First week of 2015 season not stellar for the Pac-12.

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By Gerald Nicdao, Staff Writer
Posted Sep 7, 2015
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2016 BearInsider.com


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The hype was real this off season. Is this the year that a stacked Pac-12 overtakes the SEC as the nation's top conference?

After one weekend of games, the immediate reaction is "No!"

Not after the conference went 7-5 on the opening weekend with losses to one Big Ten team, one SEC team, two Mountain West teams and an FCS team.

Not when one of the conference's flag bearers gets beat up by a team picked to finish sixth in the SEC West (looking at you Arizona State). Not when the dark horse pick to win the Pac-12 (Stanford), goes to Ryan Field and fails to score a touchdown.

As bad as it was for the conference, there were some bright spots. Vernon Adams and Josh Rosen look to be the real deal. California's offense is as good as advertised. And USC, well, it took care of business under the LA moonlight.

But the bad of the bad, from a purely entertainment standpoint, might be Arizona's loss of Scooby Wright. And that's where we start in this week's roundup.


Wright's injury overshadows No. 22 Arizona's win over UTSA

The play itself looked harmless. Scooby Wright—the Pac-12's reigning defensive player of the year—came up to attack the running back. He made contact with a blocker, but it was not a massive hit or massive block. But Wright came up limping and immediately ran over to the Arizona sideline.

The All-American linebacker did not return to the game, instead sat on the bench with ice wrapped around his left knee.

The rest of the Wildcats' 42-32 win over Texas-San Antonio was a mere formality.

Yes, there are some worries about Arizona's actual performance. Quarterback Anu Solomon threw for 229 yards and four touchdown passes to four different receivers. Running back Nick Wilson—now the featured back in Tucson—ran for 97 yards. But the offense sputtered at times against a weaker opponent.

The defense—heralded last year in the Wildcats' run to the Pac-12 South title—was no better, allowing 525 yards of total offense to a team playing in only its fourth year of FBS football.

But Arizona will take the win, no matter how poorly it played.

"I'd rather learn from a win," Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez told AZCentral.com, "than suffer from a loss."

The biggest loss, however, did not come in the Win-Loss Column. Sources around the team have told multiple media outlets that they expect Wright's absence to be minimal.

Sports Illustrated is reporting that Wright had surgery Saturday. The diagnosis was a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee. The SI.com report that Wright may be healthy enough to play in Arizona's conference-opener against UCLA on September 26th.

"It was better than everyone thought," the source told SI.com.


Rosen shines in debut for No. 13 UCLA


UCLA was not going to keep the training wheels on true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. His first play in college football was not a handoff or short pass. It was a bomb. It traveled 55 yards. And it hit his receiver in stride. Kenneth Walker III dropped the pass, but the message was clear—Rosen is the real deal and the Bruins are going to treat him like it.

Rosen sparkled in his debut, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns completing 28-of-35 pass attempts leading UCLA to an easy 34-16 win over Virginia on Saturday afternoon.

Of those 28 completions, six went for 20 yards or more, including a 30-yard strike to tight end Thomas Duarte for a touchdown.

It could have been seven, if it weren't for Walker's drop on the first UCLA play of the game.

"I said, ‘This is your first play in the Rose Bowl,'" Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone told the Los Angeles Times, "'I don't think it ought to be handing off to somebody.'"

But of course Rosen comes into a team stacked with returners. All he has to do is step on the pedal and go. At least, that's what Saturday showed, as UCLA racked up 503 yards of total offense.

"I really don't have to do much to keep this incredibly powerful train on its tracks," Rosen told the Los Angeles Daily News.

Adams also sparkles in debut, Oregon defense not-so much

Watching Oregon's offense play Saturday night seemed like it was a replay.

There it was, in another unique uniform pattern, playing in a loud and sold out Autzen Stadium, playing its quick tempo offense. The Ducks piled on 731 total yards on offense—485 of those on the ground.

Their quarterback was nothing less than sensational. He went an efficient 19-for-25 on pass attempts. He threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns. And he even torched Eastern Washington on the ground for 94 yards and a score.

But that wasn't Marcus Mariota driving the roadster that is Oregon's offense. It was FCS-transfer Vernon Adams Jr., who made everyone think that he was wearing a No. 8 on his jersey and not No. 3 in No. 7 Oregon's 61-42 win over the Eagles.

