Tag:Chip Kelly
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:46 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 5:38 am
 

QUICK HITS: No. 9 Oregon 43, California 15



Posted by Chip Patterson


OREGON WON. Cal kept fighting until the end, but the Ducks dominated the start of the second half and pulled away late in their 43-15 win in Autzen on Thursday night. LaMichael James picked up his third-straight 200-yard game before suffering an apparent right arm injury early in the fourth quarter. James' was carted off the field with his arm in an air cast, and appeared to be in a significant amount of pain. Other than that, the news was all good for Oregon -- marching back from a 15-14 halftime deficit to roll off 29 unanswered points in the second half.

HOW OREGON WON: After starting the first half failing to convert on third downs and generally struggling to hit a rhythm, the Ducks picked up the tempo to start the second half and wore down Cal's defense. It started with a methodical 13-play, 88-yard drive to kick off the third quarter. By the end of that first drive the defense was gassed, and ripe for the picking for the remainder of the quarter. James, Kenjon Barner, and freshman De'Anthony Thomas continued the offensive assault and helped put the game away late.

WHEN OREGON WON: After the drive mentioned above, the defense stepped up and stopped a previously productive Zach Maynard. Following a punt, it only took a pair of LaMichael James runs and a 68-yard Kejon Barner touchdown to begin ushering in the beatdown in Autzen Stadium. It was clear at that point the momentum had swung back in the Ducks' favor, and Cal was not going to reclaim the lead.

WHAT OREGON WON: Their 15th straight conference win. Their streak dates back to the 51-42 loss at Stanford in 2009. Cal actually gave them the biggest scare in that streak, slowing the Ducks down and forcing them to grind out a 15-13 win in Berkeley. Thursday night served as some home-served payback for those alleged fake injuries.

WHAT CALIFORNIA LOST: After grinding out a 15-14 first half lead, the Bears could never get it started again after halftime. The team was gassed, and all of the sudden the lanes began to open up for Oregon. California now heads home to continue Pac-12 conference play against USC. A two-loss start is not favorable for the Bears, but is not entirely unexpected considering the opponents.

THAT WAS CRAZY: LaMichael James' right arm injury in the fourth quarter was painful to watch. Whether it is an arm or dislocated elbow, Oregon will likely not be in a hurry to give specific details on the status of the nation's leading rusher. Up to that point it was just another dominant performance by the 2010 Doak Walker Award winner.



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Posted on: October 6, 2011 7:28 pm
 

Pac-12 RapidReport Roundup: Injuries all over

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the Pac-12, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).

ARIZONA. The offensive line situation continues to be a mess down in Tuscon. As if starting the year with five new faces was bad enough, Wildcats junior guard Shane Zink has a foot injury that could keep him out for the rest of the season, coach Mike Stoops said. Zink is himself an injury replacement who has started three games at both guard spots before suffering the injury last week. Guard Chris Putton is questionable for this week's game at Oregon State, which could mean redshirt freshman Carter Lees will get his first career start Saturday. In more positive news, safety Adam Hall could return from an ACL injury to part-time duty.

ARIZONA STATE. Some news we'll all take with a grain of salt, star middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict says he strongly considering returning for his senior season rather than turning pro. One player who will certainly be back is running back Deantre Lewis, who is a "near-certainty" to redshirt this season after being struck by a stray bullet while home on break.

CAL. The Bears are a 24-point underdog for Thursday night's game against Oregon. Jeff Tedford has only been a bigger underdog once in career at Cal. You can understand why oddsmakers are not high on the team when you consider just two active players have scored against the Ducks, both of whom are kickers.


OREGON. Linebacker Michael Clay said he is about 70% healthy as he recovers from an injured ankle and could play against Cal Thursday. Running back LaMichael James leads the nation in rushing yards per game and is eager to face a Cal defense that's allowing just 78.2. “We welcome those challenges with open arms,” James said. The Ducks' defense will have to be on their toes against the Bears, as head coach Chip Kelly has been impressed with the play of quarterback Zach Maynard. “He’s a good athletic quarterback,” Kelly said. “It seems like he makes good decisions and throws a nice catchable ball."

