Pac Mentality Week 3: Quarterback injuries could be problematic in South
For three quarters of the teams in the Pac-12, a quarter of their regular season is in the books.
Week 3 answered some questions, no doubt. And a couple of teams in the South may have seen their conference championship hopes dashed by injuries.
In Arlington, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley injured his left arm in the Bruins’ 20-17 win over Texas at AT&T Stadium. Hundley is right-handed, so the injury shouldn’t keep him out an extended period of time. However, Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly could be on the shelf for awhile.
Kelly hurt his right foot in the fourth quarter of the Sun Devils’ 38-24 win over Colorado. He came back on to the sidelines in a boot and on crutches, not responding at all to teammates who came over to wish him well. His sullen look could have been one of a player who knows he will be out for quite some time.
“He’ll be fine,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said in his postgame radio interview without elaborating. As of Sunday night, nobody knows if that’s optimism or denial.
UCLA without Hundley or a Kelly-less ASU team would see a steep increase in degree of difficulty for the remaining games on their schedule.
• Jerry Neuheisel, QB, UCLA – This list has got to start here. Neuheisel, a former walk-on, relieved Hundley in the first quarter and completed 23-of-30 for 179 yards and two touchdowns. The second, a 33-yarder to Jordan Payton, came with just 3:00 left in the game. Not bad for a kid who had only thrown 13 passes in his college career before Saturday night.
Maybe the coolest thing about Neuheisel’s heroics was watching his dad Rick, a former UCLA quarterback and coach and now a Pac-12 Network analyst, react to watching the game in the studio.
Most importantly, the Bruins are 3-0 after squeaking out wins over Virginia, Memphis and now Texas, and have proven they can win without Hundley, should he miss extended time.
• Stanford Cardinal – Coming off a sloppy loss to USC, Stanford regrouped in a 35-0 blowout of Army. The Cardinal held the Cadets to just 207 total yards (9 passing) and registered their second shutout of the season. Kevin Hogan threw four touchdown passes — three to Devon Cajuste — and Ty Montgomery found the end zone twice. Stanford had just three penalties in the game after last week’s debacle against USC. In 2014, the Cardinal have allowed a grand total of 13 points.
• Washington Huskies – Chris Petersen’s team was unbeaten coming into Saturday’s game with Illinois, but had yet to impress. They struggled in their opener against Hawaii and then outlasted Eastern Washington last week in a game that featured 111 total points. Against the Illini, they put it all together. Offensively, they were balanced, piling up 219 passing yards and 246 rushing yards and Shaq Thompson scored two defensive touchdowns. They clamped down on Illinois, allowing just 1-of-11 third-down conversions.
What was that?
• USC – It’s been more than a decade since the Trojans yielded as many rushing yards as they did Saturday in a loss to Boston College. The Eagles, behind quarterback Tyler Murphy, had 452 rushing yards while USC managed 20. You read that right. USC led 17-6 in the second quarter, but the Eagles ran off 24 consecutive points. Murphy iced the game with about three and a half minutes to go with a 66-yard touchdown run. After a solid defensive performance in Week 2 against Stanford, USC has got a lot of experts scratching their heads.
• Arizona State’s defense – There were a lot of concerns about ASU’s young defense heading into the 2014 season. After all, the Devils had lost nine starters and their depth chart featured a lot of guys who were just old enough to vote. Colorado did a lot to validate those concerns Saturday night. Yes, Arizona State won the game 38-24, but the Buffs ran up 545 total yards — the third-most in the Pac-12 this week — in the loss. If not for the generous nature of quarterback Sefo Liufau, who threw two key interceptions, CU might have pulled the upset. More bad news for ASU’s defense — linebacker Laiu Moeakiola left the game with an injury and did not return. The Sun Devils can’t afford any losses to key players on that side of the field.
Marotta’s Players of the Week
Offense – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon – The junior quarterback was his usual efficient and productive self in the Ducks’ blowout win over Wyoming. Mariota completed 82.6 percent (19-of-23) of his passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another 71 and two scores. Considering that’s an average performance for Mariota is kind of frightening, really.
Honorable mention – QB Taylor Kelly (ASU), WR Devon Cajuste (Stanford), QB Kevin Hogan (Stanford), WR Isiah Myers (Washington State), WR Connor Halliday (Washington State), RB Nick Wilson (Arizona)
Defense – Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington – Thompson has already scored a touchdown on offense this season, why not do it on defense? Why not do it twice? The junior from Sacramento did just that, taking an interception (36 yards) and a fumble (52 yards) to the house in the Huskies’ easy victory over Illinois. Washington Athletics researched back to 1978 and found that Thompson is the only player in that span to have an interception return and a fumble return for a touchdown in the same game. Since you couldn’t advance fumbles in college football until 1992, it turns out he’s the only Husky who’s ever done it.
Honorable mention – OLB Hau’oli Kikaha (Washington), S Jordan Simone (ASU), LB Scooby Wright (Arizona), S Erick Dargan (Oregon)
“My first thought was excitement for Jerry Neuheisel. I mean, this kid is everything that’s right about college football and about UCLA. I mean, he bleeds Bruin blue. And I just thought, wow, you couldn’t write a better script than this right here. You know?” — Jim Mora, Jr., UCLA head coach
“He’s TREMENDOUS. I want you to put that in all caps. He’s really stepping up his game and guys are fearing him. He’s getting us open. When that guy goes deep, you have to respect him, and when you don’t, you’re going to pay.” — Jaydon Mickens, Washington wide receiver on his teammate John Ross
“It’s another hard fought game. We are very fortunate to win. We played well defensively and got a stop at the end. Offensively, I thought we were okay, but we did not have the ball very much. We hurt ourselves on a couple drives, but it’s a good football team and I thought their quarterback was really good coming in and is one of the best in the country. We’ll take it and try to get better because we have to get better in a hurry and move on.” — Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez
“The goal, obviously, of being Pac-12 champs is very alive for us. I thought we came out playing well, and for whatever reason I thought we lost it. I’ve got to figure that out.” — USC head coach Steve Sarkisian
“I think defense is exactly where we want them to be, playing extremely well. It’s really three weeks in a row, outstanding performances by those guys. Offensively, we’re close. We hate being close, we hate being close.” — Stanford head coach David Shaw
Play of the Week
Marcus Mariota’s second touchdown run of the day — a 19-yarder in the second quarter — had a little bit of flair at the end. And it had a lot of Oregon fans very nervous.
H/T to Bleacher Report
Looking ahead to Week 4
There are two conference games on the schedule next weekend. Second-ranked Oregon hits the road for the first time in 2014, heading to the Palouse to battle Washington State, who is coming off their first win of the year. But the most intriguing game of the week is the other Pac-12 matchup. It’s a battle of unbeatens as Cal (2-0) heads to Tucson to face 3-0 Arizona. Rich Rodriguez has started 3-0 in each of his three seasons at UA. But each year they lost their fourth game. In 2012, it was a 49-0 shutout at the hands of Oregon. Last season, the ‘Cats went up to Seattle and got spanked 31-16 by Washington.
Other games: Hawaii at Colorado, Utah at Michigan, Georgia State at Washington, San Diego State at Oregon State
Four of the top teams in the conference — Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA and USC — have byes.