One-dimensional teams don't often enjoy success. In their game against Oregon the previous week, Stanford was only able to run for a net of – 8 yards, the very definition of "one dimensional". Against the UCLA, it was more of the same as the Bruins held the Trees to 83 yards on 33 carries… go ahead and do the math. That was enough for the two Drews (quarterback Drew Olson, 177 yards passing and running back Maurice Drew, 105 yards rushing), to take control of the game. With the win, UCLA remains poised to leverage a spoiler's role in their remaining games at Oregon and at home versus USC into a better bowl bid.
Statistically this was a pretty even match-up; 310 total yard for the Beavers and 331 for Arizona. Arizona quarterback Richard Kovalcheck is gaining proficiency under fire, passing for 235 yards. Again, turnovers (4) were the critical difference that enabled Oregon State to prevail. For the Beavers, tight end Joe Newton is developing into another option for quarterback Derek Anderson besides Mike Hass, a very welcome addition. Still no running game, however and that will remain the Achilles heel of the Beavers, if Beavers in actuality have Achilles heels.
USC 42 - Washington State 12 (Pick: USC 35 -7)
USC rolls… pick a stat – any stat and the superiority of the Trojans would be equally as apparent as it is by the score. First downs 26 –11, total yards 421 – 156, plays from scrimmage 84 – 65, ad nauseum. My guess is that Pullman closed down quickly and quietly after this one. Not much else to say.
Oregon 31 - Washington 6 (Pick: Oregon 35 -0)
This could have been the score at the end of the first half. Instead, with less than five minutes remaining in the game, the score was 17-6, Ducks. Several missed opportunities early in the game left the Oregon defense to stymie a turnover prone (3 fumbles, 4 interceptions) Washington offense. With the Huskies poised to narrow that margin early in the 4th quarter, Ramone Reed's interception at the Oregon goal line served as the turning point. Rivalry games are always colored by emotional intensity and although this final score accurately represents the disparity in talent between these two teams, it in no way reflects how easily this game could have gone another direction.
Five turnovers will make it difficult - if not impossible - to beat a quality football team. Arizona State should have picked some other Saturday to get careless with the ball. Converting only 4 of 15 on 3rd down is certain to stymie offensive production as well. Add it all up and the next thing you know – the game is over and you have a big fat zero on the board. California does have a much-improved defense, but this shutout falls more squarely on the ASU offense. Nevertheless, a big win for Cal, solidifying their position in the upper echelon of the conference standings and positioning them well for the final few games of the season.
On to this weekend's games:
Oregon @ California
Best game on the schedule this week, and the most meaningful in terms of the conference race. The logjam behind USC is starting to sort itself out, and a win here will separate the rest of the pack a bit more. The cross pollination of the two programs via the coaching staff is well documented, and California is the media darling for this season. Both programs are highly regarded for offensive innovation, but this is more likely going to be a defensive game. Injuries to the Golden Bear receiving corps has left quarterback Aaron Rodgers with Geoff McArthur and a lot of inexperience. J.J. Arrington's ability to gain yardage will be a key. The Duck defense has been robust against the run and solid versus the pass. Shapes up as a classic late season conference match-up doesn't it? Hopefully, it will live up to its potential. Oregon will get pressure on Rodgers with their front four, and in the process limit Arrington enough to be in a position to win. Ducks 24 – 21. Keep your nitro tablets close at hand.
Washington State @ UCLA
Much the same result as last week for the Cougs. Maurice Drew should have 100 yards by halftime, and the Bruins roll. UCLA 45 – WSU 12
Arizona @ Washington We've been waiting for this one all season haven't we? Will the Wildcats win their first road conference game since the Carter administration? Can the Huskies win one for the Gilbby? I doubt it. If there were any justice in this world, this one would end as a tie. Let's hope for a torrential rain just to make the setting perfect for such a titanic struggle and flip the coin… Arizona 13 – Washington 10.
Stanford @ Arizona State
This once looked as though it would be an entertaining game. Instead look for Arizona State's Andrew Walter to take his measure of retribution for last week's debacle out on Stanford. An ugly game that should be over early… ASU 35 – Stanford 10.
USC @ Oregon State
A number of observers have indicated this could be the bump in the road for USC… and it will be… and then the Beavers will be road kill – at home, no less. On offense, USC has too much diversity for Oregon State to defend, and the Beavers have no ground threat to prevent USC from blanketing his receivers and making quarterback Derek Anderson's day miserable. Back in 1967, a number one ranked USC team came into Corvallis and was soundly defeated 3-0. This one will be at the opposite end of the spectrum. USC 45 – OSU 17.
Until next week… Happy Tailgating!!!