Gold Nuggets Week 13: Trojans gain a few healthy LBs for stretch run
Welcome back for this week’s Gold Nuggets, Saturday Out West columnist Jon Gold’s weekly trip around the Pac-12.
Read below for news, notes and quotes from Week 13 …
Arizona: Wildcats can win recruiting edge with Territorial Cup win
A year after Arizona ranked 25th nationally in the 247sports recruiting rankings, the Wildcats rank a respectable 41st this year. But one thing the Cats lack are local recruits, as Arizona has just 1 commit from a Grand Canyon State school. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, have zero in-state commits.
One of the important results of a Territorial Cup win would be the recruiting edge it gives on the trail. The impact of the game isn’t lost on Jedd Fisch.
“I think it’s a huge game. I think it’s a huge game for older guys that have been a part of this program for a while and have not gotten a win. I think it’s a big, big game for our young guys, that they can help send off our older guys, and take the momentum of winning this game into the offseason. I think it’s a big game for our staff. There’s been a lot of great improvements in our team as a whole all season long, and it’d be very exciting to be able to finish strong at home. I think that all in all, with our team, they’re continuing to improve and they’re continuing to get better.”
Arizona State: Shaun Aguano knows the stakes in Territorial Cup
Heading into the 96th iteration of the Territorial Cup, Arizona State is at a very different place than its in-state rival.
The Wildcats appear to have found a solid foundational coach in Jedd Fisch, who has overseen a 3-win improvement this year.
The Sun Devils, meanwhile, are in the midst of a coaching search following the early season firing of Herm Edwards. Interim head coach Shaun Aguano, a long-time local high school coach, knows what’s at stake in the matchup.
“If both teams don’t go to a bowl game, now it’s all about pride,” Aguano said, according to Arizona Sports. “They have something to prove. We have something to prove … Now it’s mano a mano and who’s gonna be the best team.”
Cal: Jackson Sirmon comes up big in Big Game
One of the biggest impact transfers in the Pac-12, Cal linebacker Jackson Sirmon got his Big Game moment on Saturday in a 27-20 win over Stanford.
A veteran of the Apple Cup during his time at Washington, Sirmon joined his father, Peter, in Berkeley this year.
But he got a big dose of the Big Game against the Cardinal, picking up a 37-yard fumble return that helped lift the Bears to the win.
“From across the field, you’re kind of looking through a mass of bodies from my vantage point,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said, according to Cal Sports Report’s Jeff Faraudo. “I saw the ball come out and somebody had a chance to swipe it up and then it came out again and Jack picked it up and he was off to the races.
“Biggest play of the game, I think we would all agree.”
Colorado: Mike Sanford getting support from Buff backers
Colorado is just 1-5 under interim head coach Mike Sanford, but the Buffaloes are vouching for Sanford, if not all-out lobbying for him to be named head coach going forward.
He’ll have stiff competition if the rumors are true: Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, former Virginia and BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and former Texas and Houston coach Tom Herman are being named as potential replacements for Karl Dorrell.
Linebacker Devin Grant posted his support for Sanford, leading the coach to say: “Obviously, it means a lot. There’s a lot of really just awesome young men that are fighting through a lot of really hard times.”
— devin grant (@Devingrantt) November 20, 2022
Oregon: Bo Nix to be evaluated on daily basis
After skipping pretty much all of practice last week following a foot injury suffered near the end of a disappointing 37-34 loss to Washington in Week 11, Bo Nix looked a bit hobbled in a 20-17 win over Utah at Autzen Stadium. Nix was missing his typical bounce, resulting in a season-worst -3 rushing yards on the day, a stark contrast to the rest of his terrific season on the ground.
With Nix’s health clearly not at 100 percent, Oregon head coach Dan Lanning said Nix will get looked at all week before the Ducks head over to Corvallis for a matchup with Oregon State
“I think it’s evaluated every single day,” Lanning said, according to the Oregonian’s James Crepea. “We’ll see. We have a great medical staff, they do a good job. Bo understands, playing the game for a long time, he understands the way his body feels. Obviously he was able to go out there on Saturday, but we keep evaluating as we get closer to each game.”
Oregon State: Off to a 5-1 start as starter, Ben Gulbranson gets props from Jonathan Smith
It hasn’t always been pretty for Ben Gulbranson, but he has just 1 interception in his past 6 games, something that is endearing him to head coach Jonathan Smith. Smith all but named Gulbranson the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, according to BeaverBlitz.com’s Carter Bahns.
“We’ve won some games with him,” Smith said. “He’s gotten better each week. I do think competition is healthy, so whenever Chance (Nolan) gets healthy again, or next year even, Ben’s going to have to compete and earn it.”
