-to-toe with Auburn before falling 31-24. Turnovers continue to be a curse and three interceptions from Connor Halliday, including one in the red zone in the fourth quarter, contributed to WSU’s downfall.

Speaking of turnovers: In its nine games (Colorado pending), the Pac-12 won the turnover battle, 15-11. When the Pac-12 tied in turnovers (Utah, Cal, Oregon State, Washington), it was 2-2. When it won the turnover battle (Arizona, Oregon, USC), it was 3-0, and when it lost the turnover battle (UCLA, Washington State), it was 1-1.

Special teams had special plays: See Vincenzo D’Amato’s pass to Jackson Bouza on the fake field goal (one of the more creative give-and-gos I’ve seen). See UCLA’s punt block for a touchdown against Nevada. See Phillips’ performance.

Speaking of special: After posting the worst field-goal percentage in college football last year (67.9 percent) the Pac-12 kickers came out swinging in Week 1, converting on 14 of 17 attempts (82 percent).

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