Pac-12 football results
Arizona State coach Todd Graham absolutely does not shy away from making grand proclamations.
He talks about winning championships. Everything about his program seems to be the "greatest this" and the "greatest that" ... and all that talk looked like a major backfire when his team started 2-2, with an opening loss to Texas A&M and a blowout home defeat to USC.
Yet, just last week, he kept insisting, "I believe in our guys. I believe in what we're doing."
Finally, the Sun Devils made Graham's words look good.
A week after that 42-14 loss to the Trojans, ASU cleaned up what Graham called "self-inflicted" problems (only one turnover, just four penalties) and smacked seventh-ranked UCLA in the Rose Bowl, 38-23. The Devils started fast, leading 9-0 into the second quarter and perfectly executed the game plan of every UCLA opponent -- harass true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen.
Rosen was just 22-of-40 for 280 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, and the Bruins didn't have a running game to help him.
Overall, it was just an impressive win for an ASU team that improved to 1-1 in the Pac-12 and gets to keep dreaming about a South division title.
"We believe in the high standards that we set," Graham said after the win.
"It was about character. What you see is that our character was exposed. It's not going to be easy. It's never been easy here. I'm not going to apologize for the expectations. We want to win championships and, guess what, we are still playing for them.
"On the same hand, I don't blame our fans for being upset. They should be. We have not played very good. I was pissed about it. We were pissed. We played pissed tonight. Maybe we need to play pissed more often. I mean, that is kind of what it's about."
There is a long way to go. The South looks like a four-team race among Utah (1-0) and a trio of 1-1 teams (UCLA, USC, ASU). Stanford has raced out to a 3-0 start in the North, followed by 2-0 Cal and 1-1 Oregon.
The Cardinal, like the Sun Devils, were somewhat written off after an early loss, but Stanford has bounced back nicely from a 16-6 loss to Northwestern -- an outcome that is looking more understandable by the week, given the Wildcats' continued winning.
It's often not about the early loss. It's about responding and getting hot -- like Stanford has and Arizona State hopes to be the rest of the way.
"We had not played very well for the first four games of the season. For whatever reason, things like that sometimes happen," Graham said.
"Our players deserve the credit. This program is an evolution. Sometimes we want things to happen really fast. ... Our backs have been against the wall. We responded pretty good."
ARIZONA (3-2, 0-2)
Game: Stanford 55, Arizona 17. It got ugly early for the Wildcats, as it had a week earlier at home against UCLA. An injury-plagued UA defense gave up 570 yards -- a season-high for Stanford -- and could not find its usual rhythm on offense with starting quarterback Anu Solomon back at home in Tucson because of a concussion. Senior Jerrard Randall made his first college start, but a slight hamstring injury curtailed the best part of his game. He was just 15-of-28 for 178 yards and a touchdown, also running for 67 yards. He didn't have his usual burst on the ground.
Takeaway: The Wildcats are 0-2, and the injuries are piling up in a hurry. Three of Arizona's top four linebackers -- including All-American Scooby Wright -- did not play against Stanford. The one who did play, DeAndre' Miller, didn't start because of a wrist injury. Wright is likely out for several more games. Even with Wright and good health, Arizona was going to need more playmakers on defense. It has created no turnovers in the past two games. If there is a silver lining, it's that the rest of the month is as light as it gets in the Pac-12 -- vs. Oregon State, at Colorado, vs. Washington State, at Washington.
Next: vs. Oregon State, Oct. 10.
ARIZONA STATE (3-2, 1-1)
Game: Arizona State 38, UCLA 23. ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici passed for 273 yards and two touchdowns, and he also ran for a score, as the Sun Devils turned in their best performance of the season and potentially saved their season. ASU established the tone early by dominating along the defensive line and forcing a safety in the first quarter when pressured UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. ASU kept the pressure on and was up 29-10 entering the fourth quarter. The Devils' defensive stiffened after the Bruins closed to 29-23 in the final period.
Takeaway: This game provided one of the great highlights of the college football season. Running back Kalen Ballage, who missed the first three games of the season because of mono, carried a rugby scrum about 20 yards into the end zone for the final score of the game. With RB Demario Richard, Ballage, QB Mike Bercovici having some wheels, and WR D.J. Foster able to take turns in his old backfield spot, the ASU run game should continue to be dangerous.
Next: vs. Colorado, Oct. 10
CAL (5-0, 2-0)
Game: Cal 34, Washington State 28. The Bears had more trouble than expected against Washington State, needing to overcome an early 21-7 deficit against the visiting Cougars. Cal moved to 5-0, but it was the third win in a row by six points or less. QB Jared Goff was 33-of-45 for 390 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception, while the defense was strong in the second half, allowing only seven points. Safety Damariay Drew picked off a pass with 3:29 left that ended WSU's last serious threat. "The defense is playing so well now," Goff said. "They are playing with the biggest chip on their shoulder I've ever seen."
Takeaway: Now, it begins. Cal's next four games are at Utah, at UCLA, vs. USC, at Oregon. Goff is a high first-round talent, likely the best quarterback available in the 2016 NFL Draft. The receiving corps is deep and talented. The running game isn't half-bad, either. The defense, which allowed 511.8 yards per game last season, is yielding 386.8 so far this year. But believe in the Bears at your own peril. The real test is just getting started.
