Pac-10 Preview: Week 2
Arizona entered the season unsure about its rebuilt defense, but the Wildcats exited their 41-2 victory at Toledo with more optimism than ever.
In the week before the game, coach Mike Stoops said he was seeing the signs he needed to see from his defense -- effort, attention to detail, speed. Still, with seven new starters, including all three linebackers, the learning curve was supposed to be at least a couple of games.
While the offense was spectacular at times against Toledo -- Juron Criner made a pair of "Play of the Day" catches -- the defense emerged as the main storyline, not allowing any points and giving up just 183 yards.
"To shut them out, that was really important for our defense," Stoops said.
"We'll gain from this. I thought our new kids played well. ... I saw a lot of stuff out there that we need to clean up, but I'm very pleased with our attitude and the way we prepared. This has been a hard place to play for a lot of people. To get a shutout is very satisfying for our players."
Arizona will play against more potent offenses in what looks to be a great year for offense in the Pac-10, but Toledo isn't a weakling on that side of the ball. To hold the Rockets below any yardage total they had last season was a significant accomplishment for a young defense that looked fast and athletic.
It will also build confidence in Arizona's new co-defensive coordinators. Linebackers coach Tim Kish called the defensive schemes from the coach's box, while secondary coach Greg Brown handled duties from the sideline.
"This is a new experience for a lot of coaches," Stoops said. "For the defensive guys to get a shutout in the first game, that's neat. I'm happy for those guys."
Same goes for the entire team as the Wildcats look to roll in Week 2 at home against The Citadel.
--Arizona was the first Pac-10 team to play in a Mid-American Conference stadium. The Wildcats' win dropped Toledo to 0-5 all-time against the Pac-10.
--The game against Toledo was the middle of a three-game series between the schools. Arizona also won 41-16 in Tucson in 2008. The next game will be in Tucson in the 2012 season.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Juron Criner -- The junior, who missed the majority of camp because of a concussion and mouth injury, was spectacular in the opener. He caught a variety of short passes and turned them into decent gains, and then made two big plays down the field in the second half. One of his highlights was a 45-yard reception, made falling down as he used his right hand to knock a pass off the defender and onto his own legs, where he secured the ball while on his back. He also made a 32-yard over-the-shoulder touchdown grab in the end zone. Criner had 11 catches for 187 yards -- outgaining the entire Toledo team by himself.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Nic Grigsby -- He rushed for 135 yards against Toledo when the teams met in 2008, and although he wasn't that prolific Friday, he had perhaps the key play of the game. Arizona's offense had stalled in the first half, and the Wildcats led only 7-2 when Grigsby, using his cutback skills, darted through the Toledo defense for a 36-yard score with 3:03 to go before half. He ended with eight carries for 53 yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We were the question mark going into this -- the linebackers. I think I can speak for Derek and Jake in saying that we wanted to come out and show -- mostly our fans but America, too -- that we are capable and that this defense isn't the weak link. We hope to continue to get better and just be a great team." -- LB Paul Vassallo, one of Arizona's three new starting linebackers, along with Derek Earls and Jake Fischer.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Each member of the new starting linebacker crew did some good things, helping ease concerns about that unit. Junior college transfer Paul Vassallo led the team in tackles with 10, including one for loss. Derek Earls, another junior college transfer, looked great in pass coverage, breaking up three passes and coming up with an interception to set up a touchdown just before the half. Sophomore Jake Fischer, who often came out in nickel situations, had six tackles and one sack.
--QB Nick Foles was mostly working quick hitters and screen passes, so it wasn't a surprise that his completion percentage was high. But he also fired passes into small areas over the middle and dropped a few touch passes right into the arms of his receivers, such as a 9-yarder to David Douglas in the back of the end zone to end the first drive of the season. Foles was 32 of 37 for 360 yards, and that 86.5 percent accuracy set a school record (minimum 30 completions).
STILL NEEDS WORK: The offensive line didn't exactly blow Toledo off the ball, with the running game producing 105 yards on 25 attempts. The worse moment came in the first half, when left guard Conan Amituanai was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety and Toledo's only points of the game.
--The extra point after Arizona's fifth touchdown went awry because of a bad snap from true freshman long-snapper Chase Gorham.
--Backup QB Matt Scott entered the game early in the second quarter in a tough spot, with Arizona backed up to its 4-yard line. He had apparently scrambled for a first down on third-and-11, but that was the play in which Arizona was called for holding in the end zone.
--FB Taimi Tutogi, who was questionable entering the game after missing most of fall camp because of an ankle injury, did see some action against Toledo. He let a high pass from Nick Foles go off his hands for an interception.
The opponent -- in this case, lower-division Portland State -- didn't much matter. Arizona State had a new, fast-paced, no-huddle offense and simply needed to see how it would handle.
Coach Dennis Erickson liked what he saw after the first test drive of the season.
Arizona State, with new quarterback Steven Threet, new starting running back Cameron Marshall and new coordinator Noel Mazzone, beat up on Portland State 54-9 on Sept. 4, gaining 553 total yards.
"No disrespect to Portland State by any means, but we had better players than they did. The good thing is we executed and I thought our speed showed up and we got the big play," Erickson said. "It was good. We haven't moved the ball like that against anybody in a long time."
That was the encouraging sign for Erickson, who went for a makeover of his offense after last season, when Arizona State couldn't scratch together enough points to take advantage of the best defense in the Pac-10 and finished 4-8.
Early in the 2010 season opener, the Sun Devils struggled with dropped passes and errant shotgun snaps but settled down to make the big play against an inferior opponent. Arizona State had four scoring plays of at least 28 yards, including two of at least 50 yards.
