Tag:Zach Ertz
Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:37 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 53 Stanford 30

Posted by Bryan Fischer

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The Game of the Century, West Edition, featured plenty of defensive plays, mistakes on special teams and one of the teams ready to press for a rematch in the BCS national championship game. The only difference between that tussle in Tuscaloosa last week and this defacto Pac-12 championship in the Bay Area? There were touchdowns. Plenty of them.

Oregon's speed went over, around and - at times - through Stanford's size as the Ducks ended the nation's longest winning streak with a 53-30 win over their division foe to take control of the conference title race. Both teams got off to their normal slow start in the first half but the Ducks, who are now 24-0 when leading at halftime under Chip Kelly, utilized big plays from Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas and Josh Huff to pull away from the Cardinal in the second half.

The most impressive performance of the night came from the Oregon defense that constantly put pressure on Andrew Luck and seemingly brought the Heisman Trophy front-runner back to the pack, of which James might have run his way back to. Without the team's top wide receiver (Chris Owusu) and top tight end (Zach Ertz), Luck was forced to throw into coverage often after his receiving corps could not create much separation, tossing two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six. Without a speed threat to guard against, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti pressed his cornerbacks and used safety help over the top, limiting Stanford's bread and butter offense of quick short and intermediate throws.

That didn't mean Luck and company couldn't move the ball or get stops on defense. They just didn't do enough. It's not hard to argue that this was Stanford's biggest game in decades but they never could do enough to slow down Oregon, who proved that they're the Pac-12's best team and well on their way to their third straight conference title.

They even got a glimpse of the trophy, as commissioner Larry Scott officially presented it before the game in the press box. Given the way the South is playing out (UCLA lost, Arizona State and Utah are unranked, USC is ineligible), you wouldn't blame the Ducks' uber-booster Phil Knight for asking if he could take it home with him on his private jet.

He'll have to wait a few weeks to officially hoist the silver trophy for the first time ever but after Oregon settled things on the field Saturday night against #2 Stanford, it's a matter of when - not if - any more.

Quack.
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:13 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 10



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Larry Scott

Both Oregon and Stanford were favored this week but upsets are a matter of life in the Pac-12. The Cardinal had to go into Reser Stadium - a place highly ranked opponents often leave with a loss - and dealt with several big injuries but pulled away from Oregon State with a big win. Likewise, the Ducks hit the road to take on one of their biggest rivals in a tough place to play in when it's rocking. Both came out with wins and set up the game of the season west of the Rockies and make commissioner Larry Scott extremely happy to have plenty of attention on the conference Saturday night.

LOSER: Husky Stadium

If you never got the chance to visit the Pacific Northwest and see a game at Husky Stadium, you missed out. A beautiful old venue right on the lake, there's no place quite like it when Washington is good and the place is rocking. The press box itself is attached to the trademark overhand and can sway noticeably when the fans are into the game. Starting a major renovation next week (UW is on the road the next two weeks and the Apple Cup is at CenturyLink Field), the loss to Oregon marked the final game for a while in a place that opened in 1920. There was talk of a big upset and the 1991 national championship team was honored but neither seemed to help, especially in the second half. The final play of the stadium? A Jesse Callier one yard rush from the two yard line to end a 34-17 loss.

WINNER: Rick Neuheisel

The embattled UCLA head coach came into the Rose Bowl Saturday afternoon needing a huge upset win over Arizona State and got one, knocking off the Sun Devils thanks to a missed field goal as time expired and putting the Bruins in the enviable position to control their own destiny. Win out and it's a spot in the Pac-12 title game and the best bowl trip in years. He probably isn't fully off the hot seat but the team has momentum heading into their final three games, two winnable ones at Utah and against Colorado before the annual crosstown rivalry game against USC.

WINNER: Matt Barkley

USC's had Heisman winners and some of the winningest quarterbacks in NCAA history wear the cardinal and gold but nobody has ever thrown six touchdowns in a game, as Barkley did against Colorado on Friday. Yes, the Buffs defense isn't that good but the blond-haired California kid was still sharp and had to deal with several drops from his receivers. At a historic program like USC, having your name in the record book is quite an accomplishment and given that, it's understandable why the contingent of Trojan fans that made their way to chilly Boulder kept chanting 'One more year!' as Barkley left the field Friday. If he does come back, he could have a team that is looking at making a run at a title and himself at with a Heisman campaign.

