It didn’t take me long to figure out Week 6 was going to be a weird one in the Pac-12 and the rest of college football, for that matter.
As I was getting ready to watch the early games, I tuned into watch Gameday on ESPN and witnessed the following, which I documented on Twitter.
Katy Perry wearing a fuzzy jersey and throwing corn dogs while Lee Corso wears a seersucker suit and an elephant head. Weird dream.
— Vince Marotta (@Vincemarotta) October 4, 2014
The weirdness started on Thursday when Arizona knocked off #2 Oregon in Eugene and it would get weirder as the day went on.
• Arizona 31…..#2 Oregon 24 – For the second straight season, Rich Rodriguez found a way to knock off an Oregon Ducks team ranked in the top five in the nation. This year, it was a 31-24 victory at Autzen Stadium — a game that effectively ends Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes.
Arizona was able to pull off the feat without playing their best football. The Wildcats turned the ball over twice, including a fumble on the Ducks’ 10-yard line with under :30 to go in the first half. But redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, as he’s been known to do, settled down in the second half, completing 13-of-18 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. The Arizona running game, paced by Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson, thrashed Oregon’s defense. That duo combined for 212 yards and three scores on 40 carries on the night.
But the big story was the Arizona defense, which had been riddled by Cal two weeks ago, stepping up and making plays. The biggest play was turned in by Scooby Wright, who stripped Marcus Mariota on a sack and recovered the ball with just over two minutes to play.
• #9 Notre Dame 17…..#14 Stanford 14 – You like defense? You got it! But defense couldn’t save Stanford.
Irish QB Everett Golson hit tight end Ben Koyack with a 23-yard touchdown pass with just 1:01 remaining and Notre Dame knocked off the Cardinal in rain-soaked South Bend.
Stanford was able to muster only 205 yards of total offense as the Notre Dame defense proved once again it is one of the best in the nation. The Cardinal had only 47 rushing yards on 32 carries and Kevin Hogan was intercepted twice.
• Oregon State 36…..Colorado 31 – And this was the “boring” game of the weekend. Colorado hung tough, but Sefo Liufau couldn’t push the Buffs past the Oregon State 40-yard line on their last possession.
The Beavers used a productive ground game, paced by Terron Ward and Storm Woods to power their fourth victory of the year. The duo combined for 171 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Quarterback Sean Mannion threw only one touchdown pass — the only one he’s thrown in the last three weeks — yet, the Beavs are still winning games.
• Arizona State 38…..#16 USC 34 – The late games in the Pac-12 were absolute mind-blowers, starting with this tilt in L.A. Don’t believe me, take a look at these USC fans.
The Sun Devils scored three touchdowns in the final 3:53 of the game, including a 46-yard Hail Mary throw from Mike Bercovici to Jaelen Strong as time expired. ASU bounced back from a terrible performance against UCLA with their first win at USC since 1999. In just his second college start, Bercovici threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns.
• Utah 30…..#8 UCLA 28 – UCLA’s problems were masked for a week with a dominating win over Arizona State, but those issues reared their ugly heads against the Utes. Brett Hundley was sacked 10 times on the night and UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a potential game-winning 50-yard field goal as time expired. Fairbairn actually got two chances. His first, a 55-yard attempt, was no good, but Utah was called for running into the kicker on what was a very questionable call.
• Cal 60…..Washington State 59 – They saved the wildest for last. WSU quarterback Connor Halliday finished the game with an NCAA-record 734 yards passing, but the Cougs wished he could have had one more. With just seconds left in the game Wazzu lined up for a 19-yard field goal and kicker Quentin Brashears pushed it wide right, giving the Bears another improbable win. The game featured more than 1,400 yards of offense and the two teams nearly doubled the Vegas over/under of 68.
So after the smoke cleared on a crazy Week 6, undefeated Arizona is the leader in the South with Cal in first place in the North. Yeah, we all saw that coming.
• Cal has allowed an average of 689.7 yards and 54.7 points in their last three games, yet the Bears are 2-1 in that stretch. And, they’re a Hail Mary completion away from being 3-0.
• Speaking of Hail Marys, if anyone knows how to defend them, contact Pac-12 coaches immediately. Cal lost to Arizona on an Anu Solomon-to-Austin Hill prayer. USC ended the first half of their win over Oregon State last week with a Cody Kessler-to-Darreus Rogers bomb and then the Trojans were victimized on the Bercovici-Strong hookup on Saturday’s final play. The moral of the story is: don’t leave early at halftime to beat the line at the concession stand and keep your butt firmly planted in your seat at the end of a game. You really never know what’s going to happen.
• UCLA’s got a huge problem on its hands in the offensive line. After yielding 10 sacks to Utah Saturday, the Bruins rank 123rd out of 125 FBS teams in sacks allowed. Only Idaho and SMU (two teams who are a combined 0-10) have given up more. Here’s a harrowing thought…imagine what that number would be if they didn’t have Hundley, who is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the conference.
• I still can’t wrap my head around Arizona’s road win in Eugene. The Wildcats struggled with UTSA on the road and Nevada and Cal at home before pulling off possibly the biggest upset in school history. For the first time all season, the Wildcats’ defense looked formidable, and that happened against one of the top offensive teams in the country.
• On that note, are Mark Helfrich and Marcus Mariota both too mild-mannered to lead Oregon to real success? Helfrich’s predecessor, Chip Kelly, was brash and unorthodox and it worked. Although the Ducks never one the big one in Kelly’s tenure, they were always in the conversation. John Canzano of The Oregonian wonders about it too.