"People know what we're going to do now so it's not going to be quite as easy as it was tonight, but we're just going to have to get better," Erickson said. "But it was fun to watch them play and watch them make plays."
Arizona State will get another Football Championship Subdivision foe Sept. 11 when it plays host to Northern Arizona.
--Arizona State's 54 points against Portland State was its most in a game since a 63-16 win over Temple on Sept. 1, 2005. Also, the Sun Devils scored 30 points in the first half, their most since getting 31 against San Jose State on Sept. 1, 2007.
--True freshman RB Deantre Lewis scored three touchdowns in his first college game -- on a 28-yard reception, a 62-yard reception and a 3-yard run. He ended up with three catches for 100 yards and five carries for 24 yards.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Steven Threet -- Substandard quarterback play was a problem for the Sun Devils last season, but Threet, who started eight games at Michigan in 2008, hopes to change that. He was 14 of 21 for 239 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, in the opener -- and his completion percentage would have been better is not for some flat-out drops by his receivers. Threet helped ASU keep a good pace in its new no-huddle spread offense.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Cameron Marshall -- The sophomore is taking over as the primary tailback for the Sun Devils, and he showed his burst early when he found a big hole on the left side and charged through it for a 50-yard score. He added a 38-yard scoring run in the first quarter and a 5-yard score just before the half. He finished with this unusual line: four rushes for 104 yards. "The holes were open, so a big shout-out to the O-line and the tight end for leading the blocking," he said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We need to continue to improve, but we have more depth than we've ever had and when that happens, you're going to be better on cover teams and better on return teams and you're just going to be faster at covering because you have better players doing it." -- Coach Dennis Erickson, on special teams play in the season-opener.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Junior college transfer safety Eddie Elder was inconsistent in camp, which was a bit baffling after his strong spring practice. Nevertheless, he earned a starting spot in the opener and made that decision look good. Elder picked off a pass, and his pressure on Portland State QB Connor Kavanaugh forced an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
--Senior PK Thomas Weber, who won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker as a freshman, struggled last season because of a groin injury. His longest made kick in 2009 was a 35-yard extra-point attempt. He could be back in his All-America form, however, hitting a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter against Portland State. He did miss earlier, however, from 33 yards.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Arizona State was the worst team in the nation last season in penalties (9.25 per game) and penalty yards (84.67 per game). On the Sun Devils' second snap of the season opener, they were penalized for a false start. It took less than six minutes of game time for ASU to be assessed its first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the season. ASU had three major penalties (two others were declined) as it rang up 11 flags for 93 yards.
--Junior WR Gerell Robinson, expected to be a big factor in ASU's new spread offense, missed most of camp because of a hamstring injury and did not play in the opener.
--Sophomore DT William Sutton, who was second string in camp, and redshirt freshman LB Anthony Jones were declared academically ineligible before the season.
--Second-string DT Corey Adams (torn meniscus in left knee) likely will miss the first three weeks of the season.
--Junior college transfer Brice Schwab started his first game at ASU at right guard.
Keenan Allen's performance in Cal's 52-3 victory over UC Davis in the Bears' season opener Sept. 4 provoked the obvious question: Can he do anything similar against a team like Colorado, Cal's opponent in its second game Sept. 11 in Berkeley?
Allen, a true freshman wide receiver, was the star of the opener, providing a number of big plays in his college debut, albeit against a Football Championship Series school.
One play provided a capsule report of his football skills. Early in the second quarter, Allen took a handoff on an end-around designed for him to pass the ball. When he saw no one open, he simply reversed his field, weaved his way through the defense and scored on a dramatic touchdown run that officially covered 18 yards, but actually totaled about 50 yards.
Those few seconds told us a lot about Allen:
--Cal coaches will do anything to get him the ball, which means handing it to him on end-arounds. He carried three times Sept. 4.
--Allen can throw the ball. Although he did not get an opportunity to do so, the mere fact that the play called for a pass suggested he's a proficient thrower.
--He showed good judgment. When he saw the intended receiver covered, Allen did not force the ball, never panicked or hesitated and looked for somewhere to run instead.
-- Allen can make something out of nothing while carrying the ball, showing a willingness to be creative while following blockers effectively and making tacklers miss.
"That play speaks not only to his athleticism but to his intelligence as a player," Cal offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said.
Allen has an efficient elegance that makes everything he does look effortless and screams stardom.
"He's unreal," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said.
"He's just a natural with the ball in his hands," quarterback Kevin Riley said. "Give him a chance to make a play and he will."
Allen played a little more than half the game, but he chalked up 176 all-purpose yards on his eight touches (he also returned a kickoff 18 yards). He had 120 receiving yards on four catches and scored two touchdowns.
Things won't be this easy in the games to come. UC Davis does not have the athletes of Pac-10 schools or Colorado, Cal's next opponent.
The Buffaloes beat Colorado State 24-3 in their opener, limiting the Rams to 49 rushing yards. Colorado intercepted three passes and did not yield a point until the fourth quarter.
Colorado will join the Pac-10 either next season or in 2012.
--The win was the 68th for Cal coach Jeff Tedford, moving him ahead of Pappy Waldorf for the most wins by a Cal coach in the modern era. The school's all-time leader in coaching wins is Andy Smith, who got the last of his 74 wins in 1925.
--Cal is 9-0 against UC Davis, outscoring the Aggies by a combined 351-23. Prior to the Sept. 4 game, the last time the schools met was 1939.
--Keenan Allen was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for slapping hands with a fan after his touchdown catch in the third quarter. "I didn't know you couldn't do that until after the play," he said. Any contact by a player with a fan is an automatic penalty.
