Sunday, October 26, 2008

Inside the Pac-10 - Week Nine


#5 USC @ Arizona

For most of the game, the Trojans’ offense couldn’t get the job done, so it was up to Rey Maualuga and the USC defense to hold the fort in USC’s 17-10 victory in the desert. USC kept normally solid Wildcat quarterback Willie Tuitama to a mere 88 yards with no touchdowns and an interception thrown in for good measure. Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez moved the ball between the 20s well and compiled 216 yards, but only threw for one touchdown (one interception), as USC scored a season low 17 points. It was USC’s defense that was the story, stopping the Wildcats several times late in the game, including a critical fourth-and-one in the final quarter.

Maualuga knew it was big, telling ESPN, "Guys were out there saying, 'This will determine who we are.' " While the offense didn’t seem sure, the defense made sure people knew who they were loud and clear….

UCLA @ California

For three quarters, the Bruins held their own against the Golden Bears, as both teams struggled offensively. But UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw four interceptions for the second time this season, a mistake his counterpart Kevin Riley did not make. In Craft’s defense, two interceptions were tipped and he wasn’t getting any help from his teammates.

Golden Bear running back Jahvid Best got back on track, rushing for 115 yards and a score. That performance, coupled with fellow tailback Shane Vereen’s 99 yards on 14 carries helped trigger a fourth quarter deluge of scoring that turned a close game into a 41-20 blowout.

Notre Dame @ Washington

It’s one thing to lose. It’s an entirely different thing to lose big. And it’s a concerning thing when you lose in a humiliating fashion in your own house.

With a significant lead, Notre Dame not only kept their foot on the gas, the threw a little sand in the face of former Fighting Irish Coach Ty Willingham’s face with five receiver sets and a fake punt. It’s not a crime against humanity, but is cold-hearted. The crowd certainly made their feelings known, booing loud and long after the fake.

Notre Dame certainly didn’t need trickery, as their defense held Washington to 124 yards total offense and only let up a score when things were well in hand late, winning 33-7. Husky quarterback Jake Locker was still sidelined with a broken thumb and his replacement Ronnie Fouch was ineffective, with five first half passing yards.

Charlie Weis defended his play calling after the game, saying to, “It's the third quarter. It's not 50-0. I'm not that type of guy. We yanked guys at the start of the fourth quarter. Their only touchdown at the end was against guys who never play.”

Having said that, it would be hard to find anyone who would argue they needed a fake punt up 24 points against one of the worst teams in the nation. If the above statement had come from USC, Ohio State, Texas or Alabama, people would likely be swinging from the rafters in outrage.

Oregon @ Arizona State

It’s not often a game is lost inside of the first two minutes, but when Oregon scored with 12:54 left in the first quarter, that was the case. Duck running back Jeremiah Johnson broke off a 43-yards touchdown run and Oregon never looked back, defeating the reeling Sun Devils 54-20.

Sun Devil quarterback Rudy Carpenter continued his struggles this weekend, throwing a pair of interceptions and compiling just 146 yards. The run game was again nonexistent, barely topping 100 yards and only contributing a touchdown, which Carpenter ran it in himself.

Meanwhile the Ducks dominated on the ground, led by a pair of Johnson touchdowns and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli’s 85 yards (one touchdown). The other half of the productive running back combo, LeGarrette Blount, added a couple of scores as well.

Arizona State’s offensive line got Carpenter hammered—again, allowing numerous pressures and hits on top of three sacks. They will not be able to turn things around if they do not straighten out their offensive line.

Photo Credit: Sam Haythorn (USC)