Pac Mentality – Week 2: Oregon Ducks make huge statement in beating Michigan State

Sep 7, 2014, 7:40 PM | Updated: Sep 8, 2014, 4:56 am
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Week 2 is in the books in the Pac-12, and we’re starting to get a little clearer picture on some teams.

Oregon is one of them. The third-ranked Ducks went into the locker room at Autzen Stadium trailing seventh-ranked Michigan State 24-18. We don’t know what head coach Mark Helfrich said to his team at the half, but it definitely worked!

Oregon outscored Michigan State 28-3 the rest of the way and scored an impressive 46-27 win over the Spartans in what arguably is the biggest non-conference game on this year’s college football schedule.

With the win over a Big Ten team, Oregon is sitting pretty in the College Football Playoff outlook. The Ducks won’t be tested again until Oct. 11, when they travel to the Rose Bowl to take on a UCLA team that hasn’t looked great in 2014. Then there’s the annual showdown with Stanford, who has beaten Oregon the last two seasons by employing their powerful, mistake-free strategy. The Cardinal didn’t look powerful or mistake-free during their 13-10 loss to USC Saturday. And Oregon’s win over Michigan State might be a psychological plus as well, seeing as how the Ducks were able to beat a rugged, physical team by playing their own game. Remember Michigan State out-physicaled Stanford in last season’s Rose Bowl.

Who Impressed?

• Travis Wilson, QB, Utah – Wilson only completed 11 passes, but five of them went for touchdowns as the Utes rolled Fresno State 59-27 in Salt Lake City Saturday. Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott each had two touchdown catches while Utah’s evenly distributed running game piled up 258 yards on the Bulldogs, who have been outscored 111-40 by Pac-12 teams this season. Utah’s defense wasn’t too bad, either. Fresno State went three-and-out on their first five possessions, gaining a net total of 2 yards in the process.

• Cal Golden Bears – It’s only a win over Sacramento State, but Cal’s 55-14 triumph pushed them to 2-0 on the season, which eclipses their win total from 2013. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff is off to a great start this season — he had four TD passes spread out to arguably the Pac-12’s deepest receiving corps. And freshman QB Luke Rubenzer, a Scottsdale Saguaro product, is giving the Bears a different look on offense with his mobility in situations. Cal gets an off week, then visits Arizona to open up Pac-12 play Sept. 20.

What was that?

• UCLA’s defense – Last week, I called out the Bruins’ offense. Brett Hundley and Co. produced just one touchdown in a tight win over Virginia while the defense did all the heavy lifting, putting up three scores of their own. This week, the duties were flip-flopped. UCLA’s defense looked baffled for much of the night in a 42-35 win over Memphis, who gained 469 yards of offense on the night. Memphis was a three-win team a year ago that averaged only 311 yards of offense per contest. UCLA might be pretty good if they get both sides of the ball to show up on the same day. They’ll take on Texas at AT&T Stadium in Dallas Saturday.

• Stanford – Under head coach David Shaw, the Cardinal have built the reputation for being what I call “maddeningly steady.” They run the football. They don’t put up gaudy stats. They don’t make mistakes. Saturday against USC, Stanford got that maddening part down, but they uncharacteristically shot themselves in the foot in a 13-10 loss on their home field. On their first drive of the day, the Cardinal got down to the USC 21-yard line, but tackle Andrus Peat was called for a holding penalty, pushing them back. The drive ended with Jordan Williamson missing a 49-yard field goal.

Second possession: Stanford has a 2nd-and-6 at the USC 13-yard line. A bad snap over the head of Ty Montgomery, who was in as a Wildcat QB, caused a 16-yard loss. The Cardinal ended up punting from the USC 29 and netted only nine yards after a touchback. Think Williamson’s miss influenced that decision?

On their fourth possession of the game, the Cardinal faced a 3rd-and-1 from the Trojans’ 7-yard line. Stanford got flagged for an illegal formation and a delay of game on consecutive plays and had to settle for a field goal.

In the second half, Stanford ran 21 plays in USC territory and didn’t score a point. Ugly performance all the way around for the Cardinal.

• Arizona Wildcats – After a dominating performance in a season-opening win over UNLV and an 85-yard touchdown pass from Anu Solomon to Cayleb Jones on the first play from scrimmage Thursday against UTSA, it looked like nobody would be able to slow down the Wildcats.

But the Roadrunners managed to slow down the Wildcats. Solomon went just 16-of-31 for 146 yards the rest of the way as Arizona hung on for a 26-23 win.

The good news for UA? It looks like they’ll have no problem replacing Ka’Deem Carey after all. Freshman Nick Wilson had 174 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries in the win. He’s third in the Pac-12 in rushing through the first two weeks.

