Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Inside the Pac-10 - Week Eleven

USC 17, California 3
Defense was the word of the day as the only two top 25 teams in the Pac-10 clashed at the Los Angeles Coliseum with the Trojans prevailing. USC forced one turnover, but had two more overturned due to penalties. In fact, if there is one phase of the game USC continues to struggle with, it is penalties.

USC kept up its average of nine plus penalties per game with ten for 105 total yards. It is a bizarre problem for a Pete Carroll led team. Normally Carroll is able to keep his teams disciplined, but then again, that was part of the issue in the Trojans’ loss to Oregon State. A lack of focus has plagued USC in the last few seasons and nearly did them in again in this game.

But while there were stretches where the Golden Bears dominated the clock, they were unable to punch the ball in on any of their drives. In part it was because the USC defense was able to completely smother the Bears’ running game, holding Jahvid Best to just 30 yards and the overall the California run game to 27 total yards.

Mark Sanchez continued to play well and compiled 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns, though his first score to wide receiver Patrick Turner was bobbled. However, USC didn’t give anyone time to review the touchdown and kicked the extra point quickly.

With the victory, USC eliminated one of the threats to its Pac-10 Championship hopes, although Oregon State still controls its own destiny and has the conference lead.

Oregon 35, Stanford 28
Stanford nearly overcame an early two touchdown deficit, but a last second touchdown by Duck running back LaGarrette Blount won the game for the Oregon and likely ended Stanford’s hope for a major bowl bid.

Oregon won despite turning the ball over four times. While Stanford was able to move the ball both on the ground and through the air, they were unable to keep up with the Oregon offense.

Oregon had 451 total yards and while Stanford ate the clock up (their total time of possession was 39 minutes to Oregon’s 20 minutes) Oregon scored almost at will on the ground and was able to minimize the time of possession gap with a quick strike offense.

Near the end of the game, the score teetered back and forth with Stanford gaining the lead with 2:18 left on an Anthony Kimble touchdown run, only to see Oregon score the game winner on Blount’s second score of the day.

Arizona 59, Washington State 28

Arizona rebounded from its crushing loss against USC with a blowout of visiting Washington State, compiling 531 total yards of offense, 189 of them from running back Nic Gigsby.

The Wildcats poured it on all game scoring early and often, almost exclusively via the run game which the Cougars had no answer for. Five different backs and quarterback Willie Tuitama scored on the ground.

Washington State scored all of their touchdowns on the ground as well, but could not keep pace with the Wildcat attack.

With the win, Arizona keeps its hopes alive for a bowl bid, although any dreams of the Rose Bowl are long gone.

Oregon State 34, UCLA 6
The first half was a scare for Oregon State, as they entered the break tied with UCLA, 3-3. But the Beavers exploded in the second half, led by Jacquizz Rodgers’ 144 yards and touchdown. Teams still lack an answer to Rodgers’ speed, elusiveness and athleticism and it was all on display again Saturday.

When they weren’t pounding the ball on the ground, the offense moved the ball efficiently through the air, with junior quarterback Sean Canfield’s 222 yards and two touchdowns.

Bruins quarterback Kevin Craft had been able to protect the ball better the last few games, but reverted back to form, turning the ball over twice against Oregon St. The UCLA running game was completely ineffective, barely able to scrape 48 yards together despite using five different running backs.

With the win, the Beavers continue to lead the Pac-10, keeping pace with USC but owning the tie breaker over the Trojans by virtue of their head to head victory.

Arizona State 39 - Washington 19
For three quarters, the Washington Huskies hung with ASU and even briefly held the lead.

However, Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter led his team on two key scoring drives and extended Washington’s losing streak to 11, a school record.

Carpenter looked much more like the quarterback we saw early in the season and all of last year in the second half, and the Sun Devils finally gave him a rushing attack. Senior running back Keegan Herring finished the night with a 29-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, but it was their senior quarterback who truly engineered the win, keeping cool under pressure and guiding his team downfield.

The Huskies pulled out all the stops, including a blocked punt, reverses, direct snaps-- everything but smoke bombs--to try and end their skid. But the offense fell apart during the second half, as quarterback Ronnie Fouch lost his touch and started having his throws going everywhere but to his receivers. At one point, Fouch missed nine throws in a row. The rest of the offense wasn’t much better as Washington reverted back to form and failed to score touchdowns on three trips inside the Sun Devils’ five yard line.

The Huskies did play well for parts of the contest, but in the end they watched their win slip away due to the steady hands and cool demeanor of Rudy Carpenter and his offense.

Photo Credit: Collegiate Images; Chris McGuire (Patrick Turner)