--Cal's defense held UC Davis to 81 yards total offense. It was the first time Cal held a team under 150 yards since the Bears limited San Jose State to 147 yards in 1994. Cal did not have records on the last time it limited an opponent to fewer yards.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Keenan Allen -- The true freshman touched the ball eight times (four receptions, three runs and a kickoff return) in a little over one half and had 176 all-purpose yards. He had 120 receiving yards, scored one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown. And every play in which he was involved was a mini-highlight film. Granted, it was against UC Davis, but he is a big play waiting to happen.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Isi Sofele -- Shane Vereen's backup rushed for 52 yards on nine carries, including an impressive 17-yard run on his first carry, showing that he has big-play potential. Sofele won a preseason battle to become the backup, a position that gets a lot of work in Jeff Tedford's offense. Sofele is also an excellent pass receiver, although he did not catch any passes against UC Davis.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He can do almost anything." -- Jeff Tedford, on freshman WR Keenan Allen.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Cal defense yielded only 81 yards total offense against UC Davis, and if that is an indication of things to come, Cal should do well this season. The Bears have a new defensive coordinator in Clancy Pendergast, and he is giving the defense a variety of looks, primarily to help rush the passer. The Bears' pass defense, which was terrible last season, yielded only 67 passing yards as UC Davis quarterbacks went 9-for-25. Whether the defense is really as good as it played in the opener may be determined in the Bears' second game against Colorado.
STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Kevin Riley had a good game overall, going 14-for-20, but he fumbled a snap to end the Bears' first drive, and made a few bad decisions that resulted in penalties. The Bears need him to be consistent to be successful. After completing his first nine passes, he was just 5-for-11, and one of those completions came on a great catch by Marvin Jones that would have been ruled pass interference if he hadn't caught it.
--Freshman LB Dave Wilkerson, cleared by the NCAA earlier in the week, played quite a bit in the opener and made a tackle. He had been held out of practice for much of the preseason because his academic records had not been approved by the NCAA.
--TB Shane Vereen missed a lot of preseason camp with a hamstring injury, but he showed no ill effects of the injury in the opener and said afterward that it feels fine.
--OT Matt Summers-Gavin returned to practice a few days before the opener after missing most of preseason camp with a knee injury. He did not play in the opener but may play in the Sept. 11 game against Colorado.
Oregon, even without suspended running back LaMichael James and with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli playing for Mississippi, is off to a record-breaking start.
The Ducks still have all kinds of skill and speed in their read-option offense, which rolled over hapless New Mexico 72-0 on Sept. 4. Oregon gained a school-record 720 yards total offense and set an Autzen Stadium record with 35 first downs.
Oregon led 59-0 at halftime, so the final score and all the stats could have been much more lopsided if the Ducks had kept the accelerator all the way to the floor.
"They didn't exceed my expectations," coach Chip Kelly told the Oregonian, talking about his team.
"We go out and just play. We didn't talk before the game about how many points we were going to score. The only thing I want to know is how hard our players play. I thought they played really hard today."
James, a speedy sophomore, will be back for a much tougher game Sept. 11 -- at Tennessee -- but it was another speedy sophomore, Kenjon Barner, who stole the show against New Mexico. Barner scored five touchdowns, including a 60-yard reception on a screen pass, in the first 21:09 of the game.
All in all, the rout of New Mexico was a great launching pad into a big non-conference game, and it was just what the 11th-ranked Ducks needed to erase the memories of the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, which was followed by a tumultuous offseason.
So, bring on Tennessee.
"We got a tough SEC team, and we're expecting bigger guys and more speed all around," linebacker Casey Matthews told the Portland Tribune. "We're expecting a little tougher opponent."
--Oregon, which arguably has the fastest defense in the Pac-10, smothered New Mexico in the opener, forcing five turnovers and holding the Lobos to 107 total yards. It was the first shutout for Oregon since a 35-0 victory over visiting Stanford in 2003. "I thought the D-line was relentless and that was a big deal for us," coach Chip Kelly said.
--Second-year coach Chip Kelly remained undefeated at home. He is 8-0 in Autzen Stadium, and the Ducks have won 11 in a row in the loudest stadium in the Pac-10.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Kenjon Barner -- The sophomore was unstoppable, rushing 17 times for 147 yards and four touchdowns, and turning a screen pass into a 60-yard touchdown -- all of which came in the first half. "I didn't ever imagine that'd happen," he said of his five touchdowns. "They were all fun. I had five touchdowns in high school, but I never expected five in college. Unbelievable." When LaMichael James returns this week from suspension, Barner will be considered "1-A" on the depth chart.
KEEP AN EYE ON: CB Cliff Harris -- The sophomore took over for Kenjon Barner on punt returns in the second quarter and scored twice against New Mexico, on returns of 61 and 64 yards. So, he is 2-for-2 on the only two punt returns of his college career. "I can't even put it into words," he told the Salem Statesman Journal. Barner is still the regular punt returner, however, and figures to be back at that spot Sept. 11 at Tennessee.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've been saying all along, I think he's the most underrated player in the country." -- Coach Chip Kelly, on sophomore running back Kenjon Barner, who scored five touchdowns in the first half against New Mexico.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Oregon had two players rush for at least 100 yards against New Mexico -- Kenjon Barner (17 carries for 147 yards) and Remene Alston (21 carries, 110 yards). That marks the fifth time in the last 21 games the Ducks have had a pair of rushers reach triple digits.
--Sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas, making his first career start after beating out fifth-year senior Nate Costa, threw an interception while attempting a screen pass on Oregon's opening drive. Thomas didn't panic after that, settling in to complete 13 of 23 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns, before being pulled from the game late in the first half with the Ducks sporting a huge lead. "I thought Darron did a nice job in his first start taking what the defense gave him," coach Chip Kelly said. "He did a nice job playing within himself. Most guys are so high that they throw the first ball out of the stadium."
