Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 9
Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes
In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.
LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy
Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).
WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas
The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.
LOSER: Zach Maynard
California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.
WINNER: Barking for Sark
There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'
Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.
It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.
There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.
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Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Bryan Bennett, Bryan Fischer, Cal, California, Chip Kelly, Chris Polk, Coliseum, Colorado, Darron Thomas, De'Anthony Thomas, Heisman, Jake Locker, Jeff Tedford, John White, Jon Embree, Jon Hays, Keith Price, Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, Pac-12, Rose Bowl, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Tevin McDonald, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Week 9, Week 9 Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers, Zach Ertz, Zach Maynard