Pac-12: top performances 2012

We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Ringing the Victory Bell

Who and against whom: UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks was all over the field while leading the Bruins' defensive effort in a 38-28 victory over USC.

The numbers: Kendricks recorded a game-high 10 tackles, including a tackle for a loss. He also forced a fumble, grabbed an interception and blocked a punt. So, yeah, the guy was busy.

A closer look: Kendricks, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in a victory that accomplished a lot for the Bruins. First, it clinched the Pac-12 South Division championship. Second, it ended UCLA's five-year losing streak in the series. And, almost as satisfying for Bruins fans, it made permanent the downward trajectory of the Trojans' awful season. While Anthony Barr's late sack of Matt Barkley ended the USC quarterback's season, Kendricks was truly the guy who made Barkley and his offense miserable. First, he forced a fumble from Marqise Lee in the first quarter at the Trojans' 33-yard line. That led to a touchdown and a 17-0 lead. He then intercepted a pass from Barkley early in the fourth quarter, ending a Trojans drive at the UCLA 38. His punt block came in the third quarter after USC had narrowed the margin to 24-20. It also led to a Bruins touchdown. It was a tour-de-force performance by and up-and-coming player in a game that perhaps signaled a power shift in Los Angeles. Or, at the very least, an evening of the present playing field.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Hill in the clutch

Who and against whom: After a sluggish start for the Arizona offense, wide receiver Austin Hill stepped up big time in the fourth quarter of the New Mexico Bowl to help lead an improbable 49-48 come-from-behind win over Nevada.

The numbers: Hill caught a game-high eight balls for 175 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

A closer look: Things looked grim when the Wolf Pack jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Yet inch-by-inch, the Wildcats clawed their way back into the game and trailed 31-28 at halftime. They were grim again when Nevada claimed a 45-28 lead heading into the fourth. That's when Hill really stepped up. His 63-yard touchdown reception from Matt Scott -- the longest passing play of the 2012 season for Arizona -- cut the deficit to 45-35. Then with 46 seconds left in the game, Hill caught a 2-yard touchdown from Scott -- setting up a wild final minute. On the final drive, just before Tyler Slavin's go-ahead touchdown catch with 19 seconds left, Hill hauled in a 21-yard catch that set up the game winner. His 175 receiving yards were an Arizona bowl game record and the two touchdowns gave him 11 on the season -- which also matched a school record.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Smile for the Kameron

Who and against whom: California cornerback Kameron Jackson made life miserable for UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in a shocking 43-17 Bears victory, one of the oddest results of the 2012 Pac-12 season.

The numbers: Jackson had four tackles for the Bears. Oh, and he also had three interceptions.

A closer look: California had a rotten season, but just about everything went right -- at least after the first two possessions -- in this game. The opposite, of course, could be said for UCLA, which has lost seven consecutive games in Berkeley. Hundley surrendered four of his 11 interceptions in 2012 in this game. He threw just seven in the other 13 games. In fact, the Bruins had six total turnovers -- another was a Hundley fumble -- which certainly made things easier for Cal. One can suppose that the Bruins thought they had a big opportunity when starting Bears CB Marc Anthony got hurt -- ergo, they targeted Jackson, a promising if undersized, 5-foot-9 sophomore. They were wrong. Further, these weren't throw-away picks from Jackson by any means. The first came in the endzone -- a tiptoe effort on a broken read from the Bruins -- and ended a drive deep into Cal territory late in the second quarter. The other two came in the fourth quarter, preventing any hope for a Bruins rally. These were Jackson's only three interceptions of the season.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Kelly sinks Navy

Who and against whom: Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly put on a clinic in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, leading the Sun Devils to a 62-28 blowout victory over Navy.

The numbers: Kelly completed 17 of 19 passes for 268 yards with four touchdown passes. He also rushed for 81 yards on seven carries (11.6 average) and scored on a 1-yard run, giving him five touchdowns. Worth noting too that his performance gave him a 67.1 completion percentage for the season, a school record for quarterbacks with 300-plus passes.

A closer look: This was a game with multiple offensive MVPs for the Sun Devils -- Rashad Ross caught three touchdown passes and Marion Grice (the game's offensive MVP) rushed for 159 yards and two scores on 14 carries. But it was Kelly who directed the blowout and helped the Sun Devils shatter 20 Kraft Fight Hunger bowl records. A couple of minutes into the game, he hooked up with Ross on a 16-yard strike, then would find Ross again for scores of 52 and 50 yards. His fourth touchdown pass was an 11-yard toss to Alonzo Agwuenu and his 1-yard touchdown run gave the Sun Devils a 21-0 lead at the end of the first. It was an emotionally-charged game with Grice returning a week after his brother's murder. And his 11.4 yards per carry certainly warranted his winning offensive MVP for the game. But Kelly was near perfect with his accuracy, efficient in the air and on the ground and outstanding in helping ASU to its first bowl win since the 2005 Insight Bowl.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Star gives a hand

Who and against whom: Utah DT Star Lotulelei contributed in many ways to a thrilling 24-21 victory over the Utes arch-rival, BYU.