STILL NEEDS WORK: While almost everything went right in the opener, coach Chip Kelly wasn't thrilled about the seven penalties for 70 yards against New Mexico. "We will clean up some penalties," he said.
--Freshman walk-on PK Eric Solis handled the place-kicking in the opener because of a one-game suspension for PK Rob Beard. Solis made 11 kicks -- eight PATs and field goals of 24, 29 and 30 yards. After making 11 in a row, he had a 26-yard field goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter.
--True freshman DT Ricky Heimuli played in the opener and was credited with a pass breakup.
--Sophomore RB LaMichael James, who was suspended for the season-opener against New Mexico, watched from the sideline. He will be available for the Sept. 11 game at Tennessee.
A bye this early in the season isn't the usual, but what can Oregon State do?
"It is what it is," OSU coach Mike Riley said.
There's also the thought that maybe it isn't such a bad time for a week without a game, knowing the Beavers still have another bye in October when they reach the midpoint of their schedule.
The week off now gives them some extra time to get over the voiced disappointment and frustration of missing a chance at posting a noteworthy victory over a top-10 team, instead of dropping a 30-21 decision to TCU at Cowboys Stadium.
With no game in front of the Beavers until the home opener Sept. 18 against Louisville, OSU can do some work in the front lines both offensively and defensively. More than passes off target -- Ryan Katz was 9 of 25 in his debut as the starting quarterback -- or miscommunication that led to a late safety, OSU's issues are as basic and blocking and tackling.
On offense, the Beavers ended up with a net rushing total of 73 yards, with Heisman Trophy candidate Jacquizz Rodgers limited to 75 yards on 18 rushes. Without more balance, opposing defenses are going to keep up the pressure on Katz. Defensively, OSU tried to stave off the heat and humidity with a steady rotation of linemen and linebackers, using eight of the latter. Or maybe it was an attempt to find somebody who could stand up to the Horned Frogs, or corral one of those TCU running backs or scrambling quarterback Andy Dalton, who combined for 278 rushing yards.
That all led to the OSU defense being on the field for nearly 40 minutes.
"We wanted to rotate people in and out," Riley said. "At the same time, they kept the ball a long time.
"Time of possession must have been incredible."
It was, the results weren't and now OSU can get back to some basics as the best use for a bye week.
--The previous three OSU quarterbacks to make their starting debut in a season opener all were involved in OSU wins, but more than Ryan Katz's abilities, that may point to the scheduling. Those previous three Beavers to debut as starters all played their openers at home and none against a formidable opponent such as TCU, which is already in the top 10 of national polls and could make a run at reaching the national title game.
--OSU's record fell to 11-14 in games played prior to Oct. 1 over the past seven seasons. The Beavers have still rallied to play in bowl games in five of the previous six seasons.
--Johnny Hekker had a 23-yard completion on a fake punt to set up an OSU touchdown against TCU, making it consecutive games that the OSU punter has completed a pass while lined up for a punt. The bad news: The Beavers lost both of those games, to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl to end last season and to TCU in this season's opener.
GAME BALL GOES TO: Safety Lance Mitchell, who was in on 18 tackles and also had an interception, with a 21-yard return setting up the first touchdown for the Beavers. The 18 tackles matched the eighth-most ever in a game by an OSU player.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Quarterback Ryan Katz. Though he only completed 9 of 25 attempts, his two touchdown passes were perfectly thrown and he demonstrated an arm that will have defenses being very careful, knowing no receiver is out of his reach.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think you would be crazy if we weren't frustrated with the way the game went. We gave ourselves an opportunity to be in it in the fourth quarter. That's about as tough as it gets ... nobody should feel real good about that." -- OSU coach Mike Riley, on missing out on a possible upset of TCU.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Safety Lance Mitchell was in on 18 tackles, fellow safety Suaesi Tuimaunei was in on 14 more and cornerback Brandon Hardin had seven more tackles. That's too much of the tackling being done by the secondary, but at least they held up as the final line of defense or TCU might have broken several plays for big yardage.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The offensive line couldn't open running room for Jacquizz Rodgers, who was held to 75 yards in 18 carries, and allowed two sacks of quarterback Ryan Katz, who was also hit just as he was getting off a handful of other throws. It's a group with two new starters and without an all-conference player in graduated Gregg Peat, and it looked like it has some work to do during the bye week.
--OL Wilder McAndrews, a senior, not only made the first start of his career against TCU but played every offensive down for the Beavers. That meant that Michael Philipp, last season's starter at left tackle as a true freshman, didn't get in the game though he was on the trip and suited up. He had been limited in preseason practices by a broken nose and a sprained ankle.
--The Beavers only played one of their true freshmen in the opener, linebacker Michael Doctor. It was anticipated he'd be involved in special teams but Doctor also saw regular time with the defense. His status as a true freshman comes with an asterisk: His enrollment was expected a year ago but delayed until the winter so he was on hand for spring practices.
With a new head coach and a program ineligible for the postseason, there was more than a little mystery about how USC would look in its opener. But probably nobody expected to see what happened at Hawaii.
The Trojans were challenged into the fourth quarter by the Warriors, who gained 588 yards -- a very troubling stat for a USC defense that appeared to be a strength (at least the front seven did). And it's not like this was supposed to be the same high-flying Hawaii offense of the June Jones days.
But USC gave up 459 yards passing, including touchdown throws of 56, 65 and 30 yards.
