Gold Nuggets: What's happening around the Pac-12 heading into Week 4
Welcome back to Gold Nuggets, Saturday Out West columnist Jon Gold’s weekly trip around the Pac-12.
Read below for news, notes and quotes heading into Week 4 of the 2022 campaign.
Arizona: Jayden de Laura turns things around by using the ground
One week after playing one of the worst games of his career in a 39-17 loss to Mississippi State, de Laura bounced back in a big way against North Dakota State.
Against the Bulldogs, de Laura’s Pro Football Focus grade was 46.7, the worst on the Arizona offense. On Saturday against the Bisons, he graded out at an 83.3 after completing 20-of-28 passes for 229 yards.
He also upped his ground game for the first time, rushing for 50 yards on 10 carries with a score, after totaling negative-31 rushing yards in his first 2 games.
“The biggest thing I would say about Jayden and I and how we call the game and what we ask him to do is we’ve only done this for 3 games together,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “We’re just building a relationship. We’re building trust, and I’m trying to learn what he needs and how to coach him every day in practice, and he needs to learn what I expect and what I want. He’s a sophomore. We’re just trying to work through things, and I thought that it was a great learning experience last Saturday night. He probably saw some opportunities that he could have paid off and run. I’m glad to see that he did it this week.”
Arizona State: Behind-the-times Ray Anderson lets slip a sad statement
Freshly after firing his former client Herm Edwards, Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson fielded questions from reporters on Sunday.
In the process, he said something that reflects very poorly on him.
Anderson on the new era of college coaching and how ASU may incorporate that in its hiring process: "The ones who are really into analytics and all that data stuff" will be more prominently positioned.
— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) September 18, 2022
Jack Plummer had some nice moments in his 3-year Purdue career.
But not enough to keep his starting job last year.
So Cal wasn’t exactly getting an all-world transfer when Plummer decided to spend his final season quarterbacking the Bears.
After 2 average games and a below-average performance in a 37-16 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday, Plummer acknowledged that he has to up his game.
“We let it slip away from us,” Plummer told reporters after the game, according to 247Sports Robbie Weinstein. “We had ’em. We had ’em. There’s no reason why shouldn’t have won that game. Defense played really well. Offense, we gotta do our part, and that starts with me. I gotta play better and be more accurate.”
Colorado: Buffaloes still looking for their man under center
It’s one thing for a team to start off 0-3 with 3 miserable-looking losses.
It’s another thing when a team dooms itself almost before the opening kick.
Colorado gave up a touchdown on Minnesota’s first possession of a 49-7 loss on Saturday, fumbled the ball away on its first play from scrimmage and allowed another touchdown 2 plays later.
In Week 2 against Air Force, the Buffaloes against had failure to launch, fumbling on the second play of the game and allowing a touchdown on the next play.
“Obviously, 2 turnovers in the first series offensively in the last 2 games is unacceptable,” coach Karl Dorrell told reporters, according to Buffzone.com’s Brian Howell. “No team would want to ever start that way. We don’t charge and work throughout the week to put that type of performance out there at the start of games, so that has to be addressed and that will be addressed. I don’t care if I have to do a quarterback sneak on the first play just to make sure that we don’t fumble the ball.
“We’ve got to make sure we have better starts.”
Oregon: Fallout continues from offensive chant
The Autzen Stadium crowd peppered BYU players with chants of “F*** the Mormons,” actions that have widely drawn scorn, including from Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Utah Governor Spencer Cox.
Now the anti-LDS sentiment may have cost the Ducks a key recruit.
North Salem High School junior quarterback TC Manumaleuna was at Autzen Stadium as a recruit when the incident happened.
“To be honest, I felt like the people saying ‘F the Mormons’ were dumb, but I didn’t associate it with the Oregon Ducks or the school,” said Manumaleuna, who is Polynesian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “I’ve always been an Oregon fan, but it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this.”Even though he didn’t associate the chant with the Oregon program, Manumaleuna left the game at halftime.
“Definitely felt uncomfortable because I was with my parents and sisters,” he said. “You kind of don’t know what to say or how you feel about it at that time. We left at halftime. My dad said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’”
Oregon State: Despite undefeated start, losses piling up
In a deep tight end crop in the Pac-12, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave ranks among the best.
Unfortunately for the Beavers, he’ll miss Saturday’s crucial home matchup with No. 7 USC with an unspecified injury.
So far this season, opposing tight ends have 8 receptions for 84 yards — 5 and 45 of them coming in Week 2 against Stanford tight end Benjamin Yurosek. Like Musgrave, Yurosek is one of the league’s top tight ends, and he added a 50-yard run against the Trojans.
But that 8-84 line is an average game for Musgrave, almost exactly: He was the Beavers’ leading receiver before he went down with 11 grabs for 169 yards and a score. That was against decent defenses in Boise State and Fresno State; he missed last week’s game against Montana State.
Not having Musgrave for an extended period — which OSU coach Jonathan Smith said was a certainty, though he said Musgrave’s injury won’t be season-ending — will be a big blow for Oregon State.
And Musgrave isn’t the only Beaver to miss the game against USC: backup running back Trey Lowe is also out.
Stanford: McKee has some work to do over the next 10 weeks
With an early bye week in Week 3, the Cardinal now have 2 1/2 months to potentially save David Shaw’s job.