"I'm very excited," Adams told The Oregonian. "The team we have, we can do a lot of special things this year."

Adams hasn't been with the team for even a month, having to finish one last class before he can transfer from the team he beat on Saturday to Oregon.

But the Ducks did not skip a beat, as the offense looked just as frighteningly good as it did last year en route to the National Championship Game.

"Coaching Vernon right now is not like coaching a freshman," offensive coordinator Scott Frost told The Oregonian. "He's been in big games and played Pac-12 teams. He worked really hard this week to get himself ready mentally."

If only he could have helped his defense.

The Ducks struggled against the Eagles high-tempo, pass-happy offense.

Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp set Autzen Stadium records for receptions (15) and receiving yards (246). The Eagles themselves amassed 549 yards of total offense, were 6-of-14 on third downs, 3-for-3 on fourth downs and scored every time they got into the red zone (a perfect 6-for-6).

"We were expecting them to come out and attack and everything," defensive end DeForest Buckner told The Register-Guard. "They exposed some of our weaknesses."


No. 15 Arizona State sluggish as pair of Phoenix-area recruits leads Texas A&M
to win

The big picture for Arizona State: The dreams of Pac-12 championships and New Years Six bowl games are still alive. The immediate reality is that things must get fixed fast.

The No. 15 Sun Devils traveled to Houston as part of college football's grandstanding "neutral site" games. They should have been in College Station instead. ASU could not find rhythm and were drubbed by Texas A&M, 38-17.

Arizona State was the team with all the expectations coming into Saturday night's game. The Aggies were picked to finish sixth in the SEC West. It looked as if the roles were reversed when they got to Houston.

And it looked as if the Sun Devils left their prolific offense in training camp. ASU amassed just 291 yards of total offense, failed to score 20 or more points for just the third time in the Todd Graham era, and had just two plays that went for over 20 yards.

Quarterback Mike Bercovici was harassed all game. He was sacked nine times, had 199 passing yards and one touchdown pass. All-everything playmaker DJ Foster had just 61 yards from scrimmage. And ASU averaged just 2.2 yards per rush. The longest run of the day came from Bercovici, a 19-yard scamper on a broken play that he ran in for a touchdown.

"Wasn't a good offensive night for anybody," Graham told AZCentral.com.

To add insult to injury, Texas A&M was led by a couple of Phoenix-area recruits, both who chose the Aggies over the Sun Devils.

Quarterback Kyle Allen threw two touchdowns and ran in the game-sealing score. Freshman receiver Christian Kirk had six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in his debut.

Both, however, did not play for the hometown team. Except, in Houston on Saturday, Texas A&M was the hometown team.


No. 21 Stanford offense inept in loss to Northwestern


On paper, it was an upset. In reality, not so much.

How else could you explain that the No. 21 team in the country failed to score a touchdown, failed to break double digits, and failed to produce more than one play that went over 20 yards?

How else could you explain a senior quarterback throwing for just 155 yards?

How else could you explain a team amassing just 240 yards of total offense?

How else could you explain Stanford's woeful 16-6 loss to Northwestern on Saturday morning?

"We didn't give ourselves a chance to win," coach David Shaw told the San Jose Mercury-News. "I thought we were well prepared, but it didn't show up. We had a lot of opportunities that we let go."

All off season, the talk was about how the Cardinal would perform with a seven new starters on a rebuilt defense, not about how the offense would struggle.

In the end, at least for one game, the roles were reversed. Stanford's defense was just as good as ever. It held the Wildcats to just 105 yards passing and 330 yards of total offense. The only real mistake came when quarterback Clayton Thornson ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run. Other than that, those numbers are usually good enough for the Cardinal to win.

Not on Saturday. Not when Stanford's offense struggled so mightily and made too many mistakes.

"The bottom line for us is that we have to be efficient on first down," Shaw told the Associated Press. "We can't have penalties. We can't have dropped passes. We can't have missed blocks."


Utah
's defense spoils Harbaugh's Michigan debut

Kyle Whittingham was tired of it. Harbaugh. The khakis. The uniforms. The hype. And in the end, he wanted to remind everyone what his program had accomplished after beating Michigan, 24-17, in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

"We beat Michigan for the third time in a row," he told the AP. "That's a heck of an accolade for our program."

