With only a couple of conference games played to date, the PAC 12 schedule kicked off in anger this weekend, and it certainly whetted appetites for what was to come. Endless mistakes turned a close Arizona State/UCLA contest into a blowout; Cal and Colorado went to overtime; Washington State fought back from a big deficit to top Utah; and Stanford won the day in a tough defensive struggle with Washington. The opening salvos have been fired. Let battle commence!
Game of the Week
Washington State Cougars @ Utah Utes
A 21-0 lead in the first quarter should mean game over, but Connor Halliday never let up as he brought the Cougars back from the brink. In saying that, Halliday may have led WSU back, but he wasn’t the real hero of the day. You won’t hear this very often, but that plaudit goes to Cougar defense, who did an excellent job bottling up Travis Wilson and the Utah offense. Granted, running back Devontae Booker gashed them for 178 yards and a 76-yard TD run, but they came up with timely fourth-quarter stops on third down, keeping Booker from gaining a solitary yard each time.
It was all Utah early, as they scored in each phase of the game in the first 10 minutes. Halliday overthrew when he should have underthrown at the 10 minute mark, and cornerback Eric Rowe made an excellent interception, changed direction, and returned it 11 yards to draw first blood. Exactly one minute later, the Utes forced a punt, and WSU made the mistake of punting to Kaelin Clay, who caught the ball amidst a bunch of players, then traversed the field and took it back 58 yards for another TD, his THIRD of the young season. The Cougars were forced to punt again, but this time downed it inside the Utah 20. No problem. Booker got the handoff and took off on a weaving run through the Cougar secondary, scoring from 76 yards out.
Then Halliday woke up. The senior got the Cougs on the scoreboard with a 35-yard pass to Dom Williams, but Utah’s Andy Phillips booted a field goal at the end of the half to forge a 24-7 lead.
A fourth down failure ended Washington State’s initial second-half drive, but Halliday ended the next drive with a TD pass to Vince Mayle. Phillips kicked another field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, but that was it for scoring by the Utes.
Halliday marched the Cougars down the field yet again, with the help of some good running by Jamal Morrow, and finished off the drive with another scoring pass to Williams. On their next drive, Halliday hit Mayle again, who caught the ball in stride, made a tackler miss, and took it 81 yards to the house.
Wilson tried to bring the Utes back, but the inaccuracy he struggled with all day hampered the Utah comeback attempt. Wilson completed just 18 of 38 passes for 165 yards, while Halliday threw a couple of interceptions, but also threw for 417 yards and four TDs. Washington State started to show real signs of life after a tough start to the season.
Offensive Player of the Week
Brett Hundley, UCLA Bruins
A shoutout goes to Jared Goff and Sefo Liufau, who both threw for an impressive seven TD passes on Saturday, but Hundley’s effort was easily the highlight of the week. After coming out of the game last week with an elbow injury, Hundley looked none the worse for wear this week as he got back into the thick of the Heisman action in the blowout of Arizona State. Hundley was on fire, completing 18 of 23 passes for 355 yards and four TDs, including not one, but two 80-yard scoring passes. He didn’t have to do it all himself, but the inability of the Sun Devil defense to even slow him down put ASU under pressure to score on every drive, which resulted in many turnovers. Hundley also chipped in with 72 yards and a score on eight carries in a complete performance.
Defensive Player of the Week
Peter Kalambayi, Stanford Cardinal
With Stanford’s offense tripping over it’s own feet and allowing Washington to hang around throughout the game, the Cardinal needed to turn to their rebuilt defense to save the day – and they came through. The names may be mostly different, but the unit looked just as tenacious as last season’s as Stanford choked the life out of Cyler Miles and the Husky offense. The Cardinal allowed just 179 yards, 98 of them coming through the air, as Washington could make little headway. Kalambayi was a huge part of that defensive surge, sacking Miles three times for 35 yards, shutting down one drive before it started, and killing two other promising drives, including the Huskies’ final attempt which saw them get as far as the Stanford 28 before Kalambayi notched his third sack of the day.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Kaelin Clay, Utah Utes
This is starting to sound like a broken record, but seriously, this will soon be known as the ‘Kaelin Clay Award’ at the rate the senior receiver is returning. Against Washington State, Clay scored his third punt return touchdown of the season on a 58-yard return, and he also has a kick return for a TD. In four games. Clay is a big part of Utah’s 3-1 record, and he could break some NCAA records before the season is out. He finished his night with 2 punt returns for 66 yards, and 2 kick returns for 38 yards. In addition, shoutouts to Ishmael Adams and Ryan Murphy, who scored on kick returns for UCLA and Oregon State respectively.
Team of the Week
After last week’s loss to Boston College that shocked everyone outside of the Massachusetts area, and likely many within, the Trojans discovered the best medicine was to go out and beat up a conference opponent. Said opponent, Oregon State, no doubt came into the game with upset on their minds, hoping to knock off the Trojans at home for the first time since 1960. The truth is, they never really got started.
Both defenses were in the ascendancy early, USC cornerback Su’a Cravens opened the scoring with a 31-yard pick-six. Not to be outdone, OSU’s Ryan Murphy spotted a big hole to the left on the ensuing kick return, and shrugged off a last-gasp tackle as he took it to the house. The Beavers took their first lead as they kicked a field goal early in the second quarter.
But this isn’t about Oregon State, it’s about the Trojans, and so was the rest of the game as they dismantled Sean Mannion and the Beaver attack. Oregon State managed just 181 yards and converted 1 of 10 third down attempts as the offense went nowhere fast. On the other hand, the Beaver defense played hard early, making a ton of plays in the backfield (11 tackles for loss).
As the game progressed the defense wore down from spending too much time on the field, and two-yard gains became five-yard gains, while the USC receivers were a little more open. Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler completed 24 of 32 passes for 261 yards and two TDs, while Javorius Allen and Justin Davis combined for 197 yards and another two scores on the ground. This was a needed win for USC after last week, and moves them to 2-0 in conference play.
*Section Photo credit to AP; Featured Photo (above) credit to Chris Nicoll, USA Today Sports