The numbers: Lotulelei had seven tackles, one coming for a loss, a forced fumble, two pass breakups and a blocked kick

A closer look: Lotulelei generally did what he wanted to against the interior of the BYU offensive line, despite facing constant double-teams (the Utes leading tacklers only had eight stops). The Cougars only managed 106 yards rushing. It also probably was no coincidence that Lotulelei lined up as a noseguard over the BYU center on the bad snap that ended up giving the Utes a 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Mo Lee late in the third quarter. And, of course, Lotulelei blocked Justin Sorensen's 51-yard field goal attempt with one second remaining after the officials put time back on the clock following a third-down incompletion. Fans of both teams likely recall the Pac-12 officials then, ridiculously, gave BYU a do-over when fans rushed the field, but the football gods intervened and the ensuing 36-yard kick was missed.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Perfection in Provo

Who and against whom: Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz stepped in for the injured Sean Mannion and carved up the BYU defense to keep the Beavers' winning streak intact.

The numbers: Vaz completed 20 of 32 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns against a BYU defense that was allowing an average of nine points per game through the first six weeks.

A closer look: This wasn't a case where the backup quarterback came in and did enough to get the job done. With poise and precision, Vaz was spectacular in his first career start -- on the road no less. On Oregon State's opening drive, Vaz came out swinging, going 5-for-5 for 75 yards and capping the march with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. BYU looked shocked that OSU came out throwing. But even after they settled, Vaz continued to do work. He hit Wheaton again for a touchdown in the first quarter -- this time from 24 yards out -- and he connected with Colby Prince on a 5-yard strike in the fourth quarter. And give him an assist for throwing the block that sprung Wheaton on his 12-yard touchdown run. With the win the Beavers improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1939, and Vaz sparked a quarterback competition that is alive and well today in Corvallis.

Top performances of 2012: Jordan Webb

February, 28, 2013
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: A diamond in the trash heap

Who and against whom: Jordan Webb led a massive -- and utterly shocking -- fourth-quarter comeback at Washington State, as the Buffaloes won 35-34, their lone victory of 2012.

The numbers: Webb completed 29 of 42 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores.

A closer look: Didn't see this one coming, did you? But it's legit. And so anomalous that it's one of the most fascinating performances of the season. Colorado was 0-3 with a bullet when it arrived in Pullman. It had lost to in-state rival Colorado State, a bad Mountain West team. It had lost to Sacramento State, a mediocre FCS team. It had been bludgeoned 69-14 in a white flag effort at Fresno State. Washington State was 2-1 and seemingly on the uptick. Further, the Cougars led 31-14 with just over seven minutes left. There was no reason to suspect the Buffs would even try for an impossible comeback. But then Webb hit Nick Kasa for a 70-yard touchdown, and the comeback was on, with Colorado scoring three TDs in the final seven minutes. The game winner? It was Webb's 4-yard, fourth-down quarterback draw -- up the middle! -- in the waning moments. There were very few highlights for the Buffs in 2012, and even fewer for Webb, a Kansas transfer. But let's just call this their one shining moment. Coug fans might feel differently, of course.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Bishop headlines in Vegas (Sankey, not Joey)

Who and against whom: Washington running back Bishop Sankey looked unstoppable against Mountain West rep Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. The same couldn't be said for the rest of his team, as we honor yet another outstanding effort in a losing performance.

The numbers: Sankey rushed for 205 yards on 30 carries (6.8 yards per) and a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 74 yards -- giving him 279 yards of total offense.

A closer look: Things started poorly for Sankey when he fumbled on Washington's opening drive. He'd rushed for 16 yards on the first three plays of the game -- but coughed it up, which led to a Boise State field goal. Things got worse for the Huskies, but better for Sankey, who put the fumble behind him and powered through. He gutted the Boise State defense with five runs of 10 yards or more, with a long of 33. When the Huskies fell behind 18-3, it was his 26-yard touchdown run that turned momentum and allowed the Huskies to add one more touchdown before the half. The lack of a first-down measurement and a final defensive breakdown (along with two Keith Price interceptions) all contributed to the 28-26 defeat. But Sankey flourished against a top-10 defense and appears ready to step up as one of the league's elite backs in 2013.