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. Highly touted freshman wide receiver George Farmer recently moved to running back and has impressed coaches so far. "I was surprised," Lane Kiffin said. "He looked pretty natural doing it. With that size (6-1, 210) and speed, there aren't many people like that ever. He could be a nightmare matchup issue for people." The Trojans are off this week before playing Cal in the Bay Area next Thursday. The team is likely focusing on tightening the defense up after giving up 41 points last week but Kiffin cautioned against overreacting to any struggles. "We have to be careful that we're not overreacting to a game or two," he said. "All of a sudden now we have this great offense, but a week ago we weren't any good. And it wasn't too long ago that the defense was winning games for us. It depends on who you play."

UCLA. Defensive end Datone Jones could be on the verge of losing his starter's role. He was highly touted coming into the year but has struggled with consistency and might be replaced by Owamagbe Odighizuwa at the end spot. With starting safety Tony Dye (hip and shoulder injuries) and his backup Alex Mascarenas both injured, Tevin McDonald will likely start Saturday's game against Washington State. Corner Jamie Graham will also see an increased role due to injures. Rick Neuheisel said starting fullback Anthony Barr will be out at least three weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Posted on: October 2, 2011 5:12 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:24 am
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 5

Posted by Bryan Fischer

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

7/4. Stanford

If there's one team in the top 10 that has seen some movement, it's Stanford. The Cardinal have not been moving four or five spots but they have been going up and down the poll by a spot or two every week. They moved down a spot in the AP poll behind Oklahoma State despite the fact that the Cowboys were off and Stanford rolled UCLA 45-19. It's not all bad, they did move up a spot in the Coaches Poll to 4th but will have to hold off a charge from Wisconsin next week. Interesting to see the three spot difference in the polls.

9/9. Oregon

The Ducks were off but they were movers in the polls, sliding into the top 10 at 9th in each. There's not much to say about Oregon this week other than the fact that LSU continuing to win is probably good for them. Up next is Cal at home - a team that has given them trouble in the past - and a big showdown against Arizona State. Chip Kelly's squad should continue to move up as the top one-loss team as others in front of them lose or play each other.

22/24. Arizona State

It wasn't the first half Dennis Erickson would have liked but Arizona State managed to get another win over Oregon State and move into the top 25 of both polls. It appears ASU has the Pac-12 South division title wrapped up after beating USC last week and with Utah losing another conference game but then again, you never know. They'll hit the road this week to play the Utes before their big showdown in Eugene against Oregon after that in what could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game.

Others receiving votes: Washington (37 points AP/30 Coaches), USC (7 AP)

Posted on: September 25, 2011 2:34 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 2:34 am
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 56, Arizona 31

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON
WON. No surprise but Chip Kelly's squad came into Tuscon and pushed around an Arizona team that was in the middle of a brutal stretch of games. Six of the Ducks' seven touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes as they were in control of the game from start to finish. Quarterback Darron Thomas passed for two scores and ran for two more as he directed the offense to perfection.

HOW OREGON WON: In their previous three games, Oregon got the bulk of their scoring and offense through the air. Against Arizona, they gashed Mike Stoops' defense for 516 yards, 415 of which were on the ground. LaMichael James put up the video game numbers we're used to seeing from him, rushing for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns.

WHEN OREGON WON: The Ducks had 212 yards rushing at halftime and were in control throughout most of the first half. The Wildcats put together a good drive near the end of the 2nd quarter and scored a touchdown, followed by a successful onside kick. Arizona kept sticking around during the second half until Thomas led an eight play, 75 yard drive late in the third that pretty much put the game away.

WHAT OREGON WON: Yet another Pac-12 conference game, their 13th in a row to be precise. While they may take heat for struggling against SEC competition, Oregon is the new USC in terms of being the team everybody is not looking forward to playing. The North title still looks like it will come down to a road trip to Stanford and the Ducks did nothing to suggest otherwise.

WHAT ARIZONA LOST: Just another game as part of a brutal four game stretch against Oklahoma State (loss), Stanford (loss), Oregon (loss) and USC (in Los Angeles next week). There's some talent on this team, especially on offense, but it hasn't been consistent and put everything together. With the 1-3 start, the hot seat for Stoops will continue to get warmer.

THAT WAS CRAZY: James set a school record for career touchdowns scored after running up the middle for 12 yards on the Ducks' opening drive. He also set school records for rushing (288 yards) and all-purpose yards (363) on the night. For someone who was a Heisman finalist a year ago, James continues to add his name to the record books more than a few times as he cements himself in Ducks lore.