Stanford: Tanner McKee staring into the mirror on Saturday against BYU’s Jaren Hall
What a fascinating fact out of the Stanford/BYU game this week: When Tanner Mckee and Cougars’ QB Jaren Hall square off on Saturday, it’s believed to be — according to the Deseret News’ Dave McCann — the first time “two former Latter-day Saint missionaries who both spent 2 years away from football facing each other on national television, as opposing quarterbacks.”
The similarities don’t end there, McCann notes.
“Hall and McKee are both juniors, both married, and both considering whether to return for a senior season or leave to chase their dreams in the NFL draft,” McCann wrote.
UCLA: Bruins rally to Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s defense
Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s performance against USC is getting picked apart — particularly his 3 picks — but his UCLA teammates are coming to his rescue.
“Well we gotta look at ourselves first,” offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal said on Monday, according to All Bruins’ Sam Connon. “We have to protect him better as a unit, be one with him, we can’t put it all on him. That started up with us up front – one team, one heartbeat, we have to have chemistry to protect him and make sure he’s comfortable back there and make sure he’s not touched.
“Two, we have to be there for him as a brother, whether or not – like, whatever outcome it is, we’ve got his back no matter what. I told him that on Saturday after the game, I was like, ‘I got your back no matter what, we’ve got your back as a team no matter what. We love you to death and this is brothers for life.'”
DTR had plenty of highlights in the near-win, including 6 total touchdowns, but his interception on UCLA’s last drive when a field goal would’ve tied it, that one hurt.
USC: Trojans healing up just in time for Playoff run
Just 4 weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times headline read: “USC has a ‘high level of concern’ about its linebacker depth.”
And for good reason: Not only was team leader Shane Lee hobbled, but he was joined by Eric Gentry and Ralen Goforth.
All 3 are back in the fold and should be full-go for the rest of the season, barring new injury.
Lee starred in the Trojans’ win over USC on Saturday coming up with a crucial interception as well as 4 solo tackles and 5 assists.
And that’s just defensively. Offensively, Jordan Addison proved he shook off any rust from a long absence with 11 catches for 178 yards and a score against the Bruins, while fellow wideout Mario Williams also returned.
Utah: Kyle Whittingham diagnoses down day for offense
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham took out the magnifying glass on his Utes offense after a 20-17 loss to Oregon on Saturday.
“The 3 biggest issues on offense were … the lack of chunk yardage, the lack of production in the red zone and the 3 turnovers,” Whittingham said in his weekly press conference. “Those were the biggest issues. There had been some susceptibility to bigger plays down the field. We didn’t make any in this game and (Oregon) did. Credit their receivers; they made 2, 3, 4 plays up the field that were big chunk yard plays. That was one of the differences in the game.”
Point 1: Chunk yardage: The Utes’ long pass and long run were both 18 yards, nothing special. Dalton Kincaid had a nice game with 11 catches for 99 yards, but his best reception went for just 16 yards.
Point 2: Red-zone woes: The Utes missed a field goal, failed to convert on a 4th-and-3 at the Oregon 11-yard line and failed to convert on a 4th-and-2 at the Oregon 26-yard line.
Point 3: Three turnovers: All three fell on Cameron Rising, who tossed three picks in his worst performance of the season and arguably the worst in his career.
Washington: Who should Husky fans root for this weekend?
I thought this was a fascinating premise from Matt Calkins of the Seattle Times: Might the Huskies be better watching Oregon or UCLA advance to the Pac-12 title game, rather than taking a chance at a 3rd loss that might knock them out of a NY6 game? Calkins’ point is simple: By sneaking into the conference championship game and falling to USC, Washington would cost itself a potential Cotton Bowl or even Rose Bowl bid.
The fact that we’re even talking about this after Washington went 4-8 last season is stunning. The job Kalen DeBoer has done in Seattle is among the best stories of the college football season.
Washington State: Renard Bell takes unfortunate in-and-out route
Just when Washington State senior slot receiver Renard Bell was flashing his potential, fate found a way to slam on the breaks.
One week after catching a season-high 8 passes for 115 yards and a score in Week 5 against Cal, Bell suffered an arm injury that kept him out a month.
He returned on Saturday in the Cougars’ 31-20 win at Arizona, catching 7 passes for 33 yards, only to re-injure himself in the second half, potentially costing him the rest of his senior year, CougFan.com’s Jamey Vinnick reported.
“We’re still evaluating and it might be the same thing,” Dickert said of Bell. “I love Renard, I do. Because he’s given me everything he’s got. You get to that seventh year with this new world of portal and transfers and all the other thing that could possibly happen in a young person’s mind. Renard was so locked into wanting to finish his career as a Coug.”