A Winning Weekend: Pac-12 Teams Dominate in Week 2
The Pac-12 blasted away most of its non-conference opponents in Week 2. In fact, only one team lost of the ten in action. Here is a recap of the routs and the rest.
Arizona State 55, Sacramento State 0: No opponent can be taken for granted, no matter how lowly, in the wake of Oregon State’s loss to FCS Eastern Washington. Arizona State did not take Sacramento State lightly in building a 42-point lead at halftime and cruising without resistance toward the end zone on nearly every possession with the first-team offense. Outside Oregon, the Sun Devils may become the Pac-12 team most likely to win by large margins because of their balance in talent and expereince between offense and defense. A first-week bye allowed some of the younger players to adjust to Todd Graham’s system before a game vital in building confidence. Arizona State plays a ranked team in each of the next four weeks, including Stanford and USC, so they needed this dominant statement before those challenges.
Utah 70, Weber State 7: Moving to 2-0 for the season, the Utes stand one-third of the distance to the bowl game on which they missed out in 2012. The 70-point explosion marked the most points that the Utah offense had scored in four decades, and a series of big plays by Travis Wilson showed how much the quarterback had improved in composure and accuracy since his freshman season. Well in control of the game by halftime, Utah moved to its backups in the second half against an overmatched FCS team. Kicker Andy Philipps set a program record with 10 extra points, remaining perfect this year. This win turned fewer heads than the comeback against Utah State, considering the mediocre quality of the opponent, but the Utes have the momentum that they need heading into conference play.
Oregon 59, Virginia 10: The patterns of this game recalled Oregon’s opener against Nicholls State despite the steep rise in opposition. Reeling off three quick touchdowns, the Ducks looked unstoppable in the first quarter. Then their offensive juggernaut slowed midway into the game as Virginia began to thwart big plays, keep De’Anthony Thomas (somewhat) in check, and find a stronger rhythm on offense. The home team stayed somewhat within range at the end of the first half, trailing 28-10 with the option to receive the second-half kickoff. As so often proved the case with Oregon during the Kelly era, the third quarter marked the moment when the Ducks took over on both sides of the ball as their athleticism and up-tempo style left Virginia gasping for breath. A 97-yard interception return, a defensive shutout, and the first two career touchdowns of freshman speedster Thomas Tyner highlighted the second half. Room for improvement remains in fourth-down conversions.
California 37, Portland State 30: For much of the first half, Cal looked in danger of falling into the same pit that Oregon State did against an FCS team in Week 1. An unheralded Portland State offense gashed the Bears again and again for big plays of both the running and passing variety, piling up 430 yards in the first half. Perhaps demoralized from their opening loss to Northwestern, Jared Goff and Cal did not respond until late in the first half. Key to their comeback from a 10-point deficit were third-down conversions that showed Goff’s maturity. He maintained a high percentage of completions despite taking a few risks and absorbing some early sacks. Still, he looked flustered for much of the fourth quarter as his team clung to a slim lead. Still, if the Cal defense struggles to contain a middling FCS offense, they cannot hope to stop Ohio State or Oregon often in their next two games.
Oregon State 33, Hawaii 14: Like their in-state rivals, the Beavers shut out the opposition in the second half after a competitive first half. Sean Mannion’s issues with interceptions accounted for half of Hawaii’s scoring as the defense produced a much more impressive effort than in the opening-week disaster against Eastern Washington. Oregon State urgently needed this game to salve the sting of that setback ahead of their challenging conference schedule. An injury to Michael Doctor might cause him to miss significant time and could reduce the offense’s versatility. If the defense continues to perform more like this week than like last week, though, Doctor’s injury and Mannion’s chronic interception woes might count for little. Of course, USC defeated Hawaii by a similar margin the week before, only to stumble through a depressing performance this week (see below). We may not know what to expect from Oregon State for a few games yet.
Colorado 38, Central Arkansas 24: Often the laughingstocks of the conference, newcomers Utah and Colorado have flexed their muscle during the first two weeks. Colorado already has doubled its win total from 2012 in 2013, setting the tone in both of its wins with Paul Richardson touchdowns on early drives. (Richardson accounted for more than 200 receiving yards today.) The arrival of new coach Mike MacIntyre may have breathed even more life into this program than expected. Questions still remain regarding the defense, which will receive far more formidabletests in most of its remaining games. Caution is still advised, for Colorado entered its first two games as the favorite and will enter at least nine of its remaining ten as a heavy underdog. It may not feel like it, considering the program’s recent history, but the Buffs have done no more than hold serve to this stage.
Washington State 10, USC 7: The first conference game of 2013 could not have unfolded much less like a typical Pac-12 game. The teams combined for one offensive touchdown and three second-half points. The winning team, coached by a true offensive guru, scored its only touchdown on an interception return. Quarterback play was abysmal, while a kicker played the hero. The nation’s best wide receiver amassed fewer yards in the entire game than the opposing team did on a single play. Washington State kicker Andrew Furney delivered a 41-yard field goal for a shocking upset in the LA Coliseum by a team that won just one conference game last year. Perhaps stealing the Apple Cup from archrival Washington in their last game of 2012 did turn around the Cougars for good. By contrast, a meager effort against Hawaii and an unmitigated disaster against a vulnerable defense this weekend showed that USC has not turned a new leaf yet on its embarrassment last year. Booed repeatedly in his home stadium, coach Lane Kiffin needs to lose his conservative game plan before he loses his job.
Arizona 58, UNLV 13: An offensive explosion away from the friendly surroundings of Tucson marked the return of All-American running back Ka’deem Carey. It also may have marked the breakthrough of B.J. Denker as a worthy successor to Matt Scott, capable of making plays with his feet as well as his arm. Denker lit up the Rebels’ defense more impressively than he had a weaker opponent in Northern Arizona during Week 1. That improvement may stem from the diversification of the offense with Carey’s return. Moreover, a young Wildcats defense that stopped few teams last year held UNLV without a touchdown until garbage time and has allowed only one touchdown in two games this year. While they will not turn into Stanford, Oregon, or Arizona State overnight, Arizona fans may not have hoped in vain that experience would stiffen this unit.
Stanford 34, San Jose State 13: The most accurate quarterback in college football last year, David Fales scored only a single touchdown as Stanford’s fearsome defense sacked him, hit him, harassed him, and generally denied his receivers any breathing room. In stark contrast to Stanford’s feckless offense in this game last year was the disciplined leadership of Kevin Hogan, who rarely made a misstep when choosing between more aggressive or more conservative options. Hogan’s offensive line, arguably the best in the country, gave him plenty of time to make those decisions, while the presence of a reliable passing game helped Stanford’s core running attack by enhancing offensive versatility. The powerful but streaky Jordan Williamson also started his year in the ideal way by drilling a 48-yard field goal. A few untimely penalties and an ugly fumble cast a slight pall over the proceedings at times, although the Cardinal extended their streak of consecutive games with at least one turnover forced. Their national title pursuit looks as legitimate now as it did on paper a few days ago, which is all that one could have asked from an opening game.