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October 21, 2008
Pac-10 Review: Week 8
Two teams were idle over the weekend, with the remaining eight Pac-10 squads going head to head. There were big home wins in Tucson and Pasadena but it was quite a different story in the state of Washington.
Mike Stoops entered the biggest game of his head coaching career last Saturday and came out on top, beating California 42-27. The Wildcats took control for good by scoring four touchdowns from four different players in the third quarter. The story of the game has to be freshman running back Keola Antolin's monster performance in relief of benched starter Nicolas Grigsby. After Grigsby's fumble on Arizona's first offensive play, Antolin took over the game with a 149-yard, three touchdown effort against the Golden Bears. Arizona, currently tied for first in the conference, can establish itself as the team to beat in the Pac-10 with a win over USC during homecoming this weekend.
In what seems like the story line every year in Berkeley, Cal has yet again failed at its opportunity to pull ahead in the Pac-10 race. The quarterback case is yet to be solved for the Golden Bears, as an inaccurate Nate Longshore was pulled in the third quarter in Cal's 42-27 loss at Arizona. Jahvid Best appears to be back in form as he racked up 107 yards on 16 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run that exhibited the sophomore's unmatched speed. Now in the thick of the Pac-10 standings, Cal looks to regroup with home games against UCLA and Oregon before heading to Los Angeles to face USC.
Oregon State continues to plow through the bottom of the conference, beating Washington 34-13 in Seattle. Jacquizz Rodgers continues to break down opposing defenses, rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown, while his brother James Rodgers had a career day with 216 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Watch out for the Beavers, especially considering the improvement of quarterback Lyle Moevao. Once a reckless passer early in the season, Moevao completed 18 of his 22 attempted passes (81.8%) and achieved a quarterback rating of 169.75 in the win over Washington.
Stanford's hopes of qualifying for a bowl game took a serious hit by falling at UCLA 23-20 in week eight. There was a lot of what you would expect from the Cardinal in this game as Toby Gerhart rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns, but Stanford's passing game hit rock bottom with Tavita Pritchard completing only 5 of 12 passes for 51 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. Poor fundamental play also hurt Stanford, which committed 10 penalties for 103 yards on top of its three turnovers. I know Stanford kids love to read, so can someone tell Jim Harbaugh to give these guys a rulebook before their next game?
For as unaccomplished of a quarterback as Kevin Craft may be, he sure knows a thing or two about fourth quarter comebacks. Craft found Cory Harkey for a touchdown with 10 seconds in regulation to beat Stanford 23-20. It was a huge and much needed win for UCLA, despite allowing 250 rushing yards. The Bruins now stand at 3-4, and their 2-2 conference record still gives them a shot at making some noise. But after playing five of its first seven games in the Rose Bowl, UCLA will have to test its ability on the road. First stop: Berkeley.
USC is doing all it can to re-enter the BCS Championship picture, beating Washington State 69-0 in Pullman on Saturday. Credit USC for getting its first Pac-10 road win this season, but someone should tell the Trojans that it won't be as easy to repeat at Arizona this weekend. The Trojans know that they need to win out for even a chance at the national championship, but in a conference where it is seemingly impossible to win on the road USC will need to treat its contest against Arizona as the game of the season. Something just isn't right about this team, and I still sense another conference loss and the trip to Tucson is the toughest game left on USC's schedule.
Washington and Washington State:
For the sake of my sanity I have decided to bundle these two teams up this week. Both schools lost at home; Washington fell 34-13 to Oregon State and Washington State was embarrassed 69-0 by USC. That leaves the state of Washington with a combined record of 1-13 and 0-9 in conference. The end of the season game between these two teams should not be included in the rivalry's history and a $25 gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse should replace the Apple Cup as the game's trophy.
Statistic of the Week:
Zero. That is for the zero penalties for zero penalty yards committed by the Arizona Wildcats in their 42-27 win over Cal. One of my first articles for the site talked about how penalties could be the key for Arizona in 2008. Arizona has the fewest penalties and penalty yards in the Pac-10 and has only out penalized its opponent twice, including in its 24-23 loss at Stanford.
Good Rush, Bad Rush:
Good rush: Keola Antolin's 149 yards against Cal. Bad rush: Arizona's student section.
It was a great atmosphere in the Zona Zoo section over the weekend, but I am embarrassed by the fact that a small number of the students saw the need to rush the field in the closing seconds of the game.
Rushing the field happens when fans are so overtaken by unexpected victory that out of confusion the only thing they can think to do is hop the fence and try and touch as many winning players possible.
Over the past four years, I have witnessed five field rushes at Arizona Stadium. Three were pretty legitimate: undefeated UCLA in 2005, #8 Cal in 2006, and #2 Oregon last year. But rushing the field against Cal joins last year's rush against UCLA under the classification of unnecessary and embarrassing.
Please, have some respect for your team and don't make a hard earned win look like a lottery jackpot just for a chance at attention.