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Posted on: September 17, 2011 1:09 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 1:09 pm
 

Oregon receives notice of inquiry from NCAA

Posted by Tom Fornelli

So much for just being able to enjoy a Saturday of college football. Along with the latest in conference expansion from CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy, Oregon also released a statement on Saturday morning saying that it has received a Notice of Inquiry from the NCAA.

“This notice has been anticipated and is simply the next stage of the process,” said Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens in the statement. “The University of Oregon football program, from Head Coach Chip Kelly through the entire organization, has tremendous respect for the NCAA’s important role in monitoring collegiate athletics and, to this end, continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA ‘s ongoing examination.
 
“The Athletic Department, Coach Kelly and the entire staff remain committed to operating the athletics program consistent with the highest standards and ensuring our program follows best practices.” 

While Oregon wouldn't get into details in the release, this is related to the school's connection to Willie Lyles and his scouting service. Oregon originally paid Lyles $25,000 for scouting reports on high school recruits that was reportedly two years old at the time. Some have speculated that rather than pay for Lyles' scouting reports, Oregon was paying Lyles for his influence with recruits like LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk.

In fact, Lyles himself has said that was the case.

As for what this Letter of Inquiry means for Oregon at the moment, the truth is not much. At least, not yet. It's merely the NCAA's way of letting a school know that it has begun investigating the school.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:52 pm
 

Please don't penalize the Oregon 'O', Pac-12

Posted by Adam Jacobi

During the past offseason, the Pac-12  hired former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira as its interim coordinator of officiating, and on its face, it seemed like a wise move. Pereira has decades of experience with refereeing, he knows his stuff inside and out, and he's enough of a public figure that Fox Sports has him on during broadcasts to discuss rules interpretations to fans. Sounds good, right? Here's the thing: Pereira is in his 60s now, and he's got some ideas about what's considered sportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike that players 40 years younger might have some qualms about. In particular, Pereira sees Oregon's players making the "O" gesture with their gloves, simulating and celebrating the logo of their very own school, and via Dr. Saturday, here's what he has to say:

That's not a salute to the military. Nor is that a praise to god. I think that borderlines on being unsportsmanlike conduct. And really what you want to do is not do something like this, so that you can actually take the officials out of that. I would say this: I'll go so far as to guarantee you that Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks will get a phone call this week and tell them that "You need to stop doing this." ...

Why do I guarantee it? Because I'll be the one to make it.

We'll note that Pereira specifically mentions the military and God because he had mentioned earlier in the clip that these were the two entities to whom gestures would never be penalized. And that's good. But hang on -- military and God are fine, but a salute to the fans and the school itself is out of bounds? What on earth is Pereira trying to prevent here? These guys are playing football for the school and its fans first and foremost, and a celebration like this is never going to cause any negative consequences on the field. If anything, it strengthens the bond between fan and student-athlete, and that's the type of thing that matters when it comes to selling tickets.

Moreover, the act of penalizing celebrations helps nothing. It's not like excessive enforcement of traffic laws, which at least raises money for municipalities in the form of ticket fines. We can't take penalty yards to the bank. Penalties don't sell seats or make fans happy. They don't even move the game along. Thus, they ought to be called only when there's actual cheating or bad acts occurring. Flashing the Oregon 'O' to happy fans? That ain't it, Mr. Pereira. In fact, if he really wants to see a negative reaction to an Oregon Duck throwing up the 'O' after a score, there's one surefire way to do that: have a ref throw a flag about it. 

I'm not allowed to use words strong enough to convey the extent of my revulsion toward Pereira's decision here, but let's just leave it at this: he can take this ban and shove it somewhere very uncomfortable (like the back of a Volkswagen).

[UPDATE: Within 10 minutes of this article posting, Mike Pereira posted the following message on his Twitter page: "Crew..Help me! The "O" the Ducks flash is OK. Talked to others and as long as it is not prolonged or directed at an opponent, it's ok." That's reassuring, but in this video he's making an example out of an instance that is neither prolonged or directed at an opponent, so there are clearly some questions that still need to be answered. We are awaiting further comment.]

Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 2

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College football's encore weekend not only lived up to expectations, but beat them.

It also caused at least few hearts to skip a beat or two around the country. It seemed like every channel you were on, there was a game coming down to the wire or ready to head to overtime. From the noon games to the night games, last Saturday was one big, drama-filled day.

Notre Dame-Michigan, USC-Utah, Cal-Colorado, Washington-Hawaii, North Carolina-Rutgers, Auburn-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Toledo, Texas-BYU, Iowa State-Iowa, Vanderbilt-UConn and several others left everyone on the edge of their seats. There weren't a ton of great defenses among the group but that didn't hamper the fun as teams either came back or fell just short. Heck, the first night game in Ann Arbor had as much drama as any of them in just 72 seconds.

One game I was really looking forward to going into Saturday was between the Hedges and that game more than lived up to expectations and put one coach in even hotter water.

The game seemed to be South Carolina personified. It's why everybody's hand trembled writing them in to win the SEC East this year. Not only was it the Gamecocks' history but they had a quarterback who frustrated fans and Old Ball Coaches alike in Stephen Garcia. When he threw his first interception of the game, it was simply Garcia being Garcia. The ESPN director, as if he understood perfectly, cut to a shot of Garcia with his hands on his hips, staring down his mistake while clinching his lips and a coach yelling at him. Later in the game he rolled out of the pocket and threw a beautiful pass that reminded everybody of his talent. Again, just Garcia being Garcia.

This is a good and very talented Gamecocks team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday if they don't wind up beating themselves first.

“Georgia outplayed us, give them credit, they outplayed us but somehow or another we won the game,” Steve Spurrier said post game. “Somehow it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight.”

Running back Marcus Lattimore broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown as the team rode him for 27 carries. USC will have to be wearing of overusing Lattimore because he's the key to their success but at least he had 10 fewer carries than he did against the Bulldogs a year ago. His ability to find just a little hole and take off is special and he certainly can run very hard between the tackles.

On the other side of the ball, how scary is the Gamecocks' defensive line? We knew it was going to be good but maybe not quite this nasty. Melvin Ingram was superb, taking a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooping up a fumble for a touchdown after fellow end Jadeveon Clowney nearly took off the head of UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Only in the SEC do 275-pound defensive ends score twice in a game and run 68 yards while doing so.

The thing about Clowney, the nation's consensus number one recruit out of high school, is how he stands out on every snap just due to his size. Then, as soon as the ball is snapped, he stands out for his explosiveness and physicality - making you drop your job and say 'Wow' a couple of times a game. Heck, Murray might want to leave school early just to get away from him. Clowney still isn't up to speed mentally but it's coming and coming quickly. If you're an SEC quarterback with South Carolina on the schedule, prepare your ice bath in advance.

For Mark Richt, he might have to go bang his head against the wall a few times after every game. He's had injuries and suspensions and even NCAA issues thrown his way but there's still no getting around the fact that this is a good group of players who haven't lived up to expectations. Just when it seemed like Georgia was about to break through, they'd commit a big error. The good news is it looked like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell got going, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown after breaking a few nice runs into the open field. But even as he took two steps forward, his fumble at midfield that Stephon Gilmore returned to the red zone was a step back. He's still a little behind in pass protection but the flashes he showed reminded everybody, coaches included, why he was so highly recruited out of high school.

The biggest thing that Richt can do next week is get his team to have fun against Coastal Carolina. There will be no avoiding hearing about his job status as the heat was turned up even higher after the loss - he has to get his team refocused before starting the heart of their SEC schedule. Get everybody involved, call some trick plays, something - anything - to get his team focused on having fun playing football instead of worrying about him. He can't eliminate all the distractions but he can get his team to buy back in week-by-week. The schedule is manageable enough that they could conceivably go 10-2 this year - more than enough to quiet critics for a few more months. The Bulldogs are talented but lost to two teams they should have to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

Now the trick is winning out using their own talented roster. No easy task but one that can certainly happen.

Stat of the week

If I had to take someone to Vegas with me, I just might select Gene Chizik. All he seems to do is give heart attack to the Auburn faithful and win last second games. The Tigers pulled off the upset this week against Mississippi State thanks to a goal line stand that kept quarterback Chris Relf out of the end zone by inches to preserve a 41-34 win at home.

