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Pac Mentality Week 5: It’s not all about the offenses

Week 5 in the Pac-12 was a strange mixture of explosive offense and smothering defense.

In Tempe, UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Jordan Payton did basically whatever they wanted to do on defense in a big win. In Berkeley, Cal and Colorado lit up the scoreboard for 115 points and combined for over 1,200 yards in the Golden Bears’ triumph.

But the teams that really stood out did so on defense.

The Stanford Cardinal went to Seattle to face the unbeaten and mysterious Washington Huskies, who came in to the game averaging 49.3 points and 445 yards over their last three contests. David Shaw’s stingy defense channeled their inner-Judge Smails and treated the Huskies like grandson Spaulding.

“You’ll have nothing and like it.”

Washington could muster only 179 yards of offense and went just 5-for-18 on third down as the Cardinal took a hard-fought 20-13 decision.

Stanford’s defense is legit. They’re giving up an average of just 183 yards of offense per game through the first third of the season. They’ve allowed just two offensive touchdowns. Yes, they’ve already got a loss on their record (a 13-10 defeat against USC), but this defense looks better than last year’s did. All that team did was win the Pac-12 for a second straight season.

USC bounced back from a terrible defensive showing at Boston College and dominated Sean Mannion and Oregon State in a 25-point win. The Beavers could muster only 181 yards of total offense.

And how about Washington State’s defensive effort? Yes, I just typed those words together to form a sentence. The Cougars went on the road to Salt Lake City and held the previously undefeated Utes to one offensive touchdown and held them to just two field goals after the first quarter in pulling out a 28-27 win.

What Transpired

• UCLA 62…..Arizona State 27 – ASU played well early, but when the wheels fell off in the second quarter, things got ugly. Hundley, who still hasn’t been confirmed by Jim Mora as the Bruins’ starting quarterback, threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns and added another TD on the ground. UCLA had three plays from scrimmage of 80 or more yards, a 95-yard interception return for a score and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown — the last two plays courtesy of Ishmael Adams. UCLA has to be thrilled with its performance on offense and special teams, but scratching its head about its defense. ASU gained 626 total yards in backup QB Mike Bercovici’s first start.

• California 59…..Colorado 56 (2OT) – All those yards, all those points, and wouldn’t you know it — the biggest play of the game happened on defense. The Buffs had a fourth-and-goal at the Cal 1-yard line in the second overtime and the Bears stuffed quarterback Sefo Liufau for a loss of three. Four plays later, Cal’s James Langford booted a 34-yard field goal for the win. The Bears snapped a 15-game Pac-12 losing streak in the process. Liufau and Cal’s Jared Goff combined to throw for 14 touchdowns, tying an NCAA record for a single game.

• Stanford 20…..Washington 13 – Huskies coach Chris Petersen tried to pull out some of his magical Boise State play calling late in the game, but Stanford was having none of it. UW attempted a fake punt on fourth down from its own 47-yard line in a tie game, but Shaq Thompson was stuffed by Zach Hoffpauir to give Stanford the ball at the Huskies’ 47-yard line with 7:37 left. Stanford ran the ball six straight times; the sixth, a five-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kevin Hogan. Washington still had a chance, but on 4th-and-18 at the Stanford 36, UW quarterback Cyler Miles was stopped well short of the sticks, and Stanford hung on for the win.

• Washington State 28…..Utah 27 – The Utes jumped out to a 21-0 lead just 9:08 into the game. It would be a rout, right? Wrong. Washington’s defense stiffened, and Connor Halliday threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns despite steady rain throughout the game. The last TD strike was an 81-harder to Vince Mayle with under five minutes to play.

• USC 35…..Oregon State 10 – Another dominant defensive performance. USC’s defense opened the scoring when Su’a Cravens picked off a Sean Mannion pass and returned it 31 yards for a score. The Trojans held OSU scoreless over the last 41:14 of the game and limited Mannion to a career-low 123 yards passing.

Who Impressed

• Ishmael Adams, CB, UCLA – Adams had the two biggest plays (figuratively and literally) in the Bruins’ win over Arizona State. His 95-yard interception return for a touchdown right before halftime was at least a 10-point swing that completely killed any momentum the Sun Devils had. His 100-yard kickoff return was another nail in ASU’s coffin.

• Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado – The Buffs lost, but not because of Spruce. The junior receiver had 19 catches, which tied a conference record set by ASU’s Ron Fair in 1989. He also had three touchdowns in the game, giving him four multi-touchdown games already this season.

What Was That?

• Arizona State’s defense – There were many concerns about the Sun Devils having to replace nine starters from last years team. Turns out, all those concerns were valid. ASU was completely overmatched by a UCLA team which had been very average through its first three games. If this is a sign of things to come, it could be a long Pac-12 season for the Sun Devils.

• Petersen’s fake punt – Washington’s coach rolled the dice and they came up snake eyes midway through the fourth quarter on the fake punt call. It ended up costing the Huskies the game.

• Sean Mannion – Everybody’s always raved about the Oregon State quarterback, but I have always put him in the “overrated” category. In his last six Pac-12 games, Mannion has thrown six touchdown passes and 10 interceptions and the Beavers are 0-6 in those contests. He has now gone two straight games without a TD pass. I know the electrifying Brandin Cooks is now in the NFL and Victor Bolden didn’t play against USC, but a lot of the responsibility for Oregon State’s lackluster offensive start to the season falls right on Mannion’s shoulders. The Beavs are 11th in the conference in total yards and points per game.