Top performances of 2012: Henry Anderson

February, 26, 2013
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson.

Who and against whom: Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson played a key -- and underrated -- role in Stanford stifling high-powered Oregon in a 17-14 victory.

The numbers: Anderson ranked second on the Cardinal defense with seven tackles, with 2.5 coming for a loss. He also had a sack and quarterback hurry.

A closer look: Make no mistake. Stanford's holding Oregon to 14 points -- in Autzen Stadium -- was all about a total team effort and exemplary execution of an outstanding game plan put together by coordinator Derek Mason. In fact, this game is when LB Shayne Skov became all Shayne Skov-y again, and multiple players shined. But Anderson's performance seemed to slip under the radar. He made a number of important plays that are worthy of recalling. In the second quarter on a third-and-1 play from the the Stanford 35, he caught De'Anthony Thomas for a 3-yard loss. No points were forthcoming. On a second-and-4 from the Stanford 48, he sacked Marcus Mariota for a 3-yard loss. Facing third-and-long, Mariota threw an interception on the next play. Anderson also had two tackles -- for zero and two-yard gains -- on the Ducks' final possession of regulation, which also yielded no points and sent the game into overtime. We all remember what happened next: Alabama, not Oregon, played Notre Dame for the national title. And Stanford went on to win the Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl.

Top performances of 2012: Matt Scott

February, 25, 2013
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Oh so close

Who and against whom: Arizona quarterback Matt Scott came up on the losing end of an epic overtime shootout with Stanford -- arguably the most entertaining game in the Pac-12 last season. But even in defeat, he did something no other quarterback had done or would do in 2012 -- scorch the mighty Cardinal defense.

The numbers: Scott completed 45 of 69 passes for 491 yards and he tossed three touchdowns.

A closer look: We're dipping into the well on this game again having already recognized the winning quarterback -- Josh Nunes. This game was that epic. Right up until overtime, Scott was having one of the best individual games in the Pac-12 all season. Even his interception in overtime -- which gave the Cardinal the ball and eventually the 54-48 win -- wasn't a wayward throw, it was just tipped at the line (credit to Stanford's Chase Thomas for beating out a couple of teammates in a game of three flies up). But until then, Scott was on. He threw ropes to Austin Hill (11 catches, 165 yards, two touchdowns). His fade touchdown to Terrence Miller was as pretty a pass as you'll see in college football. He completed 65 percent of his throws and tossed three scores against a secondary that allowed just one receiving touchdown or less in 10 games. No quarterback threw more touchdowns in a game against Stanford and no quarterback tossed for more yards in a game against Stanford in 2012. His 491 yards were the second highest passing total in the Pac-12 last season second only to Matt Barkley's 493 against Arizona. Ironically enough, also a losing effort.

Top performances of 2012: Sean Mannion

February, 22, 2013
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Mannion up

Who and against whom: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion led Oregon State to a wild 38-35 comeback win at Arizona.

The numbers: Mannion threw for a career-high 433 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

A closer look: If it sometimes seems like the Pac-12 blog has a Sean Mannion bias in his odd QB carousel with Cody Vaz, it's probably based on this game. What did coach Mike Riley say after this thriller? "Some really good quarterbacking." Yep. It's not just the big numbers and lack of interceptions on the road. It was two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including one concluding the clutch 75-yard drive to win the game. On that drive, Mannion was 6-for-6 for 52 yards. He capped things with a 9-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Connor Hamlett on third-and-5 with 1:09 remaining. The game itself was crazy. The Beavers led 17-0. Then trailed 21-17. There were six lead changes -- in the second half! This victory made the Beavers 3-0 for the first time since 2002. Said running back Storm Woods: "Sean had a look in his eyes that I have never seen before. Sean is our leader; when he says we are going to score, we are going to score." Hmm. That's Woods, not the Pac-12 blog, talking. Just saying.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Ifo Ekpre-alloverarizona

Who and against whom: Oregon corner back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu helped lead the Oregon defense to a 49-0 shutout victory over Arizona in what was supposed to be Oregon's first "real" test of the season.

The numbers: Ekpre-Olomu had just one tackle, but he picked off Arizona quarterback Matt Scott twice -- returning one of them for a 54-yard touchdown. He also broke up three passes.