"We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game," Chizik said after the game.

While the head coach certainly would prefer a less stressful ending to games, he might need to get used to them if his team is to keep winning. After taking nearly two hours just to play the first half against the Bulldogs, I was digging around looking for the total game time but managed to find an even more eye-popping stat.

Auburn's offense has averaged 56.5 plays during their first two games while the defense has averaged 90.5 snaps per game. Yes, the defense is almost literally on the field twice as long the offense. For a young team with issues on both sides of the ball, that's an uh-oh.

For comparison's sake, Arkansas has averaged 74.5 plays on offense and 57.5 on defense during their light non-conference schedule. Only two SEC teams have average more than 70 snaps on defense, and just six teams nationally have their defense on the field for more than 80 plays a game. No one even approaches 90 defensive plays a game. The national average for number of plays on defense is 67.3 and 68.8 on offense.

Up against that little issue, it's almost shocking Auburn's 2-0 but they are thanks to some late game heroics. Whether this is a serious flaw of just the byproduct of two crazy games remains to be seen but, bottom-line, Chizik needs to make some adjustments.

Other stats of note

- Michigan's Denard Robinson thrilled the country against Notre Dame and became the first UM quarterback to beat the Irish twice since Jim Harbaugh did so back in the late 1980's. He also has accounted for an astounding 96% of the offense the last two games between the schools.

- Texas has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the second half while USC outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter for just the fourth time in 15 games this weekend.

- Tyler Bray's 405 yards are the most for a Tennessee quarterback since the legend himself, Peyton Manning, wore orange. Bray finished 34-of-41 and tossed four touchdowns. Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both had 10 catches for over 100 yards and the pair combined for three TD receptions.

- In the last 11 years, the Georgia-South Carolina series has only been decided by nine points or less eight times. Since 2004, the winner has had fewer than 20 points every year but 2009 and 2011.

- Alabama has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for seven straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine once again this year. He has a nation's-best 35 total tackles while the next closest player has 27.

Yard-by-yard

- What an impressive, almost surgical attack led by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys' offense came out and pretty much blew away the Arizona secondary on Thursday en route to a 37-14 win in Stillwater. Weeden connected on his 13 passes and finished up with a ho-hum 397 yards after slowing down in the second half. He's flown under the radar a little bit (even in his own state) but in 15 starts, he has only two losses by a total of 16 points. It's sometime easy to say a lot of his success is due to receiver Justin Blackmon but Weeden is the triggerman for what the team does. This team can also run the ball pretty well - Joseph Randle is 15th in the country in rushing - and should make for a fun Big 12 regular season when they play fellow top 15 teams Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- Senior writer Bruce Feldman touched on FIU in his Sunday column but what a win for Mario Cristobal's program. Their win over Louisville was the first win ever for the program over BCS team and showed that the Golden Panthers are more than just the dynamic all-purpose superstar T.Y. Hilton. They take on another rising in-state program in UCF this week and if they can pull off the upset, a run at going undefeated isn't out of the question. It will be tough to stop the Knights but FIU has the athletes and coaches to make it a game.

- Speaking of Louisville, their game against Kentucky might be downright unwatchable. Louisville is a mess offensively and their defense is suspect. Luckily for Charlie Strong, they'll face a Kentucky team that has serious issues with both lines. It's going to really be rough once the Wildcats get into SEC play this year if they continue to play as sloppy as they have been during their first two games. Fans from both schools are probably counting down the days until basketball season already.

- If there's one thing that might be different under Luke Fickell at Ohio State, it's the offense is involving the tight end more. Senior Jake Stoneburner came into the season with 22 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games this season he has eight catches for 93 yards and four TD's and seems to be one of quarterback Joe Bauserman's favorite targets. The Buckeyes haven't look completely in rhythm on offense but that's not Stoneburner's fault.

- Not sure what to make of Texas' win over BYU other than it's a baby step back to respectability. Garrett Gilbert's not who Mack Brown wanted him to be coming out of camp, looking shaky again with some bad decisions before being pulled for David Ash and Case McCoy. Using Ash in some zone read situations was a good change of pace and was a productive play with their speed at running back - a group that finally got going, including freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense still is a concern, as BYU seemed to pick apart the middle of the field. Might take awhile for everybody to get comfortable with Manny Diaz' system but there's some talent on the team. Baby steps.