The big question after the 49-36 victory: Was the poor defensive performance the result of no live tackling drills in fall camp? That helps keep everyone healthy, but did it fail to make the defense sharp?
"I don't know," cornerback Shareece Wright told the L.A. Daily News. "I'm not going to make that call. We need to learn. Maybe we had bad angles on plays. Maybe we weren't tackling right. Maybe they were faster than we thought. When a team scores 36 points, it's not good."
He has that right. USC had to figure things out before the Sept. 11 home game against Virginia.
"We're going to have to have some tackling drills (in practices)," defensive line coach Ed Orgeron told the Daily News. "It was a poor performance. I was really disappointed. We've got to do a better job of tackling. A lot of things out there we tried were busted."
--USC is 7-0 all-time against Hawaii, including season openers in Aloha Stadium in 1999, 2005 and 2010.
--Was the defensive performance against Hawaii a fluke or a trend? USC has allowed at least 36 points in four of its last eight games, including last season's meetings against Oregon State (36 points), Oregon (47) and Stanford (55).
--Because the Hawaii game was on a Thursday night, USC took advantage of the extra days before its next game by staying on the islands though Friday night. The Trojans will have a regular work week in advance of the Sept. 11 game against visiting Virginia.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Matt Barkley -- He began his sophomore season in style, tying a school record with five touchdown passes. He was 18 of 23 for 257 yards, with no interceptions. "I was really happy with how we started off this game on the road," said Barkley, who had four touchdown passes in the first half. "I feel comfortable. Really comfortable." Barkley is the fifth USC quarterback to throw for five touchdowns in a game. The others: Rodney Peete, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez. Leinart did it three times.
KEEP AN EYE ON: USC's special teams -- Special teams coach John Baxter has one of the most creative minds in the game, and he put his to use against Hawaii. The Trojans lined up in a spread formation and went for two points after their first touchdown of the season (a pass by Mitch Mustain failed), and then tried three more throughout the game. Opponents will have to be ready for that spread formation, because the Trojans are certainly willing to gamble.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think that was it. We've all played football. We know how to tackle." -- LB Devon Kennard, in the Orange County Register, when asked if not having live tackling in fall camp was a problem in the season opener.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Junior RB Marc Tyler surprisingly won the starting tailback job in fall camp after starting at the bottom of the depth chart, and he solidified his hold on that job by running 17 times for 154 yards and a touchdown at Hawaii. Tyler -- whom the coaches considered moving to linebacker at one point -- ran hard and fast against the Warriors, delivering a key stop-and-start 44-yard touchdown run with 6:48 left.
--Speedy WR Ronald Johnson, who needs to develop into a full-time playmaker this season for the Trojans, is off to a good start, taking a punt return 89 yards for a touchdown against Hawaii. Johnson also had seven receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown. Perhaps the Trojans won't miss WR Damian Williams in those roles after all.
STILL NEEDS WORK: One of the weaknesses of this year's USC team is depth. The Trojans began the season with 69 scholarship players -- and the program faces scholarship limitations in the next couple of years because of NCAA sanctions. Hawaii coach Greg McMackin used USC's thinning numbers as part of his game plan. "We planned on playing a lot of guys because 'SC was gassed," he said. "When we started running those running backs at them, we were running them because we knew they couldn't tackle them because they were gassed."
--True freshman CB Nickell Robey started in his first college game.
--DE Nick Perry (ankle) did not play in the opener at Hawaii. He figures to be available against Virginia on Sept. 11.
--Freshman RB Dillon Baxter will make his season debut against Virginia. He was suspended for the season opener at Hawaii because of an unspecified violation of team rules and did not get to make the trip.
--Freshman LB Hayes Pullard (knee) is likely to redshirt. The Trojans aren't very deep at linebacker, so Pullard had a chance to possibly contribute as a backup and special teams player.
Although Stanford did a lot of good things in its 52-17 victory over Sacramento State in its season opener Sept. 4, it did not answer one of the main questions facing the team: Who will succeed Toby Gerhart?
All five of the tailbacks who saw significant action against the Hornets performed adequately as the Cardinal rolled up 212 yards on the ground, but none of them distinguished himself enough to be declared the featured back.
That did not matter against Sacramento State, but it might in the Cardinal's Pac-10 opener Sept. 11 against UCLA, because Stanford's ground game presumably will be a major part of its game plan. The Bruins yielded 313 rushing yards in their 31-22 season-opening loss to Kansas State, with Daniel Thomas accounting for 235 of those yards.
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh may be satisfied with dividing the workload among two or three of those backs if he can get the same kind of team production on the ground. Whether he will use all five backs remains to be seen. It would represent a significant change from last season when one player, Gerhart, got a bulk of the carries.
There is no question about the Cardinal quarterback. Andrew Luck started the season by going 17-for-23 for 316 yards, and most of his production came in the first half when he went 14-for-18 for 301 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
He will continue to be a big part of the Cardinal offense, even though UCLA held Kansas State to just 64 passing yards.
Stanford's pass defense, especially its secondary, was the problem last season, and the Cardinal limited Sacramento State starting quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to 69 passing yards. Bethel-Thompson started a bowl game for UCLA in 2007, but the Bruins quarterback now is Kevin Prince, who was just 9-for-26 against Kansas State. The Cardinal secondary will try to continue Prince's struggles.
Prince missed last year's game against Stanford with a broken jaw, so this will be the Cardinal's first look at him.
Although Stanford will be 1-0 and UCLA 0-1 when they meet, the Cardinal won its opener at home against a Football Championship Series team, while the Bruins played on the road against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
In the Pac-10 opener, the Bruins will be at home, where they were 4-2 last season, while the Cardinal was 2-4 in road games last season. However, the Cardinal's best game of the season was its 55-21 victory over USC in Los Angeles.