And in the process, quarterback Tanner McKee has a chance to bounce himself up to the top tier of quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft, according to ESPN’s Matt Miller.
McKee ranks as the top quarterback in the second tier, alongside fellow Pac-12 quarterback Cameron Rising of Utah and former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis (now with Pittsburgh). McKee is off to a pedestrian start this year; he ranks 3rd in the league in yards per game but has 3 interceptions to go along with 3 touchdowns.
Last year, McKee went five weeks without an interception.
UCLA: Kelly says Bobo gives boffo performance
When UCLA landed Duke transfer and All-ACC selection Jake Bobo, the Bruins thought they were getting a No. 1 receiver.
Through 2 weeks against soft opponents, Bobo had 6 catches for 89 yards.
Against South Alabama on Saturday, no juggernaut itself, Bobo nonetheless put together his best game of the season, catching 5 passes for 89 yards and a score.
That was the kind of production head coach Chip Kelly expected out of Bobo when the Bruins secured his commitment.
“One of the things that we saw when we recruited Jake to come here, to have a go-to guy,” Kelly told reporters after the game. “We have the ability to move him around. He plays in a lot of different spots. He is also a tremendous blocker. I don’t think that people realize how good of a blocker he is in some of the things that he does. To have that versatility, to be able to move him around, he can handle anything. He has a lot of experience coming in from Duke and what he did there. But I’m really happy he’s a part of it. He’s a big, long, tall target. I think that Dorian (Thompson-Robinson) is getting really comfortable with him.”
USC: Travis Dye takes a licking and keeps on ticking
Almost from his very first start at Oregon, Travis Dye was productive.
In his freshman year, he had 3 100-yard games, including 199 yards and 2 touchdowns on 35 carries in the Civil War against Oregon State. After 2 more good but not great years, Dye broke out for 1,118 yards and 15 touchdowns, plus 41 receptions for 374 yards and 2 scores.
He was scarcely used in Week 1 against Rice, rushing for 20 yards, but he broke the century mark the past 2 weeks against Stanford and Fresno State.
He was particularly impressive on one particular run against the Bulldogs, mere plays after suffering a blow to the midsection that would bring a lesser man to his knees.
Dye scored from 25 yards out, breaking 5 tackles on his way, while impressing all of Twitter.
"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED" – Travis Dye rn, probably pic.twitter.com/KlhXvYPWCV
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) September 18, 2022
Utah: Running backs room rocked by injury, loss
It’s one thing to lose a player to injury, but it’s another to lose a player to a spiritual blow that may take just as long to heal.
Heading into a crucial stretch, the Utes lost running back Chris Curry for the season with an ankle injury, which will alter the depth chart.
But star running back Tavion Thomas is in the process of mending a broken heart, as he played through a death in the family that sapped his spirit. In a 35-7 win over San Diego State on Saturday, Thomas had 59 yards and a score on 16 carries, far below his typical production.
“Tavion’s had a really emotional time this last week. It’s been a struggle for him,” coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters on Monday, according to the Deseret News. “We’re supporting him all that we can and we’re doing everything we can to help him through it. Anytime you lose a very, very close member of your family, someone that essentially raised you, it’s tough. Traumatic. … He’s a guy that’s committed to the team. He was grieving and it was tough. He did opt to play. He wasn’t quite his usual self. You could tell that he wasn’t himself as far as his personality.”
Washington: Another Jaxson Kirkland update
Somehow, even with a patchwork offensive line that seemingly loses a player every other drive, No. 18 Washington keeps winning.
Imagine how good they’d be if Jaxson Kirkland stepped on the field?
The all-conference offensive lineman was a scratch once again Saturday in a 39-28 win over then-No. 11 Michigan State. He remains sidelined after offseason ankle surgery, which followed an ankle injury suffered last year against Oregon State.
Could we see Kirkland finally make his debut on Saturday as the Huskies? There’s a chance, he told reporters, according to Inside the Huskies’ Dan Raley.
“I really, really thought they were going to play,” coach Kalen DeBoer said of Kirkland and cornerback Jordan Perryman, who was injured in Week 1 against Kent State. “Early in the week, I really thought we were in a good spot. Just the volume and just kind of where things were at, by the end of the week, it wasn’t quite in the cards for those guys to step on the field. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to jinx it, because I felt maybe I did that last week, but hopefully, we get Jaxson back for next weekend.”
Washington State: Daiyan Henley continues to turn heads with heady play
There may not be a single more impactful player in the Pac-12 right now than Washington State’s fantastic Daiyan Henley. The former Nevada linebacker is off to a terrific start, making up for some injuries an ineffectiveness from other Cougar starters to the tune of a league-leading 4 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles, along with a 4th-best 30 tackles.
Named Pac-12 defensive player of the week for his efforts in a 38-7 win over Colorado State, Henley had 13 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He’s earned the respect of his new head coach in a hurry.
“I’ve seen a lot of maturity,” Washington State coach Jake Dickert told reporters, according to the Spokesman-Review’s Colton Clark. “There’s a lot of playmaking, but he’s playing more like a linebacker. You watch his tape at Nevada – he was just playing old-school football, attacking the ball. Now, you’re seeing him playing linebacker with technique. His blitzing ability is off the charts. We’re going to continue to find ways to get him in one-on-one matchups. Whether it’s an offensive lineman, a tight end, a tailback – one-on-one, he’s hard to take care of.”