Gold: 1 thing I learned about every Pac-12 team in Week 12
It was billed as the weekend to watch for the Pac-12, with a fearsome foursome of top-20 teams tangling with each other in 2 of the marquee games on the schedule.
Between UCLA and USC, Oregon and Utah, the league’s 4 top teams would be left with only 2 standing. And that’s not counting Washington, which had a big tune-up for the Apple Cup.
But that’s next week. For now, here’s 1 thing I learned from every Pac-12 team in Week 12.
Arizona: Overlooked Dorian Singer blossoming into star
Much was made during the offseason of the Wildcats’ retooled passing game, which was lifted by the arrival of quarterback Jayden de Laura, star transfer wide receiver Jacob Cowing and highly touted freshman wideout Tetairoa McMillan. And that battery has indeed been high-energy.
But Dorian Singer is making clear that the Cats had some talent in Tucson all along.
After coming on strong late last season following his season debut in Week 8, Singer had 18 grabs for 301 yards in Arizona’s final 5 games.
He’s been a steady presence for the Wildcats throughout this season, but he exploded with his 4th huge game this year, catching 9 passes for 176 yards and a score on Saturday in a 31-20 loss to Washington State. While quarterback Jayden de Laura had a shaky performance with 4 picks, Singer bailed him out time and time again.
With Cowing graduating this year, Singer and McMillan should be one of the league’s top receiving duos next year.
Arizona State: Departing senior Xazavian Valladay validates decision to transfer
With the way Arizona State’s passing offense was looking against Oregon State in a 31-7 loss, it’s a surprise the Sun Devils didn’t keep it on the ground more often.
Particularly with the way Xavazian Valladay looked against the Beavers.
Valladay had 109 yards on 13 carries — an average of 8.4 yards per rush — with a touchdown in the loss. It was Valladay’s 3rd time in 4 games breaking the century mark, and he was only 8 yards short in the other game.
He’s really come on strong of late for the Sun Devils, as was expected after he nearly hit 1,000 yards for Wyoming last year for the 3rd time.
Cal: Jaydn Ott gets back on his game
The Cal running game bottomed out last Saturday in a 38-10 loss to Oregon State, with once-fabulous freshman Jaydn Ott continuing his ineffective streak with just 20 yards on 8 carries.
That was a rough showing, but not all that different from the previous 5 games, which followed a 19-carry, 274-yard outburst in a Week 4 win over Arizona. From Game 5 through Game 10, Ott managed just 242 yards on 83 carries.
The struggling Stanford defense was just what the doctor ordered for Ott and the Cal running game. Ott had 97 yards on 18 carries against the Cardinal, helping keep some pressure off the Bears’ passing game.
Colorado: Buffaloes revert to old ways in big loss to Washington
After showing some signs of life with the return of 2 top running backs in Alex Fontenot and Deion Smith last week, Colorado’s anemic offense reverted against the Huskies in a 54-7 loss.
Fontenot rushed for more than 100 yards in a loss to USC last Friday, but he managed only 71 on 11 carries as the Buffaloes gained just 10 1st downs.
The Buffs finished with just 202 total yards in one of the worst offensive showings of the season for a Pac-12 team.
Oregon: Bennett Williams rises to the occasion
After having his season cut short last season just when he was getting cooking, Bennett Williams came back this year ready to make up for lost time. Williams was lost for the year last year immediately after intercepting 2 passes in a 41-19 Week 4 win over Arizona.
Now, after intercepting Cameron Rising twice on Saturday, Williams is going to watch his step in practice.
Williams didn’t just stop with the picks, either. He had a season-high 14 tackles, as well, in a national defensive player of the week type of performance.
Oregon State: Forget the future — Damien Martinez is a star now
Whenever you hear about a freshman getting off to a great start in his career, he’s so often called a star in the making.
Well, consider Damien Martinez a made man.
Martinez topped the century mark for the 5th consecutive game, gaining 138 yards on 22 carries while scoring twice. In a crowded backfield earlier this season that featured a logjam along with Deshaun Fenwick and Jam Griffin, Martinez seized control of the position weeks ago and has just continued to deliver.
You kind of look back and wonder what would’ve happened in the Beavers’ 17-14 Week 4 loss to USC had Martinez had more than 5 carries and the 14 yards he finished with.
Perhaps the most impressive number from Martinez’s big day: 15, as in, Martinez’s biggest gain of the day. So it’s not like freshman star broke off a long run to pad his stats. No, he was consistent and effective all game, as he has been all month, really.
Stanford: Offense stalls down the stretch
For a while there, the Big Game looked to be going Stanford’s way, as so few things have this season.