Gone is the Chip Kelly edge and creativity on offense. Absent are Nick Aliotti’s gambling and guts on defense. The overall performance was sloppy. All that was familiar from the most successful Oregon era ever on Thursday were some of Kelly’s leftover players and that signature “O” at midfield.
That’s “O” for obsolete, right now.
That also could be “O” for ouch. Helfrich is 3-3 in his last six conference games, with two losses to Arizona in that span. Kelly went 33-3 in Pac-12 play while he was in Eugene. Just sayin’.
Marotta’s Players of the Week
OFFENSE: Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State – Admittedly it feels strange not to give this award to Halliday, who set a FREAKIN’ NCAA RECORD for passing yards in a game and mixed in six touchdown passes with no picks, but Bercovici actually won his game. The Sun Devils became completely one-dimensional as USC shut down ASU’s running game (30 yards on 22 attempts), but that didn’t deter Bercovici who went 8-for-12 for 213 yards and three touchdowns — IN THE LAST SIX-AND-A-HALF MINUTES OF THE GAME! It was just an unbelievable performance by the man Fox’s Joey Harrington called “the best backup quarterback in the country.”
Honorable mention: RB Buck Allen (USC), RB Devontae Booker (Utah), WR River Cracraft (Washington State), QB Jared Goff (Cal), QB Connor Halliday (Washington State), RB Terris Jones-Grigsby (Arizona), WR Vince Mayle (Washington State), WR Jaelen Strong (Arizona State), RB Terron Ward (Oregon State)
DEFENSE: Nate Orchard, DE, Utah – Orchard was the ringleader of a defense that made life miserable for UCLA’s offensive line all night. The senior from Salt Lake City had four of Utah’s ten sacks and now has 8.5 on the season. His four sacks tied a Utah school record.
Honorable mention: OLB Kevin Anderson (Stanford), DB Tevin Carter (Utah), LB Su’a Cravens (USC), DE Hunter Dimick (Utah), LB Jabral Johnson (Oregon State), LB Jared Norris (Utah), S Jordan Simone (Arizona State), LB Scooby Wright (Arizona)
SPECIAL TEAMS: Trevor Davis, KR, California – Davis had two kickoff returns against Washington State, and took them both to the house in a span of 2:59 of the third quarter. On the night, Davis touched the ball a total of five times, but covered 282 yards and scored four touchdowns. Not a bad night’s work for the junior.
Honorable mention: PR Nelson Agholor (USC), P Tom Hackett (Utah), K Andy Phillips (Utah), K Trevor Romaine (Oregon State)
Play of the Week
Maybe we should rename this category “Hail Mary of the Week?”
Calls of the Week
“I thought we played hard. We came out ready to play, but we weren’t communicating well and that’s on me.” — Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich
“You can do anything you put your mind to when you work your ass off.” — Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, to his players in the locker room after upsetting Oregon.
“They were about what we expected. I’m not sure they were doing much. I think all the fault lies with our offense. We didn’t execute. We had chances to make plays, and a couple inches here, a couple inches there. We didn’t really do that great a job. We stopped ourselves.” – Stanford running back Remound Wright
“It was a tough loss for our young men, they fought extremely hard. That’s two in a row now. We’ve been in every football game and had an opportunity to win every football game, but we’re 2-4, that’s reality.” — Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre
“Our running game was outstanding. We pride ourselves on being balanced. Our offensive line has been great, not only in protection but in the run game. When you couple that with two good runners, it makes for a good unit.” — Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion
“Words can’t express what that felt like. It was one of the hardest fought games I’ve been a part of. Give them a lot of credit. They battled. I’m so proud of our team and coaches and how hard they worked and prepared. We talked about this in the locker. Growing up as a little boy, playing football in the pasture. And we reflect on everyone’s path here and come to the Coliseum and to win like that on the last play, I don’t know if it gets any better than that. That was awesome.” – Arizona State head coach Todd Graham
“In the end, it’s the old adage, `That’s why you play 60 minutes, that’s why you play four quarters.’ When you go up at the end of the game like that with three minutes left, it’s never over. You learn the hard way in games like this. I feel bad for our kids, I thought they fought hard, competed well and gave amazing effort. But we didn’t get it done in the end. We have great group of guys and tremendous leaders. We’ll bounce back and fight back and play a hard-fought game on Saturday night.” – USC head coach Steve Sarkisian
“I can’t until I look at the film. Now, you are referencing the sacks. I’ll say it again and until the day that I die or get out of football. Sacks are a component of all 11 [players]. Sometimes it’s a rush, sometimes you get beat, and sometimes the quarterback holds it for too long. It’s a function of all of those things.” — UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. on his team allowing 10 sacks.
“I’m proud of our players and our coaches. That was a gutsy performance. It was a tough, hard-fought win. For our guys to bounce back after a disappointing loss last week and play with the resolve and determination like they did. It speaks to the character of who they are as people.” — Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham
“We have another game Saturday. We will start worrying about who’s in what place at the end of the season. We just have to get ready for Washington and we obviously have to get better in a lot of ways. To our players’ credit, they’ve found a way to give themselves opportunities to win football games and it has a lot to do with who they are. I’m very proud of them.” — Cal head coach Sonny Dykes on being in first place in the North.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼”It doesn’t mean much right now. It’ll be fun to look back at when I’m 30 years old.” — Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday on setting the NCAA passing yardage record in a loss.
Looking ahead to Week 7
Only four games on the schedule, and the week will be highlighted by the two preseason favorites — Oregon and UCLA — trying to bounce back from losses when they meet at the Rose Bowl Saturday. Arizona hosts USC in a crucial South matchup…Washington will try to knock off the high-flying Cal Golden Bears in Berkeley and Washington State visits Stanford.
Arizona State,Colorado, Oregon State and Utah have the weekend off.