LOSER: Stanford training staff

All David Shaw wanted going into Stanford's game against Oregon State was an easy win and a chance to come home healthy. The easy win part seemed to happen but the latter didn't. Already missing Zach Ertz from the USC game, Andrew Luck lost another of his trio of big tight ends after Levine Toilolo went down and had to be taken to the locker room. He came back to the field later without pads and was nursing his shoulder/neck area. The Cardinal's top wide receiver Chris Owusu looks like he could be done for the year after taking a nasty hit that left him with a concussion and a ride in an ambulance. Safety Delano Howell could be back for next week's showdown but nothing is certain.

LOSER: Arizona's defense and special teams

The problem in the desert hasn't been offense, it's been the defense. Utah, a team that had been struggling to move the ball, didn't seem to meet much resistance against the Wildcats. Starting quarterback Jon Hays threw for 199 yards and a pair of touchdowns while showing progress and running back John White topped the century mark on the ground once again. Special teams wasn't any help for Arizona either with two blocked punt and a terrible fake field goal.

WINNER: Cal's vacation plans

The Bears took another step toward bowl eligibility with a 30-7 home (well, at AT&T Park) win over Washington State that put them at 5-4 on the season with another winnable game against Oregon State coming up. There's still the possibility, perhaps even a likely one, that they'll stay home for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl but the chances of postseason play certainly improved after taking care of business.

LOSER: Paul Wulff

Perhaps it was an omen that a small earthquake shook the Bay Area right before Saturday's game. After a promising start to the season and signs of life in the Palouse, Washington State has slid back to the bottom with five straight losses and put Wulff on a very, very hot seat. The offense only scored a late touchdown and the team allowed 30 points for the fifth time this season, not exactly hallmarks of a turnaround. The schedule doesn't exactly lighten up either and if the losing streak stretches to seven, Wulff will be out looking for a new job.

WINNER: LaMichael James' elbow pad

Oregon came out in white and "carbon" uniforms against Washington and it was James who had a bulky elbow pad on his right arm that seemed to stick out despite the tame (by Ducks' standards) look. No matter how big or ugly it looked though, the pad seemed to do the trick in James' second week back in action after dislocating the elbow. It wasn't a huge performance by his standards but James rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown.

LOSER: Arizona State visors

Dennis Erickson always seems to lose a game on the road with the Sun Devils that he's favored to win by more than a touchdown. Despite this being ASU's year with the team in position to win the division, Erickson and the coaching staff saw it all slip away at the Rose Bowl against UCLA. There were plenty of bad plays and questionable officiating calls that had to leave a few of the staff's hats slammed to the ground at the end of a frustrating Saturday night.

Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Keys to the game: Stanford at Oregon State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: On paper, this looks like a total mismatch but many highly ranked teams have gone into Reser Stadium on a cold afternoon and gone home with a loss - that's why they play the games after all. Andrew Luck has a chance to continue his march to winning a Heisman Trophy this week but will have to adjust to the loss of tight end Zach Ertz. This will be a good game to re-establish the run and work on a few things defensively as they prepare for Oregon in two weeks. Still, David Shaw will have to get his team excited about playing this game after last week's thrilling win at the Coliseum.

OREGON STATE WILL WIN IF: Stanford has the 81st ranked pass defense and the Beavers love to throw the ball with freshman quarterback Sean Mannion. If they can create some turnovers, run the ball effectively and play decent defense, there's a chance. It's a very, very small chance against Stanford but stranger things have happened. They have a great coach in Mike Riley and are looking to begin November with a big home win.

X-FACTOR: Stanford let down. As Luck was running to the locker room after beating USC last week, he pumped his fists in the air and couldn't get the smile off his face. It was a similar story for much of the Cardinal football team. It's one thing getting excited about a top 20 opponent, it's another getting up for a team that is 2-6 on the season. Stanford blanked Oregon State 38-0 last year but have just a 3-7 record against the Beavers since 2000 so there's hasn't been a whole lot of success on the side of the Bay Area team in this series. If there's a slow start by the offense and the defense allows a big play, there could be a chance at an upset.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes

In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.

LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy

Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).

WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas

The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.

LOSER: Zach Maynard

California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.

WINNER: Barking for Sark

There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'

LOSER: Colorado

Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.

WINNER: Utah

It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.

WINNER: USC


There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.

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