The Cardinal led 17-6 with 12 minutes left to play in the game and an offense that looked so absolutely terrible last Saturday in a loss to Utah was in the process of redeeming itself.
And then the wheels came off.
Cal scored 21 straight points in the 4th quarter, with a pair of 1-yard touchdowns — one pass, one run — and Stanford went into its shell once more. In successive order, the Cardinal had a fumble returned for touchdown, a 3-play, 0-yard drive that resulted in a punt, a 5-yard, 17-yard drive that ended in a punt and a 5-play, 14-yard drive that culminated in an interception.
Not the way to stave off a comeback.
UCLA: Was Dorian Thompson-Robinson a little too fired up?
The UCLA star senior quarterback threw his body all over the field in a thrilling performance vs. USC. He half-hurdled, half-flying-kneed two defenders in a 1st-quarter run, and later threw his shoulder into a would-be tackler to extend a play. He passed for 309 yards and 4 touchdowns and ran 14 times for 81 yards and 2 scores.
But he also threw 3 costly interceptions, including the costliest of all on UCLA’s final drive with the Bruins needing just a field goal to tie it.
Entering the game, he was a firebrand, making it clear how much the game meant to him. He certainly left it all out on the field on Saturday night in front of a packed house, but after beating USC 62-33 last year, this one must hurt.
USC: Austin Jones comes to the rescue
The loss of senior running back Travis Dye to a devastating season-ending injury last week was a blow the likes of which cannot be overstated. Dye may have been in his first season with the Trojans, but the throwback back drew rave reviews for his consistency, his production and his leadership.
But USC wasn’t left empty-handed with the loss of Dye, not with former Stanford lead back Austin Jones in the fold. Lincoln Riley’s sneakiest pull, Jones could’ve gone to about 9 other Pac-12 schools and started or gotten more touches this season. Heck, with his between-the-tackles ability and combination of brains-and-brawn, he could’ve played at half the schools in the country.
Instead, Riley brought him in with no promises of playing time, and Jones bided his time while getting fewer than a half-dozen touches in 5 straight games.
He proved he was ready for the role after Dye went down against Colorado, rushing for 74 yards on 11 carries while adding 39 yards on 4 carries with a touchdown. Against the Bruins, Jones had 120 yards and 2 scores on 21 carries and added 57 receiving yards on 4 catches.
“He was huge, but exactly what we expected him to be and exactly what he has been,” Riley said after the game. “There’s not one guy in the locker room surprised by how he played. Another example of the unselfishness of this team. He could’ve gotten down, quit practicing hard and gotten selfish.”
Utah: Cameron Rising costs Utes big
Rising picked a bad day to have his worst career performance
Before Saturday, Rising had only thrown multiple interceptions once in his Utah career. Unfortunately, that was against Oregon last season in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and while it did not cost the Utes that game, his overly generous nature cost the Ducks dearly this time around.
It does not appear as if Rising learned from his 2 interceptions last year against Oregon — not after he threw 3 against the Ducks on Saturday in a 20-17 loss.
While the Utes are not mathematically eliminated from defending their Pac-12 title from a year ago, their path to the title game just got much harder.
Washington: Huskies close in on double-digit wins after routing Buffaloes
The Apple Cup won’t exactly be a cakewalk for Washington next weekend, but with plenty on the line, the Huskies are surging down the stretch.
A Pac-12 title game appearance is still in reach for the Huskies, but even if Washington falls short of that goal, a 10-win season would be a major development for the Huskies after a 4-win season last year.
Kalen DeBoer has already proven to be one of the best hires in the country, but becoming the first Washington coach in history to win 10 games in his rookie year would be a huge feat.
Washington State: Unheralded defense continues to shine
It was clear by his comments during game prep that Jayden de Laura had Arizona’s matchup with Washington State circled all season, if not from the second he stepped on the Wildcats’ campus.
It’s not that de Laura’s breakup with the Cougars — whom he led to a 7-5 record last season en route to Pac-12 freshman of the year honors — was particularly acrimonious, but there’s been some tension throughout the year in de Laura’s messaging about his former squad, and Saturday was his day to show out.
Only his former Wazzu teammates had other plans.
The Washington State defense, which throughout the year has not gotten the credit it deserves, once again stepped up, intercepting de Laura 4 times in a 31-20 win. The Cougars moved to 7-0 when allowing fewer than 21 points to an opponent. Watching how Jake Dickert has impacted this defense this year has been impressive. An 8-win season in Year 1, which would include an Apple Cup win over Washington next week, would be a heck of a start for Dickert after having the interim tag removed.