Monday, November 7, 2011

November 07, 2011

A Look Back at Saturday around the Pac-12


Offense:  LaMichael James, wearing a bulky elbow brace for the second consecutive game, seemed to be his old self again Saturday as he carried the ball 25 times for 153 yards. As a team, the Ducks had 39 carries for 212 yards, nearly 100 yards below their season totals. Part of that looked by design, though, as the Huskies were very effective, especially in the first half, at playing “keep away” from the Ducks. Oregon ran just 24 total plays in the first half, but had still managed 17 points. The Huskies, doing their best to keep the ball away from Oregon’s high powered offense, ran 40 plays in the first half. Nonetheless, the Ducks started to change the tide in the second quarter where the possession was closer to even.

The 3rd and 4th quarters belonged to the Ducks as Oregon. In a stat few will have thought about, Oregon had more time of possession in both of those quarters with 8:01 in the third and a clock draining 10:12 in the 4th quarter. The Ducks worked the last 7:02 off the clock with 6 plays, far from the frenetic pace of most games. It was a message that the Ducks could play power football when needed. The re-emergence of David Paulson and josh Huff in the passing game will give upcoming opponents that much more to worry about as well.

Though it seemed the offense was “off” to many people, it wasn’t necessarily off, but different. This was an old-fashioned power football game in the second half. The Ducks had a lead in the 4th quarter and milked the clock.

Defense: No questions this week. The Duck defense had their best performance of the season holding a potent offense to just 278 total yards and 2.5 yards per carry in the running game. The defense hounded and harassed quarterback Keith Price all night. Chris Polk, who many commentators referred to as the best back in the Pac-12 conference was stuffed all night long with 24 carries for just 80 yards (3.3 yards per carry).
The Ducks started Wade Keliikipi for this game and he did not disappoint. From the earliest stages of this game, it was clear that the Duck defense had come to play a lights out game. Eddie Pleasant, had a great night and showed that the switch to safety is starting to pay off; just in time too. The defensive backfield continues to improve and impress while the linebackers are steady as a rock with Michael Clay leading the way.

Coaching: Though Coach Kelly will tell you that this game was no more important than the Washington State game, you could certainly see that the team approached this one differently. Everyone was focused on their roles and performed well. Kudos to all the coaches for a great game plan and the great execution. Coach Aliotti deserves a special mention for his brilliant defensive game plan. He will need to match that brilliance this week if the Ducks are going to defeat Stanford.

Around the rest of the conference:

Arizona State: Jekkyl? Hyde? Which team will show up on Saturday. All the team needed was a voictory over UCLA to lock up a trip to the Pac-12 Championship game; but they could not do it. The Sun Devils are still a very good shot to get there as UCLA still has USC lying ahead on their schedule.

Arizona: Arizona is playing better lately, but it did not lead to a win Saturday. The Wildcats had a better passing game and a better running game than Utah; unfortunately, they could not seem to score points. Turnovers killed the Wildcats as Utah won its second consecutive Pac-12 conference game.

California: California used a strong first half to put away Washington State early. A strong defensive performance was key. The Golden Bears are looking to become bowl eligible and will get a chance to get it’s 6th win of the season on the road against Oregon State this weekend.

Colorado: Colorado put up a fight, like they always do, but were outmanned and outclassed by USC. Coach Embree has a monumental task turning that team around as the cupboard is nearly bare of talent.

Oregon State: Oregon State put up their own fight; into the third quarter, the Beavers were hanging tough with the Stanford Cardinal. But then the wheels fell off and the Beavers were run out of the stadium. Along the way, they were guaranteed a losing season at the earliest point in nearly 15 years (1997).

Stanford: Andrew Luck made a bad early mistake and the Cardinal appeared tight, but that was to be expected with the monumental showdown looming this weekend against Oregon. Expect them to be ready as they believe that they are national title contenders again this year.
USC: USC was sleep walking through much of the game this week. They have had their bowl game, a shot at upsetting Stanford and may have another shot to ruin a teams season in the near future, but with no hopes of making a post-season game, the Trojans are just playing out the string and working towards next season. Given their predicament, it is a little surprising that they are not grooming a quarterback for next season, just in case Barkley decides to leave for the NFL.

UCLA: Who would have thought that UCLA would have a legitimate shot at a Pac-12 Championship Game berth? Well, other than Neuheisel himself. But, that’s where they stand with just three games left; leading the South Division (sans USC who is, of course, ineligible). Time will tell, but they need to beat the two new Pac-12 teams and USC to get there.

Utah: After beating Oregon State for it’s first ever Pac-12 conference victory, the Utes followed that up with another victory over South Division foe Arizona. The Utes have ridden their defense so far and look to be able to generate a couple of more wins as the season winds down. With just UCLA, WSU and Colorado left on the schedule, Utah is looking for a strong close.

Washington: The Huskies are improving, but have not yet caught up to the top of the conference teams; Stanford and Oregon. Their game plan on defense made sense; control the clock and try to keep Oregon off the field. Unfortunately, their offense was dominated in a lower scoring affair than most predicted. Nonetheless, Washington looks like they are close to contending. The Huskies have a legitimate shot at 9 wins this season with USC, OSU and WSU remaining.

Washington State: How quickly a promising season begins to fall apart. The Cougars played Oregon like it was their bowl game; their national championship game. After losing that game, they fell flat to an up and down California Golden Bears team. This was their fifth straight loss and sixth in seven games. It does not get any easier for the Cougars as they face the Sun Devils next followed by Utah and the Apple Cup.

PAC-12 Schedule for Week 11:

Arizona at Colorado, 11:30 AM
Washington at USC, 12:45 PM
UCLA at Utah, 2:30 PM
Oregon State at California 3:30 PM
Oregon at Stanford, 5:00 PM
Arizona State at Washington State, 7:30 PM


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