Gold: 1 thing I learned about every Pac-12 team in Week 2
Well, the streak is over. After starting the season 18-0, the Pac-12 suffered its first 4 losses, albeit all expected ones.
But with a couple of big comebacks and a big Washington State upset of No. 19 Wisconsin, the dying conference out west could have 8 teams ranked later Sunday.
Here’s a look at what I learned about every Pac-12 team in Week 2 …
Arizona: Wildcats respect the comeback, regret the reason for it
There are really two ways to look at Arizona’s 31–24 overtime loss at Mississippi State — as an abject failure or a lesson plan on the value of stick-to-itiveness.
The Wildcats buried themselves with turnovers on the their first 4 possessions, but then Jayden de Laura busted out a shovel. The Arizona QB was intercepted on the Cats’ first 3 drives then watched in horror as Jacob Cowing fumbled inside the Bulldogs’ red zone on the 4th.
That would destroy some teams, but de Laura dug deep and led the team to a comeback that ultimately fell short in a close overtime loss.
That resolve will pay off at some point.
“Credit to coach and the rest of the staff and everybody else who had help in handling me,” de Laura. “Last year I probably would have dealt with it differently. But you know, I really thought of it, ball wasn’t bouncing the right way, I guess. It was always bouncing up and toward one of their players. But I gotta be cleaner. Can’t turn over the ball in the first 3 possessions, 4 times, but I mean, I just knew that we had four quarters to play, so we couldn’t give up in the first quarter.”
Arizona State: Offense not a quick fix
The good: ASU held Oklahoma State to 304 yards of total offense. The bad: The Sun Devils managed just 277.
Things are rotten with Kenny Dillingham’s offense, which went 6-of-14 on 3rd down and 1-for-5 on 4th.
The problem is the unit’s feast-or-famine results. ASU had a 77-yard scoring drive and one that went 75 yards, as well as 6 drives with fewer than 20 yards.
Cal: Bears might regret missed field goal, opportunity
When all is said and done, Cal’s loss didn’t come down to any 1 play, but 1 sure does stand out. Late in the 3rd, the Bears forced a punt up 10-7 and drove the ball inside Auburn territory. On 3rd-and-10 from the Tigers’ 16-yard line, first-year Cal starter Sam Jackson V was sacked for an 11-yard loss, leading to a 44-yard field goal attempt, which predictably missed. Auburn went 10 plays for 69 yard in 4:37, scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
It puts Justin Wilcox in a bind. Jackson was not good, but backup Ben Finley, who played so well last week in a season-opening win at North Texas, barely looked downfield and completed 7-of-11 passes for 34 yards.
Later this year when they’re fighting for postseason eligibility, this one is going to hurt.
Colorado: Buffaloes breaking out
How prolific has Colorado’s offense been this year, relative to last year’s abomination? The Buffaloes are averaging 40.5 points through 2 games; they didn’t score their 81st point until Week 6, coincidentally Colorado’s lone win last year.
But the Buffaloes’ situational stats are particular impressive. It’s early, of course, but the Buffs are connecting on 58% of 3rd downs and 67% of 4th downs.
Yet they believe they’re just scratching the surface.
Oregon: Ducks finally prevail over familiar foe
For much of the Ducks’ eventual 38-30 win at Texas Tech, Oregon got a taste of its own medicine. Or, at least, from a former doctor.
Former Oregon QB Tyler Slough was tearing up the Ducks’ defense to the tune of nearly 300 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus an additional 101 yards and a score on the ground.
But Oregon finally solved the quandary late with interceptions on TTU’s final 2 drives, including a 45-yard quick-pick-6 by Jeffrey Bassa that sealed the win.
The Ducks have a week to get right defensively before the suddenly surging Colorado Buffaloes stampede into town.
Oregon State: Brilliant RB building boffo resume
The Beavers weren’t in danger for even a millisecond against UC Davis, especially after Damien Martinez broke off a 64-yard touchdown run on Oregon State’s first offensive play of the game.
What Martinez is doing up in Corvallis is something special: Saturday marked his 8th-straight 100-yard regular-season game. This time, he only needed 7 carries to get there.
Damien Martinez is GONE 💨 pic.twitter.com/gxQ35WGocM
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 10, 2023
Stanford: Cardinal abandon run despite a pair of productive, talented backs
Stanford wasn’t going to beat USC, OK. But when your 2 capable running backs are averaging better than 10.0 yards per carry, maybe give them the ball more than 5 times each? Just a thought.
The fact that both Casey Filkins and EJ Smith broke off long runs — 59 for Filkins and 29 for Smith — would lead you to believe that Stanford coach Troy Taylor would turn to the ground game, particularly once QB Ashton Daniels went down in the 2nd quarter.
UCLA: Dante Moore gets the shine, but defense steals the show
Much of the credit will go to Dante Moore, and deservedly so, as the true freshman played fantastic football in his first collegiate start. Moore threw for 290 yards and 3 TDs in UCLA’s 35-10 victory over San Diego State.
But kudos are due to a defense that picked SDSU QB Jaylen Mayden 3 times and allowed just 63 rushing yards.
Long the thorn in Chip Kelly’s side, the Bruins’ star-led unit is turning into a force.
USC: Early bye gives Trojans chance to restart their pass rush
Understanding that, yes, Tuli Tuipulotu is gone and off to the nearby Los Angeles Chargers, you had to anticipate some backslide for the USC pass rush this year, even if the program had some nice transfers come in through the transfer portal.
Still, with 6 sacks through 2 games, USC got off to a good start, if not a notch below.
On Saturday in a 56-10 win over Stanford, though, the Trojans managed just 2 sacks. That’s a surprisingly low number against the likes of Ashton Daniels and Justin Lamson, 2 untested quarterbacks. USC did get 10 tackles-for-loss and hurried both QBs a handful of times.
Utah: Down some talented players, pass rush disappears
Despite missing several top pass-rushers, Utah had little trouble getting to Florida quarterback Graham Mertz in Week 1, picking up 5 sacks in a 24-11 win.
On Saturday against Baylor, the beleaguered Utes — missing Karene Reid and with Junior Tafuna still working his way into playing shape — managed little pressure in a last-minute win over the Bears. Utah had zero sacks, 3 tackles-for-loss and just 2 quarterback hurries. That is uncharacteristic for a Kyle Whittingham defense.
Washington: Is everything right with Bralen Trice?
All-world defensive end Bralen Trice set a goal of double-digit sacks this year after falling just short with 9 a season ago, good for 3rd in the Pac-12.
But he’s been quiet the first 2 weeks, as the 2023 Preseason Athlon, Walter Camp, Phil Steele and Associated Press All-America First Team selection has zero sacks and 1 tackle for loss.
For a guy with 1st round and All-American aspirations, he needs to turn it on soon.
Washington State: Against his former Badgers teammates, it’s elementary for Nakia Watson
Last year, following a 17-14 win at Wisconsin, Washington State running back Nakia Watson admitted to shedding some tears. Understandable, considering he scored both of the Cougars’ touchdowns against the team with which he spent 2019-20.
This time, Watson saved his best for last, icing the game with a 1-yard touchdown run with under 6 minutes remaining to give the Cougars a 2-score lead.
TOUCHDOWN WASHINGTON STATE!
Nakia Watson punches it in! @nakiawatson04
— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) September 10, 2023