Week 5: Big Plays rule the Pac-12

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By Gerald Nicdao, Continuing Contributor
Posted Sep 29, 2014
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2014 BearInsider.com


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The big play can be fickle. It can lead to momentum-turning joy or to backbreaking despair. It can spark hope's not-so-eternal flame. It can end all hope.

 

The big play was on display in Week 5 of the Pac-12 schedule. And with a full slate of conference games, each big play might have ramifications felt all the way into December and January.

Some big plays came out of nothing, like Daniel Lasco's 92-yard touchdown reception in California's win over Colorado or Ishmael Adams' two game-changing plays for UCLA in the desert.

“They (the Sun Devils) had momentum,” Bruins head coach Jim Mora told reporters Thursday. “If they score a touchdown now they're up, and Ish comes up with that play.”

And sometimes big plays come from teams forcing the situation. But when that happens, it becomes feast or famine. Washington head coach Chris Petersen called for a fake punt midway through the fourth quarter in the Huskies loss to Stanford. It backfired and the Cardinal took advantage.

“We should have checked out of it,” Petersen told reporters Saturday. “That was on me and not on those guys. I was trying to create something.”

In all, there were 17 plays that went for over 30 yards and a touchdown in the Pac-12 in Week 5. And all of this happened with Oregon and Arizona sitting out on bye weeks.

Conference play has just started—don't blink or you might miss something, and you won't catch up until December.


No. 11 UCLA rallies, then pummels No. 15 Arizona State

Two minutes, 32 seconds of game time is all UCLA needed. Thirty minutes later in real time, the momentum had turned and the game was all but over. The Bruins used big plays and a bend but don't break defense to notch a 62-27 win over Arizona State at a blacked-out Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday.

UCLA was trailing late in the first half. Three scores later, the Bruins were on top of the game and never looked back. The first score came meekly, as quarterback Brett Hundley rolled to his right and found fullback Nate Iese for a three-yard score, taking the lead, 20-17. It would turn out to be the go-ahead score.

Two minutes later, the Bruins found their backs against their own end zone, as ASU was driving down the field for a potential game-tying field goal or go-ahead score. That's when Ishmael Adams decided to show up. Adams intercepted a Mike Bercovici pass and took it all the way back for a 95-yard return touchdown. It was at least a 10-point swing and UCLA was up 27-17 at halftime.

After the half, Hundley found receiver Jordan Payton for an 80-yard strike on the first play of the second half. After that, score, UCLA was up big, 34-17.

The back breaker came from Adams, when he took a kickoff 100 yards and scored a touchdown late in the third quarter, putting the Bruins up 41-20 and the game out of reach.

All this after UCLA was trailing 17-6 as Arizona State dominated the start of the game.

“I think that game kind of showed we have some grit to us,” Bruins head coach Jim Mora told the Los Angeles Times. “I have been on some teams that would have folded.”

It was the kind of collapse that could have season-long ramifications for the Sun Devils. Backup quarterback Bercovici played well in his first start, throwing for 488 yards and three touchdowns in the place of the injured Taylor Kelly. But he did have two interceptions.

Arizona State also put up 626 yards of total offense. Somehow, it was not enough, not when the team gave up four plays of 80 yards or more. The Sun Devils now look up at the Bruins as they start the race for the Pac-12 South a game behind.

“Obviously, that was embarrassing,” ASU coach Todd Graham told AZCentral.com. “It was a frustrating night.

“We just made a lot of catastrophic mistakes.”


No. 16 Stanford outlasts Washington in defensive struggle

Listening to the post game interviews and reactions Saturday in the bowels of Husky Stadium, you would have thought no one won. Yes, Stanford's defense was key in a 20-13 win over Washington. Yes, the Cardinal are back on track after a conference-opening loss to USC a few weeks ago. But it sure did not sound like a win.

“Right now, we're a semi-efficient, sloppy offense,” Stanford coach David Shaw told the San Jose Mercury-News. “That's one thing we haven't been known for, and we better not be known for it the rest of the season.”

So, what was the problem? The problem was three turnovers, a couple of offensive penalties and scoring only two touchdowns on five trips into the red zone. One of those turnovers—a Remound Wright fumble—was returned for a Huskies touchdown by Shaq Thompson.

Stanford—which has built its success on that efficient offense in the last half decade—was 3-of-12 on third downs. The running game was non-existent and quarterback Kevin Hogan averaged just 6.8 yards for each pass attempt.