A significant factor will be whether Cardinal WR Chris Owusu and LB Shayne Skov play in the game against UCLA.
--Stanford's unsettled running back situation did not sort itself out, and it may not for a few more games. Five tailbacks got three or more carries against Sacramento State, and the two players expected to do the bulk of the running -- starter Jeremy Stewart and Stepfan Taylor -- had the fewest carries of the five.
Stewart, the starter, sprained his ankle during the game. The leading rusher among running backs was Usua Amanam, who had 50 yards on eight carries. Taylor Gaffney and freshman Anthony Wilkerson got eight and seven carries, respectively, so they are in the mix as well.
--Owen Marecic was in the starting lineup on both offense and defense, but did not rack up much in the way of statistics. He carried once for 6 yards as the team's starting fullback, and he had two assisted tackles as the team's starting linebacker, although he also recovered a fumble.
--Stanford scored six of the first seven times it had the ball. The only time it had to punt in that stretch, Sacramento State returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.
--The leading rusher for Stanford was backup QB Alex Loukas, who ran the ball twice for 57 yards. He is more of a runner than a passer, and he could be used in certain situation to run the option. He worked at safety during the spring, but was switched back to quarterback in preseason camp.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Andrew Luck -- In his first game without Toby Gerhart in the backfield with him, Luck completed 17 of 23 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. In the first half, he was 14-for-18 for 301 yards and all four of his scoring tosses. The four touchdown passes was a career high. His 81-yard scoring pass to Doug Baldwin was the longest of his career.
KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Chase Thomas -- Thomas switched from defensive end to outside linebacker in the offseason as the Cardinal changed from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. But Thomas remains an effective pass rusher. He had two sacks and a tackle for loss against Sacramento State, and he will need to put pressure on UCLA QB Kevin Prince in the Cardinal's Pac-10 opener Sept. 11.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not a problem to have multiple good players at that position." -- Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, to the San Francisco Chronicle, on using five tailbacks in the win over Sacramento State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Offensively, Stanford did pretty much what it wanted in its first game without Toby Gerhart. The Cardinal rolled up 529 total yards, and 213 of it came on the ground. Five players shared the tailback load, totaling 147 yards. Being able to produce a running threat is the key to the Cardinal's success this season. Stanford has a talented quarterback in Andrew Luck, but the Cardinal must keep the pressure off him by being able to run the ball. Stanford was able to do that in its opener, albeit against a lower division team.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Punt coverage. The Cardinal had to punt only twice against Sacramento State, but one resulted in a 70-yard return for a touchdown by the Hornets' Kyle Monson. It was the first time since 2003 that Stanford yielded a touchdown on a punt return. The Cardinal also needs to clean up its mistakes. It lost two fumbles and committed seven penalties. The Cardinal can't afford to turn the ball over twice against Pac-10 teams.
--WR Chris Owusu did not play against Sacramento State because of an undisclosed injury. Coach Jim Harbaugh said he expects Owusu to play against UCLA on Sept. 11, although Harbaugh has not been forthcoming about players' availability for games.
--ILB Shayne Skov did not play against Sacramento State because of an undisclosed injury. The sophomore is the cornerstone of the defense, and if he cannot play against UCLA it will be a significant blow. Harbaugh said he expects Skov to play against UCLA, but Harbaugh's proclamations about players' availability have not been reliable.
--Redshirt freshman Levin Toilolo started at tight end in the opener, but he injured his knee early in the game and did not return. His status for the UCLA game is uncertain.
--Starting TB Jeremy Stewart injured his ankle during the game against Sacramento State. He is expected to play against UCLA, but it is not a certainty.
UCLA is going to face some very fine running backs in the Pac-10, which makes its opening performance against Kansas State troubling.
Oregon has a dynamic duo with LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers is one of the best in the nation. Washington and Arizona have 1,000-yard backs. Cal's Shane Vereen should reach that level in his first full season as the starter. USC (Mark Tyler) and Arizona State (Cameron Marshall) appear to have exciting new starters.
The Bruins couldn't stop Kansas State's Daniel Thomas in the opener.
Thomas, a big-time NFL prospect who has an unusual combination of size, speed and moves, rushed 28 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA in the Wildcats' 31-22 victory Sept. 4 in Manhattan, Kan. He delivered the knockout blow with a 35-yard touchdown on third down with 58 seconds left.
"We had a hard time stopping them," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We're going to have to look at film and do a better job of tackling. ... We're not as good as we need to be against a fine running team like they have."
K-State does have a run-game mentality that figured to be a difficult matchup for UCLA, which has to replace all four starting defensive linemen from last season and has only one returning starter (linebacker Akeem Ayers) in the front seven.
UCLA can't do anything about its lack of experience up front -- except wait. But Neuheisel -- much like crosstown rival USC after its opener -- was questioning his strategic decision to limit tackling drills in fall camp.
"It seemed like the prudent thing to do, but tackling is a skill and we didn't play well enough in that department to win," Neuheisel said.
UCLA dives into conference play this week with a home game against Stanford, which, even without running back Toby Gerhart, has a tough-minded mentality.
--Sophomore QB Kevin Prince, who was limited in camp because of a slightly torn back muscle, went the distance against Kansas State and showed his rust. Prince was 9 of 26 for 120 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was victimized by several dropped passes, but his accuracy wasn't sharp as he often just didn't hit the receivers in stride.
"I thought we did some good things in the running game," he said. "In the passing game, I should have put the ball on the money more. I just have to be quicker with my progressions and do things better because we can't be scrambling from behind like that. ... It just wasn't good enough."