Marotta’s Players of the Week

Offense: D.J. Foster, RB, Arizona State – Foster has been electrifying since taking over for Marion Grice at the end of the 2013 season. Saturday, he took it to another level, rushing for a career-high 216 yards on just 19 carries. He added a touchdown run, and three catches for 54 yards in ASU’s 58-23 romp over New Mexico.

In his last five games, dating back to last year, Foster has carried 85 times for 681 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s 8.0 yards per carry!

Honorable mention: QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon), WR Nelson Spruce (Colorado), QB Travis Wilson (Utah), QB Cyler Miles (Washington), QB Brett Hundley, (UCLA)

Defense: Leonard Williams, DE, USC – Williams went into Saturday’s game at Stanford with a gimpy ankle, but showed no signs of it in the Trojans’ win. The future first-round pick had 11 tackles and was all over the field.

Honorable mention: S Jared Tevis (Arizona), CB Daquawn Brown (Washington State), DE Hunter Dimick (Utah), DB Tedric Thompson (Colorado), S Demarious Randall (Arizona State)

Special Teams: Andre Heidari, K, USC – Heidari kicked two second-half field goals, including a 52-harder that proved to be the game-winner at Stanford.

Honorable mention: K Casey Skowron (Arizona), P Tom Hackett (Utah)

Local Boys Done Good

• D.J. Foster, RB, Arizona State (Scottsdale Saguaro) – See above.

• Devon Allen, WR, Oregon (Brophy Prep) – The freshman, who is also the NCAA 110-meter hurdles champion, had two touchdown catches in the Ducks’ triumph over Michigan State, including a 70-yarded.

• Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (Chandler) – Hundley bounced back from an uneven Week 1 performance, throwing for 396 yards and three scores.

• Luke Rubenzer, QB, Cal (Scottsdale Saguaro) – Sharing time with Jared Goff at QB, Rubenzer had a touchdown pass and a touchdown run in the Golden Bears’ win over Sac State.

I’m Wondering…

…why Washington State would run in a late-game situation? The Cougars totaled 38 yards on the ground Friday night in Reno. But on a crucial fourth-quarter 4th-and-3, Mike Leach called a run and predictably, Jamal Morrow was stopped short of the sticks. Wazzu has 44 yards rushing through the first two games of the season.

…if Arizona State’s special teams are at all improved? Head coach Todd Graham took a “personal interest” in special teams after the Sun Devils’ stunk out loud in that area in 2013. There has yet to be improvement. ASU had two extra points blocked, Zane Gonzalez missed a field goal and punter Matt Haack “uncorked” a 21-yard punt.

…why the Sun Devils aren’t using De’Marieya Nelson more on offense. The senior has a unique skill set, but has exactly ZERO touches on offense through two games. Nelson was targeted once against New Mexico and threw a two-point conversion pass on a trick play. He’s a weapon, as he proved late last season, but he hasn’t been utilized just yet.

…why Byron Marshall isn’t more of a running threat? Oregon’s tailback ran for 1,068 yards last year, but has only 13 carries through two games. Furthermore, Marshall had only 13 catches all last season and already has 11 this year. Only eight touches against Michigan State? I guess I’m nitpicking a bit — the Ducks did score 46 points on the Spartans’ defense.

Play of the Week

This grab by Cal’s Kenny Lawler was pretty special, don’t you think?

Quotes of the Week

“I told the team I would rather win ugly than lose pretty.” — Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, following a 26-23 win over UTSA

“He’s ridiculous. There is no other way to describe it.” — Cal QB Jared Goff on Lawler’s one-handed grab vs. Sacramento State

“Yes, that is a concern. We have to play a lot better than that. That’s something we’re going to have to work on. What we’re doing right now is learning.” — Washington head coach Chris Petersen on his defense, which allowed 573 yards and 52 points in a win over Eastern Washington

“We had so many opportunities to win this football game. I give them credit, they made the plays and we didn’t. They made the calls and we didn’t. To miss two field goals and get turned away inside the five yard line, to go from a field goal position backed up to a punt position. Coaches and players, that’s everybody, which is veiled to say that’s me, that’s me.” – Stanford head coach David Shaw, following a disappointing effort against USC

“Huge win. That is an outstanding team in every phase. I thought we got out to a great start offensively, defensively and on special teams. Then we did the exact opposite in the second quarter, we kind of fell behind. Our guys didn’t blink and made the correction.” — Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, after an impressive win over 7th-ranked Michigan State

Looking ahead to Week 3

There’s only one conference game on the slate next week — Arizona State visiting Colorado in Boulder. In reality, it’s a ho-hum week in the Pac-12 highlighted by UCLA’s visit to Texas, who is coming off a humbling loss at the hands of BYU.

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