Arizona, a three-touchdown underdog, took the Trojans to overtime.
The best and worst of the Pac-12 action…
Drama is this week’s theme.
The seventh Saturday of the Pac-12 season did not have the appearance of the most dramatic thus far, with only four games and no matchups involving ranked teams, but it did deliver a series of riveting affairs. Only one of the four games (Oregon State vs. Cal) was decided by double digits, and the other three were all tied with two minutes remaining. We thought it would be difficult to top Colorado’s late comeback in Tempe (the Buffaloes scored the game-winning field goal with 12 seconds remaining), but then USC-Arizona happened. And it was spectacular mayhem.
Plot twists are this week’s theme.
Who would have predicted that UCLA would limit WSU’s high-scoring offense to 10 points? Or that USC would only score 28 points in regulation against Arizona (roughly half its season average)? Or that ASU quarterback Trenton Bourguet would throw for 100 yards more than Shedeur Sanders of Colorado? Or that Arizona freshman quarterback Noah Fifita would outperform USC’s Caleb Williams? Or that Cal would score 40 points and rush for over 200 yards while losing by double digits? The sixth week was full of surprises.
Week’s game: USC 43, Arizona 41
To this point, USC’s triple-overtime comeback is the conference game of the year. The Trojans fell behind 17-0 before finding their offensive stride and leading 28-20 midway through the fourth quarter. They couldn’t hold on to their lead, and then missed a game-winning 25-yard field goal in the final seconds of regulation. Caleb Williams’ amazing feats and feet were required to escape in the extra periods.
Colorado 27, Arizona State 24: Game of the Week II
The Sun Devils went 94 yards in 13 plays for the game-tying touchdown with 50 seconds remaining, capping off a sloppy affair filled with sputtering offense. That was more than enough time for CU to respond, as Shedeur Sanders completed a 43-yard pass, setting up a game-winning field goal of 43 yards. The Buffaloes (4-2) are now two wins away from bowl eligibility and will play Stanford on Friday.
Jedd Fisch of Arizona is this week’s coach of the week.
Fisch had the Wildcats emotionally prepared and tactically prepared for their final scheduled game against USC. The balanced playcalling (42 runs, 35 passes) put freshman quarterback Noah Fifita in good positions and kept the USC defense guessing. The defensive strategy was also excellent. Arizona’s three losses this season have been by a combined 16 points (to Mississippi State, Washington, and USC).
De’Anton Lynn of UCLA is this week’s coordinator.
The first-year defensive strategist used his extra week to prepare for WSU’s high-octane offense. Lynn unveiled a defensive front with at least two, and sometimes all three, linemen standing. The unstoppable Bruins forced four turnovers, held WSU to one touchdown, and held quarterback Cam Ward to 197 yards passing. The Cougars were never able to figure it out.
Quote of the Week I: Fisch from Arizona
Following the overtime loss at USC, the third-year coach addressed what is typically a taboo subject among coaches: the point spread. “I think the 21-point underdog stuff has got to probably come to an end here soon,” Fisch told ESPN. Savvy bettors hope he’s wrong, because there’s money to be made on the Wildcats until the betting lines catch up with on-field reality.
Quote of the Week II: Justin Wilcox, Cal coach
Wilcox said after his team allowed Oregon State to score 52 points and gain 499 yards, “We’ll find out where the defenders are come next week, because boy — and this is not to take anything away from Oregon State because I truly believe those guys do a great job coaching — but, man, ooh, that was bad defense right there by us.”
DJ Uiagalelei of Oregon State is the offensive player of the week.
The transfer quarterback had his best game as a Beaver (especially given the competition), throwing for five touchdowns and completing 76 percent of his passes against a well-coached defense. And, most importantly, Uiagalelei did not throw an interception, which distinguished him from the other players we considered for OPOW honors.
Arizona’s Jacob Cowing was named offensive player of the week (non-QB edition).
Against USC, the senior receiver had 10 catches for 88 yards and four touchdowns, including two in overtime. He now ranks third in the country in touchdown catches with eight and fifth in receptions with 46. UCLA tailback Carson Steele, Oregon State receiver Anthony Gould, and ASU receiver Elijhah Badger are also candidates.
UCLA’s defensive line is this week’s defensive player of the week.
It’s not often that the Hotline honors an entire unit, but the Bruins’ defensive front was outstanding from start to finish, frequently generating pressure with only three rushers. Gabriel Murphy and Laiatu Latu were responsible for much of the chaos, but they were far from alone. Carl Jones Jr. had four tackles and a QB hurry. Arizona’s line responded a few hours later and several miles across town with a first-rate effort of its own.
Washington State is this week’s statistic.
Through the first four games of the season, the Cougars converted 60 percent of their third-down opportunities, ranking first in the country. In the Rose Bowl, however, they only managed two conversions out of 13 attempts.
Season statistics: USC
The Trojans went 6-0 in the first half against teams with a combined record of 10-24. Their next six opponents have a combined record of 26-7.
Oregon State’s statistic of the decade
While the existential crisis looms in the background, the Beavers (5-1) are off to their best start since 2013, when they started 6-1 before going on a five-game losing streak. Their next four games are at UCLA, on the road against Arizona and Colorado, and at home against Stanford.
Seasonal scramble: Cal
In an attempt to jump-start a struggling offense, the Bears used their third different quarterback, freshman Fernando Mendoza. Mendoza had only attempted one pass in his career prior to Saturday, but he performed admirably with 200 yards passing and two touchdowns. Justin Wilcox’s program has now played 1.5 seasons without Chase Garber and has yet to find stability at the most important position.
Next week’s game: Oregon vs. Washington
ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ will be on hand to witness the bitter rivalry. It’s the third time the popular studio show has visited Montlake, and it’s the first time in series history that both teams will enter the game with top-10 rankings. The Huskies are a 3-point favorite early on. Rainn Wilson, a UW alum, is our choice for a guest picker. Maybe he can serve some Schrute Farms beets to Kirk Herbstreit and the ‘GameDay’ crew.