Next: at Utah, Oct. 10
COLORADO (3-2, 0-1)
Game: Oregon 41, Colorado 24. The Buffs were tied with the Ducks at halftime, 17-17, but then the Ducks managed to pull away. Colorado still made it interesting when quarterback Sefo Liufau scored on a 7-yard run with 10:29 left to cut the lead to 31-24. But the Ducks answered with a 43-yard scoring pass on the ensuing possession to put Colorado back on its heels. Liufau completed 25-of-42 passes for 231 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Colorado's three-game winning streak was snapped.
Takeaway: It's a familiar refrain: The Buffs are competitive and getting harder to beat, but they're not quite ready to win a game like this against the Ducks, who might be down but still have superior personnel. "Our kids definitely believe they can win," coach Mike MacIntyre said. "I don't know when the last time it was 17-17 at the half with Colorado and Oregon. But in no way, shape or form do we take any kind of moral victory. ... We had the opportunity to win the football game in the fourth quarter. You couldn't say that about the last two (Colorado-Oregon games). I think we're making progress."
Next: at Arizona State, Oct. 10
OREGON (3-2, 1-1)
Game: Oregon 41, Colorado 24. Playing as an unranked team for the first time since 2009, Oregon managed to pull away in the second half in a game that was delayed for just over an hour at the start because of lightning. Royce Freeman rushed 27 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns for the Ducks, and his 3-yard run with 10:03 left in the third quarter snapped a 17-17 tie. The Buffaloes drew within 31-24 on a 7-yard run by quarterback Sefo Liufau with 10:29 left in the game, but the Ducks responded with a 43-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Taylor Alie to wide receiver Jalen Brown with 8:43 remaining.
Takeaway: The Ducks aren't used to this uneasy feeling about the quarterback spot, but Vernon Adams missed the game because of a broken finger, and Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie rotated during the game. Lockie, who started, was 8-of-11 for 54 yards. Alie was 4 of 9 for 83 yards. "We had a plan going in, and we wanted to execute that plan," said coach Mark Helfrich. "They've both done enough good things in practice last week to merit playing. We felt, looking at the game plan, we could parcel out aspects for each. We had it divvied up pretty well in our minds, unless something freaky happened." Oregon was ultimately too athletic for the Buffs, but the QB situation needs to be solidified before the Ducks begin a stretch in a few weeks that looks like this: at ASU, vs. Cal, at Stanford, vs. USC.
Next: vs. Washington State, Oct. 10
OREGON STATE (2-2, 0-1)
Next: at Arizona, Oct. 10
SOUTHERN CAL (3-1, 1-1)
Next: vs. Washington, Oct. 8
STANFORD (4-1, 3-0)
Game: Stanford 55, Arizona 17. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey rushed for 156 yards -- his third consecutive 100-yard game on the ground -- and Kevin Hogan completed 17-of-19 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in an easy win. The Cardinal scored on its first eight possessions before having to punt. Stanford, which continues to put its season-opening loss at Northwestern way in the rear-view mirror, put up a season-best 570 yards of offense.
Takeaway: The Cardinal is showing an array of offense, running several plays from the Wildcat formation and inserting redshirt freshman quarterback Keller Chryst into the Arizona game as a change-up to Kevin Hogan. Chryst (6-5, 233) completed all four of his passes and also ran three times for 9 yards. Basically, the offense is just humming along, scoring 40 points in each of three conference games, all made possible by a standout offensive line. And, led by McCaffrey, Stanford has more weapons than it did a year ago.
Next: vs. UCLA, Oct. 15
UCLA (4-2, 1-1)
Game: Arizona State 38, UCLA 23. The Bruins were sitting at 4-0 and looking like the team to beat in the Pac-12, and then it all came crashing down. Arizona State controlled UCLA's run game -- the Bruins had just 21 yards on 20 carries through three quarters -- and built a big enough lead to hold off a comeback. UCLA trailed 29-10 heading into the fourth quarter but Paul Perkins scored on a 1-yard run, and QB Josh Rosen connected with Thomas Duarte on a 17-touchdown pass with 9:19 left to cut the lead to 29-23. But ASU flipped field position and pinned UCLA at its 1. The Bruins deliberately took a safety on the punt snap, and then the Sun Devils put the game away with a touchdown drive.
Takeaway: Puzzling. Very puzzling. UCLA's offensive line was dominated, and that's an area of the game that the Bruins thought they could count on against anybody. RB Paul Perkins was held to 63 yards on 18 carries. With the run game not working, that helped allow ASU to tee off on QB Josh Rosen. That will be the plan of every UCLA opponent, so the Bruins line needs to be up to the task to short-circuit that strategy. "We pretty much dominated the line of scrimmage there," said ASU coach Todd Graham. "We wanted to make them one dimensional and then we could give the new quarterback some exotics and get after him."
