Monday, October 20, 2008

Inside the Pac-10 - Week Eight


#6 USC @ Washington State

Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for an amazing five touchdowns and 253 yards as USC punched the Cougars in the face in their own house, 69-0. It was the biggest shutout for USC since they beat Montana by the same score in 1931.It was the largest Cougar loss since 1894.

Both are pieces of history Washington State would have preferred to not find out about. By the end of the first half, USC was up by 41 points and still marching down the field, only to take a mercy knee to end the half. Coach Pete Carroll had pulled many of his starters after one quarter, only allowed Sanchez to play two and a half quarters and basically ran short run plays the rest of the game.

And USC still scored 28 more points.

The USC stable of running backs totaled 362 yards and the pass game, 263. Washington State could manage only 116 yards for the game.

USC's defense was able to force three turnovers and completely dominated the Cougars in every aspect of the game, even when the defensive starters had joined the offensive starters on the sideline.

Just because history is fun: this was the first time since 1971 the Trojans have recorded consecutive shutouts, and the first time the Cougars were shut out since 1984, ending their 280-game streak which was second only to Michigan's 306.

Again, more history Washington State would rather have not learned about.

#25 California @ Arizona

The Wildcats got back on the right track against Cal this weekend and kept the Pac-10 close with a 42-27 stunner over the #25 Golden Bears.

California's best player, running back Jahvid Best, returned after missing a game with a dislocated elbow and did his part with 107 yards and a touchdown on the ground. But it was another running back who stole the show Saturday night.

Wildcat freshman Keola Antolin ran for 149 yards and three touchdowns, leading Arizona back from a 24-14 halftime deficit. Antolin, a player only the most well-informed Wildcat fans knew anything about, came in when starter Nic Grigsby fumbled on his first carry. Grigsby has had ball control problems and by the end of the game it was clear the Wildcats had themselves a running back competition. It didn't hurt that the Golden Bears admitted they had little or no tape of Antolin to prepare for.

Cal linebacker Anthony Felder told, "We didn't see any of him on tape. The whole thing (preperation) was Grigsby."

Coach Stoops
told ESPN that Grigsby will continue as the starter for now "unless he wants to continue putting the ball on the ground." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Running back drama aside, the Wildcats came out fighting in the second half, holding California to just a field goal while the offense put up 21 points and got another touchdown on a Devin Ross interception of a Nate Longshore pass.

The Golden Bears left Arizona stunned by the loss and while they’re not out of the Pac-10 Championship picture, this was a large set-back.

Arizona gets another big test this weekend as USC comes calling.

Stanford @ UCLA

Perception is an amazing thing. For the most part, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was very unhappy with quarterback Kevin Craft, nearly yanking him after a fumble which led to a Stanford touchdown. In addition to the fumble, Craft was pressured often, sacked seven times, and threw a pick.

But then Craft completed six passes and the game winning touchdown with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter to win the game 23-20.

What a difference a play makes.

Overall this game featured two programs trying to stay respectable. Both teams made some big mistakes and both teams had some standout performances. Aside from Craft's tough last minute drive, Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart ran for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the other hand, Cardinal quarterback Tavita Pritchard couldn't get his pass game going and the Bruin rush game was also wildly ineffective.

Both teams are still clearly trying to find their paths and Saturday gave us an indication that while things are looking up, the Cardinal and the Bruins have a long way yet to go.

Oregon State @ Washington

Washington's disastrous season continued as Oregon State stuffed them at home, 34-13.

Beaver freshman running back phenom, Jacquizz Rodgers, continues to befuddle and bewitch opposing run defenses, this time totaling a fairly pedestrian (for him at least) 94 yards and a touchdown. His older brother, James, showed everyone that Jacquizz isn't the only runner in the family, compiling 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just three carries. That was on top of the three receptions for 53 yards and another touchdown.

It didn't matter which brother had the rock, the Huskies had no answer for anything Saturday as they extended their winless season. The way things looked for Washington, the Beavers could have just lined both brothers up, direct-snapped to them and still won this game fairly easily.

There were a few minor bright spots for the Huskies, as quarterback Ronnie Fouch was able to move the ball well up and down the field, even if he never found the end-zone and turned the ball over multiple times. And they led briefly in the first quarter after a field goal. It was only the second time Washington has led in a game this season (they led BYU in the second game of the season).

When things are as grim as they are in Husky Stadium, you get the sunshine where you can.

Photo Credit: Chris McGuire (USC)