- Two quarterbacks in the Northwest were rolling this weekend. In Oregon, Darron Thomas and the Ducks offense seemed to be back in their normal sixth-gear against Nevada. Thomas had just 13 attempts - after throwing for 54 against LSU - but six of them were for touchdowns on Saturday. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas had over 200 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns. He's a small but tough back who has speed to burn, should be fun to see what Chip Kelly does with him as he learns more of the playbook.

At Washington, Keith Price got the Huskies off to a 2-0 start by throwing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on his first eight throws and has spread the ball around to a good receiving group well. Things got a little tight against Hawaii but Price and running back Chris Polk kept the Huskies moving. This team may not be a top 15-caliber squad but they're certainly going to give others fits if they can stop playing down to their competition at times.

- I was a bit shocked to see that Clemson opened up as a favorite against Auburn this week, their own issues aside. Dabo Swinney's club struggled against Wafford and things are not going to get any easier. The offense is productive in the stat sheet but in they're still struggling to adjust to Chad Morris' system. The rush defense in particular is very concerning, ranking 107th in the country after two games against a Sun Belt and an FCS opponent.

- Several people in the Alabama program told me that the Crimson Tide defense might be the best ever under Nick Saban. After watching two games, I think they're close to being right. The score was a bit closer than expected against Penn State at 27-11 but this is a very good group. They look faster and deeper than the national championship squad a couple of years ago and are not the opposing quarterback's best friend, to say the least.

Pulling Rank

My top 10 after week 2:

1. Oklahoma

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Boise State

5. Texas A&M

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

8. Florida State

9. Oklahoma State

10. South Carolina

Where we'll be this week

I'll be out at the Ineligible Bowl, Ohio State at Miami on Saturday. Senior writer Brett McMurphy is in Tallahassee for the top five showdown of Oklahoma and Florida State.

Across the goal line

There were a series of firsts in the USC-Utah game I was at this weekend. Trojans kicker Andre Heidari recorded the first points in Pac-12 conference history while teammate Marc Tyler will be in the record books for scoring the first touchdown. Thanks to their 17-14 win over the Utes, USC won the final Pac-10 game and the very first Pac-12 game.

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Video
Wait, excuse me, thanks to their 23-14 victory.

In many ways, the first ever Pac-12 conference game - which wasn't really true because Colorado and Cal played earlier that day in an overtime "non-conference" game - featured many of the same elements of its Pac-10 predecessors. There were big plays on offense, a close game, USC on national (cable) television at night and, oh yeah, an officiating controversy.

As I walked down the steps of the Coliseum toward the field right before their drive, I kept thinking this was a welcome to the conference moment for Utah. Boy was it ever.

I was about 10 yards away when, on 4th down, DeVonte Christopher caught an in-route that seemed to fall just short of the first down marker. It seemed like a bad spot but the refs said it was a turnover on downs. Then they reviewed it, remarked the spot and gave Utah a first down. Saved by Pac-10… er, -12 replay officials.

Then there was the pass interference call on the next play. That set up the Utes' field goal attempt. I couldn't quite see the holder but was looking at the middle of the line in case the kick was blocked. Next thing I know the ball is bouncing right into the hands of USC corner Torin Harris and he's off to the end zone. The crowd and sidelines were going crazy as he raced to the end zone. I turned to talk to a colleague and saw a few players run out to get a better angle on the return. Seconds later I saw the flag, then the announcement that the game was over. The touchdown didn't count, but the game was over.

What just happened I wondered. Duty, however, called as I tried to grab a few players to talk about the win (or, in the case of the Utes, loss). I kept thinking how close Utah had gotten and, in their first conference game, they had played like they belonged despite coming up short in the win column. They came into a storied venue and almost knocked off the conference's most storied program. Utah is a good team that was well coached but wasn't quite good enough on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Then there was a tweet that popped up as I got back to the press box to begin transcribing. Hold your horses, the score was in question. The Pac-12 was reviewing what happened at the end of the game. As Michael Lev of the O.C. Register noted down on the field, the touchdown had huge implications for bettors across the country with USC favored by 8-8.5 points.

That's when the story changed from Utah being not quite good enough to, apparently, the Pac-12 officials "miss-communicating" and they were actually nine points from being good enough.

