Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Roundup: September 8 Part Two

Oregon State 33, Hawaii 14. Oregon State won convincingly like we all thought they would but how they won is still a bit of a concern. The Beavers defense responded well to being ripped apart by fans and media as they forced a punt on each of Hawaii's first five possessions. The Beavers started hot on offense as Sean Mannion hit Storm Woods (his back appears to be just fine thank you) for 48 yards and immediately followed it by finding Kellen Clute for a three yard touchdown. Mannion hooked up with Richard Mullaney for another score early in the second and it looked like OSU was well on its way to a blowout. But then the Beavers seemed to go into a lull and started to lose focus.

It seemed like some members of the team felt like "okay, we proved our point, let's just get this over with" and suddenly OSU started committing dumb penalties, dropping passes, and missing tackles and that allowed the Warriors to get back in the game. Mannion threw a pick six that cut the lead in half and after a sloppy three-and-out by the Beavs, Hawaii embarked on a nine play, 80 yard drive to tie the game at half time. OSU did manage to save themselves from embarrassment though as the Beavs defense pitched a shutout in the second half and Mannion led a pair of long touchdown drives to start the 3rd quarter and ended both drives with eight yard touchdown passes to Cooks.

This was a decent 19 point win but Oregon State still has so much to work on. I really question this team's focus and mentality. In both games so far they have committed mistakes in droves that are wholly unfitting of a Mike Riley coached team. I do think OSU will start playing a lot better next week when they travel to Utah. Right when people give up on OSU and stop paying attention to them is usually when they spring a big win and start a long win streak. Also, they have often been better on the road than at home in recent years for whatever reason. I also think leaving Reser Stadium and that home crowd that was constantly anxious and waiting for the other shoe to drop will help as well. I think going into a hostile environment in Salt Lake City and being forced to stay focused and engaged will help this team immensely. We will see if this is a team that just needs a wake up call or just a team that deviates from Coach Riley's reputation.

Arizona 58, UNLV 13. My goodness does UNLV ever suck. B.J. Denker continues to look uninspiring as a passer as he was once again handcuffed into throwing mostly screens and short passes but he struggled to do even that as he completed just 8/21 throws. Denker did impress as a runner by scoring two touchdowns in the 1st quarter including an explosive 35 yarder. He was hardly the best looking runner of the night for Arizona as Ka'Deem Carey came off the bench to make his season debut in the 2nd quarter and instantly reminded everyone why he was the best tailback in college football last year.

Carey weaved through the Rebels defense for a 58 yard touchdown on his first play of the season. Carey finished with 171 yards and a pair of scores on just 16 carries and found himself back on the bench to start the 4th quarter for a far different reason than the one that made him start the game on the bench. UNLV is a garbage team just like Northern Arizona but the Wildcats were impressive on defense once again. Arizona held UNLV to 10 first downs, 4/15 on 3rd down, 0/3 on 4th, and 282 total yards. Jake Fischer returned an interception for a 49 yard touchdown late in the 1st half and early Defensive Player of the Year front runner Tra'Mayne Bondurant had a 52 yard pick-six on the next series. Fischer and Bondurant gave Arizona its first game with multiple defensive touchdowns since 1996.

UNLV might be every bit as bad as Northern Arizona and the Wildcats game plan was still very vanilla, particularly the passing game. However, Denker's struggles to throw accurate passes even in the short game makes me wonder if Rich Rodriguez might consider reopening the QB competition at some point. Regardless, Arizona is 2-0 and that's all you can really ask for. Things don't get much tougher next week as Arizona hosts UTSA (a team that just surrendered 56 to Oklahoma State), however a visit to Washington looms in two weeks.

Stanford 34, San Jose State 13. Stanford is every bit as good as you remember it being. I haven't seen a team in college football outside of Alabama that is able to suffocate an opponent so easily. A 21 point deficit feels like 51 because they don't let you create big plays and getting one scoring drive against them takes so much out of you that you have no gas left to get another score. SJSU got no push whatsoever against Stanford's line and its receivers couldn't get open against Stanford's physical, skilled, and athletic DBs. Offensively, Kevin Hogan was just fine, completing 17/27 passes and committed no turnovers and that's all Stanford really needs from him.

Tyler Gaffney looks really good as Stanford's feature back. Gaffney was a productive backup to Stepfan Taylor two years ago but decided to quit the football team last season to focus more on baseball because he felt he had a better shot at a pro career on the diamond. However, this summer Gaffney decided to rejoin the football team and take advantage of a chance to become a feature back following Taylor's move to the NFL. Gaffney finished with 104 yards and two touchdowns while Anthony Wilkerson was also effective running for 7.2 yards a pop.

SJSU is no joke of a team and has multiple future pros on its team especially on offense but Stanford was able to lean on them all night. Stanford is still a machine and it will take one hell of an effort to beat them this year.

Washington State 10, USC 7. For the second week in a row I decided to watch USC's offense and for the second week in a row my eyes started bleeding to the point where I thought I might have to check into the hospital. I may be a Pac-12 blogger but I watch all college football and saw at least 60 teams play offense yesterday. USC was the worst I saw and it's not close. USC has the most talented wide receiver in college since Calvin Johnson yet its longest pass completion of the night was eight yards. Yes you read that correctly, USC did not complete a single pass beyond eight yards. Both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek were pathetic at QB and somehow managed to get even worse in the time between the Hawaii game and last night.

The USC defense was lights out again as the Cougars were held to just 3.5 yards per play and forced three takeaways. The Trojans offense couldn't do anything with those takeaways as they committed two turnovers of their own including a pick-six and missed two field goals. USC's offense was so putrid that it boxed the Trojans defense into a situation where if they made even one bad play, the Trojans would lose. That one bad play finally happened late in the 4th quarter when Wazzou QB Connor Halliday hit Dominique Williams on a tunnel screen on a 3rd and nine from Wazzou's 21 yard line. USC had the play defended and shoud have stopped it for no gain but Williams broke four tackles and ran 50 yards to the USC 29. That was all Wazzou needed to get the go ahead field goal.

The narrative about this game is obviously about USC but I do want to acknowledge Wazzou for this result. This was the Cougars first win over USC since 2002 and although this win is more about USC's regression than Wazzou's progression I think this does prove that the Cougars are no longer stuck in the stone age while the rest of the Pac-12 competes in the space age. I'll have a lot more on USC and Lane Kiffin in my five thoughts column tomorrow but for now, I'm just gassed talking about this team. Last night was a travesty and a crime against football. The school that gave us Reggie Bush and Marcus Allen should never sink to that level offensively but yet here we are. Make no mistake about it, USC is broken and the situation isn't going to get brighter (particularly when they lose to Utah State at home in a couple weeks).

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