--Sophomore P Jeff Locke, who should vie for all-conference honors, averaged 45.7 yards on six punts and placed three inside the Kansas State 20-yard line.
--WR Josh Smith, a speedy transfer from Colorado, returned two kicks for 55 yards. He has a chance to be a game-breaker in that area.
GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Akeem Ayers -- The playmaking outside linebacker also lined up at defensive end on occasion against Kansas State, making 11 tackles, including one sack. Ayers also recovered two fumbles, including one at the K-State 11-yard line, setting up a short touchdown drive for the Bruins.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Malcolm Jones -- The touted true freshman got his first college carry late in third carry, gaining 12 yards. Jones merely got his feet wet in the opener -- three rushes for 20 yards -- but he could work his way into more playing time as the season goes on.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have plenty of time to bounce back. We have a big game next week against Stanford. Our first Pac-10 game. And that is what it's all about -- conference play." -- QB Kevin Prince.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: There was some concern about Lou Groza Award-winning kicker Kai Forbath, who was limited late in fall camp because of a groin injury. Forbath warmed up just fine against Kansas State, however, and then connected on all three of his field goal attempts -- from 44, 42 and 35 yards. Forbath has made 40 consecutive field goals from inside 50 yards.
STILL NEEDS WORK: UCLA has standout players at receiver, including Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree, and the pass-catchers were expected to be one of the team's strength. But in the opener against Kansas State, the Bruins dropped eight passes, which came as a shock to offensive coordinator Norm Chow. "We dropped what, a half a dozen balls? Eight?!" he was quoted in the L.A. Daily News. "That does (surprise me); that's our most experienced group." Said coach Rick Neuheisel: "We thought we would catch the ball well. But we did not answer the call with respect to that."
--DE Datone Jones, the team's only returning starter on the defensive line, suffered a broken foot in fall camp and figures to miss at least half of the season.
--Sophomore OG Stanley Hasiak was ruled academically ineligible for 2010. He will use this season as a redshirt and have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
--Junior C Kai Maiava, a projected starter, suffered a fractured ankle in fall camp and could be out at least until late October.
Just like 2008, Jake Locker was leading the Washington Huskies down the field in the last minutes Sept. 4 against BYU in a last-ditch effort to pull out a win.
Just like 2008, the drive came up short, though not as memorably as then, when Locker was flagged for a personal foul for tossing the ball in the air, and UW then saw its longer point-after attempt blocked. This time, the drive ended with 1:55 left when a fourth-down Locker pass was batted away, allowing BYU to win 23-17.
The 2008 loss set up a season that resulted in the firing of Tyrone Willingham.
No one doubts that things are beginning to turn in the second year of his successor, Steve Sarkisian, but there was hope that maybe the Huskies had turned more quickly than seemed evident against BYU.
The Huskies were sloppy on special teams (a bad punt snap led to a safety, among other gaffes), inefficient on offense (three drives into BYU territory in the fourth quarter resulted in no points, and UW was shut out in the second half) and made just enough mistakes on defense to allow a young Cougars offense to get the win.
"It's never fun to lose," Locker said. "Now we have to understand like coach said -- it's one game. One game doesn't define your season. We have a lot of things we can build off from this game, and we need to go back and look at the film and find what those things are."
Indeed, that was Sarkisian's message afterward, that there's a long season ahead.
"I take out of it that this one game is not going to define our season," he said. "It's one football game and it's a non-conference football game, so I was pleased with our effort, proud of the way our guys competed and competed to the very end. But we've got 12 more football games to play, and I think the challenge for us is to not get caught in the hangover of this game."
Syracuse comes in 1-0 courtesy of a 29-3 win over Akron. It looms as something of a must-win for UW with Nebraska coming to UW on Sept. 18 and then an Oct. 2 game at USC to open Pac-10 play. With a loss to Syracuse, UW could be looking at an 0-4 start.
UW will try to get just a little more out of a running game that managed 177 yards on 29 carries (officially UW had 128 when factoring in minus-39 for a bad punt snap and sacks) -- and improve the shoddy special teams play.
"We were sloppy in a lot of areas," Sarkisian said.
--Sarkisian was honored as one of eight great BYU quarterbacks at halftime. However, he didn't attend the ceremony, staying in the UW locker room with the Huskies.
--Kicker Erik Folk booted a 54-yarder on the final play of the first half to give UW a 17-13 halftime lead. It was the third-longest field goal in UW history and longest since John Anderson had a 56-yarder at UCLA in 1999.
--The Huskies played 13 true freshmen, already the most in school history, breaking the mark of 12 in 2008. UW played 10 last year, and the numbers indicate the overall youth of this program.
GAME BALL GOES TO: Linebacker Mason Foster led a defense that kept the Huskies in the game throughout with a game-high 14 tackles, nine of which were solo.
KEEP AN EYE ON: True freshman running back Jesse Callier had a 39-yard carry the first time he touched the ball in the first quarter to help set up UW's first touchdown. He got just one more to finish with 40 yards but also had two catches for 15 yards and another that was nullified due to a penalty.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought he competed extremely well. There are some plays and some throws he would love to have back. We make a couple of tough catches here and there and it's a lot better day for everybody involved. All in all he will play better as the year goes on." -- UW coach Steve Sarkisian on the play of QB Jake Locker, who was 20 of 37 for 266 yards and one TD and ran 11 times for 29 yards and one TD.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: UW coaches probably would have been fine leaving Provo allowing just 23 points to BYU. The Huskies defense didn't shut down the Cougars, who gained 408 total yards. But they perfected the bend-but-don't-break much of the night as BYU had just two plays of 19 yards or more, and no runs longer than 19 yards.