For the Cardinal, it was a good thing that their defense has been good all season. While Stanford's offense was bad, its defense was equally good—or perhaps the Washington offense equally bad. The Cardinal allowed just one offensive touchdown.

The Huskies got so desperate that they began to force the issue late in the game. On a 4th-and-9 from their own 47-yard line, Washington head coach Chris Petersen called for a fake punt. But Stanford had it snuffed out and Hogan scored a touchdown on a quarterback keeper six plays later.

On the ensuing kickoff, Petersen had a choice of two penalties on the Cardinal—get the ball on the 35-yard line because the ball was kicked out of bounds or have Stanford re-kick because of an offsides. Petersen elected to re-kick hoping that the electric John Ross can make an impact in the return game. The Huskies got the ball back on their own 16-yard line.

It's the sort of desperate measures you take when your offense gained only 179 yards, including just 98 yards through the air.

“We've got to go back to the drawing board,” Petersen told the Seattle Times.


No. 18 USC bounces back, stifles Oregon State in win

There was a soft lull at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday night. The hangover from a gut-punching loss at Boston College two weeks ago was still in the air. All of that was ended by Su'a Cravens. Cravens intercepted Sean Mannion and returned the ball 31 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring and to lift USC to a 35-10 win over Oregon State on Saturday.

While the score may be indicative of a blowout, it did not feel like it to the Trojans. Yes, USC had big play after big play, including a Cody Kessler Hail Mary to Darreus Rogers to end the first half. But it wasn't good enough for the Trojans.

"We're not perfect and we have plenty of room for improvement," USC coach Steve Sarkisian told the Los Angeles Times. "We'll enjoy this, but it's not the end-all, be all."

What was close to perfect was the Trojans defense. USC shut down the Beavers. Mannion—one the nation's top passers—was held to 123 yards passing and was intercepted twice. It was the first time in Mannion's 35 starts for Oregon State that he did not reach the 200-yard passing mark.

The USC defense did not allow an offensive touchdown, with the Beavers scoring on a kickoff return and a field goal.

Oregon State had just 181 yards of total offense and only mustered 35 yards after halftime.

“I would say we were disrupted,” Beavers coach Mike Riley told The Oregonian. “That's probably the best way to put our offensive performance ... the story of the game was we never responded offensively to score points, to control the ball, and our defense wore out.”


Washington State rallies to beat Utah

Washington State had seen this before. The Cougars were down 21-0 early to a confident Utah team. In years past, Wazzu would have just given up. But not when you have Connor Halliday. Halliday had 417 yards and four touchdowns—including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter—to lead Washington State to a 28-27 win over the Utes in Salt Lake City on Saturday.

The go-ahead score came when the Cougars were pinned back deep in their own territory. Halliday found Vince Mayle on a slant pattern. A defender missed the tackle, Mayle got a block and found himself in the end zone 81 yards later. It was his second score of the game. Mayle finished with eight catches and 120 yards receiving.

“When he caught the ball,” Halliday told the Seattle Times, “I knew he had a chance to go.”

For Utah, it was a collapse after a superb start. The Utes led 21-0 after the first quarter, scoring on a interception return, a punt return and a 76-yard score by Devontae Booker. Three huge body blows to Wazzu from Utah. But the Cougars were able to refocus and fight back.

But Booker's score was the only offensive touchdown that Utah could muster. The Utes—who had 357 yards of total offense—gained just 135 yards in the second half. And quarterback Travis Wilson was inefficient, throwing for 165 yards and no touchdown on 18-for-38 yards passing.

When you score one offensive touchdown, you don't have much of a chance," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told the Salt Lake Tribune. "That was really the issue. We've got to be more productive, particularly throwing the ball."

Standings after Week Five
 
Pac 12 - North
W-L
P-12
PF
PA
STRK
Oregon
4-0
1-0
194
85
W4
Stanford
3-1
1-1
110
26
W2
California
3-1
1-1
190
143
W1
Washington State
2-3
1-1
169
151
W1
Washington
4-1
0-1
178
121
L1
Oregon State
3-1
0-1
105
86
L1
 
Pac 12 - South
W-L
P-12
PF
PA
STRK
USC
3-1
2-0
131
70
W1
Arizona
4-0
1-0
168
109
W4
UCLA
4-0
1-0
152
99
W4
Arizona State
3-1
1-1
168
123
L1
Utah
3-1
0-1
168
79
L1
Colorado
2-3
0-2
159
178
L1

 

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