It was an unusual ending that I'm still trying to get my head around because the score itself changed after the fact - regardless what the conference says. The Caesars, MGM and Wynn sports books apparently stayed with the 17-14 result. The Hilton, Cantor, South Point sports books switched to 23-14. Some honored both. If you threw away a winning ticket, that is a bad beat that will be with you for a long time.

A finish that was wild, unbelievable and involved money. In a roundabout way, the first ever Pac-12 game got me very prepared for the Ineligible Bowl next week.

I knew you were good Larry Scott, didn't know you were this good.

Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: September 4, 2011 2:00 am
 

What I learned from the Pac-12 (Week One)

Posted by Bryan Fischer

1. It was a rough week for the Pac-12.

The non-conference slate is usually something the Pac-12 takes pride in but Larry Scott would certainly like to forget week one of the season on the field and concentrate on expansion off of it. Record-wise, the conference did ok at 8-4. Look deeper however, and you'll see some serious flaws. Washington allowed their first ever FCS opponent to throw for 473 yards and three touchdowns on them before Desmond Trufant made a last minute interception. USC, too, held on thanks to a last minute pick and Oregon State lost to an average FCS team in Sacramento State. Rick Neuheisel's seat got warmer with a loss to Houston and, in the week's flagship game, Oregon got pushed around by an LSU team dealing multiple off the field issues. Yes other conferences struggled this weekend, and yes the Pac-12 can rebuild their reputation, but it was just not a great start to the 2011 season out West.

2. Stanford is the conference torch-bearer for now.

There's no question it will be extremely tough for Oregon to get back into the national title race given the back-to-back losses to SEC teams and the way they were manhandled in the opener. Is it impossible for them to end up in New Orleans? No, but it will be a long climb back to the top five to be in that position again. That leaves Stanford as the most likely Pac-12 representative that can make a run. They certainly have the quarterback as Andrew Luck spread the ball around to several new targets as the Cardinal rolled San Jose State 57-3. Their schedule looks even easier now too as they host Oregon and wrap up with an even more suspect Notre Dame team. They have the best player in the country and now it's their turn to lead the charge until the Ducks roll into Palo Alto for the head-to-head showdown to take it back from them.

3. Robert Woods is a special player.

After being limited throughout parts of spring practice and fall camp, it's clear that the Freshman All-American is a key cog in the USC offense. Woods caught a school-record 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns and simply was the Trojans' offense against Minnesota. His quarterback was pretty sharp too, as Matt Barkley completed a school-record 34 passes despite an average-at-best offensive line in front of him. There were plenty of quick passes to Woods Saturday afternoon, but his burst and ability to break tackles are a good reason why he's wearing former great Steve Smith's number. The offense trailed off in the second half but if there's one bright spot for Lane Kiffin watching the film, it's that Woods is a star.

4. Where does Oregon State go from here?

Mike Riley didn't really know what kind of team he had this year and after week one, he really might not know. The Beavers played more freshmen in a game than they have in the last 16 years and even then, it's hard to figure out how they dropped their home opener to an FCS school that was 6-5 last season. It does appear that the team has found a replacement for Jacquizz Rodgers after true freshman Malcolm Agnew rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Katz was not sharp at all, completing 50 percent of his passes with an interception before being replaced at halftime. With so many question marks, Riley and company better figure some things out quickly as they'll travel to a very impressive Wisconsin team next week.

5. Why is Oregon throwing the ball so much?

Yes LSU's defense was good and yes, it was certainly swarming anytime an Oregon player touched the ball. That still doesn't explain why the Ducks couldn't run the ball Saturday night and Chip Kelly had Darron Thomas throw it an eye-popping 54 times. That was the most attempts by a quarterback on the team in over seven years. Seven. It's just not like Kelly's team to purposefully try to establish the run early and often either. Once they got behind you can understand them going to the air but rarely has the run-pass split been like it has been against LSU (and feel free to go back to last year against Auburn too). LaMichael James was held under 60 yards on the ground for his second straight game and it appeared he never could find daylight. Whether that's because he's a half-step slower or because the rebuilt offensive line couldn't create a hole is something the coaching staff will have to figure out. Bottom line, it has to be concerning to see Thomas drop back to throw as much as he did.


 
 
 
 
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