A closer look: After Arizona failed to score on its first possession in the red zone, the Wildcats were given a gift on their second possession when Marcus Mariota fumbled at his own 12-yard line. A holding call forced the Wildcats back to the 20, but they were still poised to score the game's first points. That is until Ekpre-Olomu stepped in on the first of his two picks. Scott and Dan Buckner weren't on the same page and Ekpre-Olomu made a diving catch on the sideline to stop the red zone threat. It was all Oregon from then on as the defense stifled the Wildcats and the offense jumped ahead 28-0 in the fourth. Make it 35-0 after Ekpre-Olomu jumped a Scott pass, again intended for Buckner, and with a full head of steam went untouched for a 54-yard score. They were the first two picks of his career and he would go on to earn first-team all-conference honors. It was Oregon's only shutout of the year, but it came against the team that ranked second in the league in total offense (second only to the Ducks).

You can check out all of the top performances here.

Top performances of 2012: Will Sutton

February, 20, 2013
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Hello, my name is "Will Sutton." But you can call me "Will Sutton."

Who and against whom: On Sept 29, Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton dominated the California offensive line in a 27-17 victory, a win that indicated Sutton and the Sun Devils might be up to something in 2012.

The numbers: Sutton rolled up a career-high eight tackles, which ranked second on the defense, but four of his came for losses and three were sacks. He also forced a fumble and had a quarterback hurry.

A closer look: Sutton played well all season. In fact, one of the distinguishing characteristics of his season was its consistency, which is one big reason he was the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American. But this is the game in which Sutton said, "Hello, world. No one can block me. Which is nice." Before this game, he ranked eighth in the conference in tackles for loss and seventh in sacks. After it, he ranked second in both categories. And he'd end up first in both. He earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. He led a six-sack attack against the beleaguered Bears offensive line, one that held Cal to just 285 total yards.
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: The Zach Attack (The player, not the band from "Saved by the Bell").

Who and against whom: In one of the few highlights of the year for Cal, quarterback Zach Maynard blew up against No. 25 UCLA -- showing accuracy and poise in leading the Bears to a 43-17 blowout/upset win.

The numbers: Maynard completed 25 of 30 throws (83 percent), he tossed four touchdowns and threw for 295 yards. He also ran for a touchdown, making it a five-score day.

A closer look: It had been a pretty crummy season so far for the Bears (and the crumminess would eventually continue after a modest two-game win streak in the middle of the season). Losers of four of its first five, Cal's only win had come against FCS Southern Utah. So with No. 25 UCLA coming to town -- the Bruins conversely had won four of their first five -- there weren't many predicting an upset ...

Except Ted Miller, who from time to time likes to remind me of this:
Ted Miller: There is every reason to believe UCLA will win this game, based on the play of both teams so far. Call this one a hunch. California 31, UCLA 28.

Golf clap, Mr. Miller.

Maynard was throwing darts, connecting twice for touchdowns with Keenan Allen and once to Brendan Bigelow and C.J. Anderson. The Bears took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter on Maynard's touchdown to Anderson and the Bears never looked back. The defense took advantage of a sloppy Bruins offense and forced four interceptions (three from Kameron Jackson, which could merit its own top performances post). Maynard's 1-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth was the icing. (Anderson's 68-yard touchdown run with 1:32 left was the cherry). While both teams ended up on different ends of the spectrum, the Bears and Maynard were able to put it all together and give soon-to-be-departed coach Jeff Tedford his final victory over a Top 25 team.

Top performances of 2012: Marcus Mariota

February, 15, 2013
We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2012.

Up next: Mariota's six pack

Who and against whom: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota carved up the California secondary, turning a close game in the third quarter into a 59-17 blowout victory.

The numbers: Mariota completed 27 of 34 passes for 377 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a 230.79 passing efficiency rating, which is very, very good. He also -- oh, by the way -- rushed six times for 42 yards.

A closer look: Running back Kenjon Barner hurt? The Ducks vaunted running game bottled up? The Ducks up just seven early in the third quarter? No matter. The Bears ended up getting Marcus Mariota'd. This game, in fact, seemed to provide ultimate confirmation that Mariota was an elite quarterback and a future Heisman Trophy contender. He was simply brilliant on the road in the second half of a game where things weren't going Oregon's way. The Ducks, who had rushed for at least 400 yards in the previous three games, were outrushed by the Bears 236 yards to 180. Barner had just 65 yards on 20 carries, 256 fewer yards than he had the previous weekend against USC. Cal's defense wanted to force Mariota to pass to win. He did, and with panache, tossing touchdown passes of 10, 10, 35, 39, 14 and seven yards. He tied the Oregon school record for touchdown passes in a game and tied USC's Matt Barkley for the Pac-12 season-high.