• Nothing for Dres – Utah receiver Dres Anderson had a rough Saturday. Not only did he drop what looked like a sure touchdown catch on a deep ball from Travis Wilson late in the Utes’ loss to Washington State, he saw his streak of 20 straight games with a catch come to an end. It wasn’t for lack of trying to get him the ball, either. Anderson was targeted seven times in the game.

Marotta’s Players of the Week

• Offense: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA – Hundley not only started, but had one of his best games as a college quarterback Thursday in Tempe. The junior completed 18-of-23 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns, including two 80-yarders. The elbow injury that was an issue in determining his availability for this game didn’t slow Hundley down on the ground either, as he rumbled for 72 yards and a touchdown. ASU’s defense probably made things easier on the entire UCLA offense, but Hundley still gets the hardware.

Honorable Mention: WR Nelson Spruce (Colorado), QB Sefo Liufau (Colorado), QB Jared Goff (Cal), RB Daniel Lasco (Cal), WR Jordan Payton (UCLA), QB Mike Bercovici (Arizona State), QB Connor Halliday (Washington State), WR Vince Mayle (Washington State), RB Devontae Booker (Utah)

• Defense: Su’a Cravens, S, USC – The super sophomore did it all against Oregon State. Cravens, who was used more like a linebacker in the game, started the scoring with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown. He also had six tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in USC’s dominating win.

Honorable mention: CB Ishmael Adams (UCLA), LB Jeremiah Allison (Washington State), OLB Peter Kalambayi (Stanford), LB Eric Kendricks (UCLA), LB Jared Norris (Utah), LB Shaq Thompson (Washington)

• Special Teams: Ishmael Adams, UCLA – Adams just kills Arizona State. His 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was a defining play in the Bruins’ big win.

Honorable Mention: PR Kaelin Clay (Utah), K James Langford (Cal), KR Ty Montgomery (Stanford), KR Ryan Murphy (Oregon State)

Play of the Week

As painful as it is for Sun Devil fans, I’ve got to give this soul-crushing interception by Ishmael Adams its due.

Quotes

“Tackling was atrocious.” — ASU head coach Todd Graham, who repeated those words three times during his post-game presser.

“I don’t know if there’s a better guy to have the ball in his hands other than Ish, he’s a great open field runner. Initially when he caught it I am thinking ‘he needs to get down so we have a chance to run a play or two’ and then all of a sudden when, he cut back I’m like ‘we’re ok’ it’s Ish. That was a huge, huge play in the game.” — UCLA head coach Jim Mora on Adams’ pick-six.

“Wow, I think I have aged 100 years in the last two weeks. After last week’s loss it’s nice to be on the other side this week and win a hard-fought, tough football game. You have got to give our players a lot of credit for bouncing back. When things went south in this ballgame they never panicked, they just kept hanging in there.” — Cal head coach Sonny Dykes

“We’ve had our fair share of losses, but I think since I’ve been here this is the toughest one I’ve been a part of. We were up big in the first half with a chance to put them away. They fought back, give them credit, but it was a tough one.” — Colorado WR Nelson Spruce

“I have no idea.” — Stanford head coach David Shaw, when asked how his team won the game.

“Our special teams did a really nice job. I think the only thing that wasn’t nice was that fake punt, and that was on me. I was trying to make some things happen.” — Washington head coach Chris Petersen on the fake punt.

“It was a sloppy game on my part. I take full responsibility for our offense performance tonight. I expect more from myself and I’m certainly not satisfied in any way with the way I played and the way our offense played as a whole. But I take full responsibility for that.” — Oregon State QB Sean Mannion

“Despite some adversity and some struggles, he stayed even-keeled. There are some guys who would pack it in after having some of the struggles he had, but he stayed in there and kept the offense even-tempered and he did a good job of being patient.” — Washington State head coach Mike Leach on his QB, Connor Halliday.

“The kicking game was solid, had another return for touchdown, but when you score one offensive touchdown you don’t have much of a chance to win. That was really the issue. We have to be more productive, particularly throwing the ball.” — Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham

Stat of the Week

For Colorado, the number was 39. The Buffaloes had 39 first downs and ran 39 more offensive plays than Cal, but still lost despite being +1 in the turnover category. Colorado’s 39 first downs tied a school record that has stood since 1978.

Noteworthy

• Two home teams, Arizona State and Washington, went with blackout uniforms for their big games. Both lost.

• Arizona State is now 0-2 all-time when they wear their alternate flame helmets.

• After blowing a three-touchdown lead, Utah is now 0-4 in Pac-12 openers since joining the league in 2011.

• Utah’s Kaelin Clay already has four return touchdowns this season (three punt returns and one kickoff return.)

• WSU’s Connor Halliday’s four touchdown passes give him 78 for his career — a new school record.

• Stanford is now 26-2 under Shaw when holding opponents to under 20 points in a game.

• Oregon State has now lost 23 straight games at the L.A. Coliseum. Their last road win against USC was a 14-0 decision in 1960.

• Jared Goff’s 92-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Lasco was the longest pass play in Cal football history.

Looking ahead to Week 6

For the second straight week, the conference docket starts with a Thursday night game between two undefeated teams coming off of bye weeks. Arizona (4-0) visits Oregon (4-0) at Autzen Stadium in Eugene in a nationally-televised tilt on ESPN. The Wildcats destroyed the Ducks in Tucson last year, but their last trip to Oregon ended in a 49-0 defeat in 2012.

Elsewhere on the schedule:

• Arizona State at USC

• Utah at UCLA

• Stanford at Notre Dame

• Oregon State at Colorado

• California at Washington State

Washington has the week off.