--Kicker Erik Folk booted a career-high 54-yard field goal that might have been good from 60 to end the first half.
--Receiver Jermaine Kearse had a couple of drops and a costly penalty. But he also showed why he could factor into all-conference consideration with five catches for 108 yards, He had catches of 43 and 34 yards in the fourth quarter to put UW in scoring position, though the Huskies couldn't convert on either drive.
STILL NEEDS WORK: UW's rushing totals look respectable enough -- 177 yards on 29 carries, excluding sacks and a bad punt snap credited as a rush. But UW had trouble converting in short-yardage situations -- failing on three plays of third-and-2 or shorter -- and coach Steve Sarkisian said that's something that has to be fixed. It starts with better play from an experienced offensive line hoped to be a strength this year.
--The special teams, other than Folk, were a disaster, with a bad punt snap leading to a safety, a roughing the punter penalty keeping a BYU drive alive, and two misplays of kickoffs that put the Huskies in bad field position.
--The Huskies went into the season wondering how they would get a pass rush, and the first game did nothing to answer that question as the Huskies did not have a sack and only got close to BYU QBs Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps once or twice. BYU was 24-for-40 passing but missed on several other opportunities with poor throws or drops as the Cougars usually had all the time they needed.
--UW did not suffer any new significant injuries.
--WR James Johnson did not play, sidelined with a lingering ankle injury. Cody Bruns and D'Andre Goodwin got more time in his place and Bruns, a junior, responded with a career-high three receptions.
--MLB Cort Dennison said he's not 100 percent with a sprained knee, but he gutted it out through the game and finished with three tackles.
--UW went into the game without only one player available -- true freshman running back Deontae Cooper, who wore his ACL a couple of weeks ago. He will have surgery this week.
Washington State coach Paul Wulff has talked a big game much of the preseason, promising that the Cougars would be much improved and would shock the pundits this season.
But the opening game of 2010 looked much the same as the disasters of 2008 and 2009, when the Cougars went 3-22 and were rarely competitive.
The Cougars were hammered at Oklahoma State, 65-17, in their season opener, getting outgained 544 yards to 324.
WSU fumbled a simple handoff on its first possession to give Oklahoma State an easy touchdown, and the Cougars never led.
WSU scored 10 straight points to cut the lead to 17-10 early in the second quarter.
But the Cougars never got a handle on the Cowboys' offense and trailed 38-10 at halftime and 51-10 at the end of the third quarter.
"We played tight early," Wulff said. "We just didn't play."
The poor performance, replete with bad tackling and lots of other errors - Oklahoma State scored its final touchdown in the late going on a blocked punt -- only further increases the heat on Wulff, who entered the season already on shaky ground.
The Cougars host Football Championship Series team Montana State on Sept. 11 in what may be the only game of the season they will be favored. For that reason alone it looms as a must win as the season could turn dark in a hurry with a poor performance.
For starters, WSU needs to score a touchdown in the first quarter or take the lead during timed play, something it has not done since the 2008 season (its only win last year came in overtime in a game it never led in regulation).
"We've got to have games where we can compete and win," Wulff told the Seattle Times. "And then we can have success and build off success."
There was little to build off in this one other than a decent day by sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel, who was 14 of 29 for 212 yards and a touchdown without an interception.
The points were the most WSU has ever allowed in an opener and the fifth time in the Wulff era that WSU has allowed more than 60.
--WSU has now been outscored 193-6 in the first quarter dating to the beginning of the 2009 season.
--The Cougars played seven true freshmen.
--A 56-yard field goal by Nico Grasu in the second quarter was the sixth-longest in school history.
GAME BALL GOES TO: True freshman WR Marquess Wilson was one of the only bright spots for WSU, with four catches for 108 yards --- becoming just the fourth true freshman in school history to top the 100-yard mark. His receptions included a 48-yard TD in the second quarter that briefly got the Cougars back in the game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Junior college transfer WR Isiah Barton also had a nice WSU debut with four catches for 69 yards, with a long of 31. He got a lot of playing time with injuries limiting Jared Karstetter and Gino Simone.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "At times he was really good, at other times he was a 19-year-old." -- WSU coach Paul Wulff on QB Jeff Tuel, who was 14 of 29 for 204 yards.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Hard to find much after a 65-17 loss, but the play of WSU's young receivers was a bright spot as freshman Marquess Wilson had four catches for 108 yards and junior college transfer Isiah Barton caught four passes for 69 yards. Add them to holdovers such as Jared Karstetter and Gino Simone and receiver appears the one position where the Cougars are Pac-10 caliber.
--PK Nico Grasu booted a career-long 56-yard field goal in the second quarter.
--Cougar defenders broke up six passes, with safety Tyree Toomer playing a decent game overall with one breakup and a team-high eight tackles.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Where to begin? Mostly the Cougars were awful on defense, with defensive coordinator Chris Ball later saying that WSU simply "didn't tackle, didn't get off blocks." That was a key reason Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter rushed for 257 yards on 21 carries.
--WSU's pass defense was almost as bad, allowing three QBs to complete 27 of 37 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
--WSU is hoping for better offensive line play this season, but it wasn't apparent against a young and rebuilding Oklahoma State defense as WSU managed just 112 yards rushing on 41 carries.
--The Cougars suffered a tough loss early when true freshman RB Ricky Galvin broke his right arm when he tried to brace his fall. He will likely now redshirt. He was replaced by Carl Winston, who played last year as a true freshman and whom the Cougars were hoping to redshirt this year.
--Starting CB Aire Justin sat out the game with a bad hamstring.
--Starting receiver Gino Simone sat out with a hamstring injury.
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