Next: at Stanford, Oct. 15
UTAH (4-0, 1-0)
Next: vs. Cal, Oct. 10
WASHINGTON (2-2, 0-1)
Next: at USC, Oct. 8
WASHINGTON STATE (2-2, 0-1)
Game: Cal 34, Washington State 28. Luke Falk completed 34-of-48 passes for 374 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, helping stake WSU to an early 21-7 lead. There wasn't enough offense in the second half, though, and the Cougars committed a key special teams gaffe while up 21-13. Punter Zach Charme fumbled while attempting a run on a fourth-down fake, and Cal defensive back Stefan McClure scooped up the ball and ran 45 yards for a touchdown. WSU went back up 28-20, but Cal scored twice in less than two minutes late in the third quarter, the touchdowns sandwiching a successful on-side kick. Falk was intercepted at the Cal 10 with 3:29 left to end WSU's last true threat.
Takeaway: The season-opening loss to lower-division Portland State likely is going to haunt Washington State all season in its quest for a bowl game, but the good news is that the Cougars have played pretty well since then, winning at Rutgers, beating Wyoming and then coming close to knocking off an undefeated Cal team. Figure that WSU at least has a fighting chance the rest of the way against Oregon State, Arizona, Colorado and Washington. "I think we improved," Falk said after the Cal game. "Overall, we played pretty well offensively. There were times in the game we really could have taken control of the game. But only seven points in the second half, that's unacceptable."
Next: at Oregon, Oct. 10
--What East Coast bias? ESPN's popular College GameDay show is stopping in a Pac-12 city for the second time in three weeks. Given the unexpected nature of the battle between a pair of undefeated teams -- Cal and Utah -- GameDay is headed to Salt Lake City this weekend. The show's other choice likely was Northwestern at Michigan. GameDay was in Tucson for the UCLA-Arizona game on Sept. 26.
--Arizona State WR D.J. Foster set a school record Saturday with a catch in his 45th consecutive game, which is the longest streak in the nation. That broke the school record, which was initially set by receiver John Jefferson in the mid-1970s.
--UCLA is off this Saturday in advance of a Thursday night game at Stanford on Oct. 15, and the Bruins then have another Thursday night game a week later against visiting Cal.
"Now we have two Thursday night games," coach Jim Mora said. "It's unbelievable that we're forcing them to miss six days of class with two Thursday night games. After the Cal game, they'll be taking midterms the next Monday. So, it's going to be a real grind for us these next two weeks. We have to manage our emotion and our time and we've got to do the right things. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be very difficult.
"I have a real problem with the two Thursday night games in a row. I think it's a real injustice for our young men."
--FOX Sports drew the Twitter ire of Arizona fans when heading into the second half of the ASU-UCLA game, it put up a graphic touting the Sun Devils defense with the headline "Desert Swarm Defense." Uh, no. The Desert Swarm nickname relates to the University of Arizona's nationally-dominant defense from about 1992-1995.
--USC cornerback Iman Marshall was one of the nation's most touted recruits in the 2015 class, and he's proven to be one of the Pac-12's top true freshmen. He has started the past two games with Kevon Seymour out with a knee injury. Marshall's 17 tackles are third on the team, and he has great size at 6-fot-2, 200 pounds. "Iman has really come on strong these last few weeks," said USC coach Steve Sarkisian. "He's a physical guy at the corner position and we needed it, so the timing was almost impeccable with Kevon being down."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've found an identity on offense. We want to run the ball, we want to be physical. Ground and pound style. That opens up the passing game. The O-line played a great game, opening holes. Once we get into a rhythm on offense we're hard to stop." -- Stanford QB Kevin Hogan
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 5 IN THE PAC-12:
1. Kevin Hogan is playing the best ball of his career. Stanford's senior quarterback has completed 44-of-56 passes, with six touchdowns and one interception, in leading the Cardinal to a 3-0 start in league play. Hogan sometimes gets labeled as a "game-manager," but Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said that is not the case. "I think he's a pretty smooth operator as far as being able to make all the throws," Rodriguez said. "He does that as well as anybody I've seen."
2. It's the Conference of Quarterbacks once again. Cal's Jared Goff is the top NFL quarterback prospect in the country. USC's Cody Kessler is completing 73 percent of his passes, with 15 touchdowns and one interception. Stanford's Kevin Hogan, as noted, is playing at an elite level. Those are three of the top eight quarterbacks in the country in passing efficiency.
3. Christian McCaffrey might need a Heisman campaign. The Stanford sophomore running back is quickly becoming one of the nation's top all-purpose threats. He has 601 rushing yards, a team-high 15 catches for 168 yards, and he had a 67-yard kick return against Arizona. McCaffrey has 565 all-purpose yards in the past two weeks.
4. Arizona's defense is in a world of hurt. The Wildcats allowed 111 points in losses to UCLA and Stanford, yielding points in 17 of 22 full possessions. And All-American linebacker Scooby Wright, likely out for several weeks, isn't riding to the rescue.
5. UCLA can't hide its defensive losses forever. The season-ending injuries to linebacker Myles Jack, defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and cornerback Fabian Moreau are too significant to not be a factor in some games through a long season. Coach Jim Mora doesn't want to make excuses, but you wonder if the outcome against ASU would have been different with those three NFL talents.