What a week for PAC 12 football. Arizona set the stage on Thursday night by knocking off Oregon for the second season running, although it wasn’t quite the beating the Ducks received the year before. Arizona State beat USC on a last second Hail Mary, with a backup quarterback no less, while Connor Halliday’s record-setting performance wasn’t enough to beat Cal. Oregon State held off a spirited Colorado squad, while Utah, in the other shocker of the week, beat UCLA in Los Angeles. In the sole non-conference game, Stanford was beaten on a late TD by Notre Dame.
Game of the Week
Arizona State Sun Devils @ USC Trojans
Both teams had different performances the week before. Arizona State had a rough day against UCLA, while the Trojans dominated Oregon State. The first quarter saw both defenses having the upper hand, and the only points either team had to show for their efforts was Nelson Agholor’s 53 yard punt return, that gave USC a 7-0 lead.
With the running attack going nowhere, the Sun Devils again turned to the arm of Mike Bercovici, who was prolific, but turnover-prone against the Bruins. This time though, Bercovici displayed better accuracy, and finally broke through the Trojan defense in the second quarter, finishing a 73 yard drive with a TD pass to Jaelen Strong.
USC’s Cody Kessler led a nice drive of his own, but the Trojans failed on fourth down. Bercovici made them pay on the next play, hitting Strong for a 77 yard score. ASU took a 15-7 lead with a two-point conversion to cap Strong’s TD. USC marched straight back down the field though, and Javorius Allen finished it off from the one yard line.
ASU punted on their next drive, and Kessler led a field goal on the next, regaining the lead for the Trojans, just before halftime.
USC drove into Arizona State territory on the first drive of the half, but was forced to punt. The Sun Devils struck back, courtesy of a couple of Trojan penalties, but the drive bogged down at the 2, and kicker Alex Garoutte converted from 19 yards out. THe Trojans were on the march yet again, this time with Andre Heidari converting from 33 yards, restoring USC’s slender 2 point lead.
Arizona State punted again, but the Trojans hit back on a drive that was almost all Allen. The running back ran for 25 yards, and caught for 46 more, before Kessler ran the last eight for the TD, giving USC a nine point lead.
After another Arizona State punt, USC continued to pound the ball, but again they stalled in Arizona State territory, and were forced to punt. Bercovici found his range again, leading the Sun Devils downfield and dumping the ball of to running back DJ Foster, who took it in for a score. ASU attempted an onside kick, but the Trojans recovered. On the next play, Allen tore through the heart of Arizona State’s defense for a 53 yard TD run.
On the next play after kickoff, USC cornerback whiffed on a pass to Cameron Smith, and he took it 73 yards to pull within two points again. USC recovered the onside kick again, but went nowhere, giving Arizona State the ball with 26 seconds left. Bercovici hit Gary Chambers for 26 yards, to move to the USC 46, giving the Sun Devils time for one more pass. Bercovici heaved the ball down towards the goalline, and a mysteriously uncovered Jaelen Strong plucked the ball out of the air, taking it into the endzone for the winning score.
Bercovici threw for 510 yards and five TDs, with Strong catching 10 passes for 202 yards and three scores. Allen led the Trojans with 143 yards and two TDs on the ground, and caught four passes for 86 yards.
Offensive Player of the Week
Connor Halliday, Washington State Cougars
There was a ton of fine performances this weekend, but when a guy breaks a record, he’s got to get some credit for it. Halliday was outstanding against Cal, completing 49 of 70 passes for 734 yards and six TDs, chipping in with 17 yards on three carries and a goose egg in the interception department. He helped bump up his stats with TD passes of 90 and 86 yards as he led the Cougars to an impressive 812 yards of offense. The Cougs may have lost, but when you lead your team to 59 points, you have to expect to win. Halliday’s name will go down in the annals for his performance, but I bet for now he’d trade that record in for a defense and special teams.
Defensive Player of the Week
Nate Orchard, Utah Utes
At this early stage of the season, the race for PAC 12 Defensive Player of the Year looks to be between Danny Shelton of Washington, and Orchard, both of whom are defensive linemen. Orchard took a big step in the race as he played a key role in the Utes stunning win over over UCLA. The Utah defensive line manhandled their Bruin counterparts, as the Utes came up with an excellent 10 sack performance. Orchard was the star of the show, getting to UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley four times. It is little surprise the Utes won.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Trevor Davis, California Golden Bears
Like the league’s offenses, there was plenty of strong performances throughout the PAC 12, but Davis wins top dog for his performance against Washington State. With Halliday tearing apart the Bears secondary, the young offense had its hands full trying to maintain the breakneck pace. This is where Davis comes in. The Cougars kicked to Davis only twice, but the junior took both back kicks for scores, with 100 and 98-yard returns. Both came in the third quarter. The first came after Washington State scored a TD to take a 38-27 lead, and the second just 3 minutes later, when the Cougars re-established that 11 point advantage. Just for good measure, caught 2 TD passes, the last of which was the game winner, a 51-yard pass he caught in stride and outran the corner to the endzone. TD by name, TD by nature.
Team of the Week
Arizona deserves some praise for beating Oregon again, but the Utes have lacked the signature win that might see the old guard finally welcome them into the PAC 12 fold. In their game against UCLA last season, the Utes lost just 34-27, even with Travis Wilson’s accuracy taking the day off as he threw six interceptions. This year, Wilson was relieved early by Kendal Thompson, who threw no picks. In fact, fact he hardly threw at all (95 yards, one TD), as the Runnin’ Utes ran over the Bruins, with Devontae Booker and Thompson combining for 239 yards and a score. The defense did the rest, beating Hundley to a pulp, and chipping in with a pick-six, while the special teams was its usual outstanding self. Ultra-reliable kicker Andy Phillips hit all three of his field goals, including the game winner from 29 yards out, while punter Tom Hackett ensured the Bruins started in poor field position. The coverage units did an excellent job shutting down UCLA’s dangerous returners. Just an outstanding team effort against one of the top teams in the nation.
* Section photo credit to Victor Decolongon, Getty Images; Featured photo (above) credit to Robert Hanashiro, USA Today Sports