That's the reward for the endless and relentless buildup to Utah's meeting with the Wolverines. It's what comes with beating a brand-name program with a newly minted brand-name head coach.

And it was the Utes usually un-flashy style that won the game for them. Devontae Booker struggled, even thought his 69 yards on the ground was a game-high. Quarterback Travis Wilson was not awful, but not yet impressive. Utah's coaching staff said that they took the reigns off of Wilson. He was an efficient 24-for-33, but he did not throw a touchdown, though he did get one using his legs.

But it was the defense that came up big in the win over Michigan and they came up big twice in the fourth quarter.

First it was Justin Thomas, jumping a route and intercepting a Jake Rudock pass for a 55-yard touchdown return that all but sealed the game, giving the Utes a 24-10 lead.

On the next Michigan possession, Utah's stout interior defensive line stood strong, stuffing De'Veon Smith on a 4th-and-1.

"I just broke on the ball," Thomas said of his interception. "That's all I remember and after that it was a wrap. It was a wrap after that."


Washington rally comes up short in Petersen's return to Boise


As cliché as it seemed, it was a tale of two halves. No. 23 Boise State looked the part of a potential College Football Playoff crasher, dominating a Power 5 conference at home.

In the second half, the roles were reversed. But Washington's rally fell short, as Cameron Van Winkle's 46-yard field-goal attempt flew wide right with just 21 seconds on the clock. The Huskies lost, 16-13.

For the Broncos, it was the first scalp they get to put on their mantle as they drive towards a New Years Six bowl and the possibility of being a party crasher in the CFP. For the Huskies, a rebuilding year with a true freshman quarterback at the helm begins with a little more optimism.

Though no one really felt that after the game.

"I mean, it's hard to answer a question about encouragement when you just lost," Washington true freshman quarterback Jake Browning told the Seattle Times. "Yeah, there encouraging things there, but at the end of the day you lost. … We only lost by three to a good team, but we want to win. There's no pity points."

Browning, who was named the starter an hour before kickoff Friday, had a mediocre beginning, going 20-for-34 on pass attempts and passing for 150 yards. But Browning was 5-for-7 on the final drive of the game, throwing for 59 yards to set up the potential game-tying field goal.

It was a difficult return for Huskies head coach Chris Petersen who coached against the Broncos for the first time since leaving.

"It's a little different situation when you come back and you play against so many of these coaches that were like brothers to us," Petersen told the AP. "That's probably been the hardest."


Portland State stuns Washington State


The post-Connor Halliday era in Pullman is off to a shaky start. That's after FCS opponent Portland State rolled into the Palouse on Saturday afternoon and left with a 24-17 win over Washington State.

The reins of Mike Leach's spread offense went to Luke Falk, who put up 283 yards and threw two touchdown passes. But the offense itself was not as prolific as many had hoped, amassing just 411 yards on a team from the lower division of Division I college football.

Adding injury to insult was the fact that Falk left the game with a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter. Without Falk there, the Cougars tried to rally behind redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Bender after the Vikings took the lead on a Steven Long 1-yard touchdown. But the rally died when Bender's fourth pass was intercepted by Aaron Sibley. There were 42 seconds left on the game clock.

Sibley's interception gave Portland State their first win over a Pac-12 opponent.

"We never got in a rhythm on offense," Leach told SportsPressNW.com "They were a real mature team. They hung together, and we got impatient"


Errors lead to Colorado's loss to Hawaii


Let's forget for one second about the most glaring mistake in Thursday night/Friday morning's 28-20 loss for Colorado.

There were others that put the Buffaloes in the position they were in as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Colorado had a blocked punt on its first possession of the game. The Buffs had three total turnovers and had five penalties.

And then came the most frustrating mistake…at the hands of the officiating crew.

Officially, on a 2nd-and-5 inside the red zone, Seifu Liufau hooked up with running back Philip Lindsay on a 6-yard pass play. That would have been good enough for a first down. The clock should have stopped as the officiating crew reset the chains and spotted the ball. It didn't. And as the referee came to place the ball, he fumbled it. When he finally placed it, there was a second left and it elapsed before Colorado could snap the ball.

Yes, the Buffs were down 28-20 at that point and would have needed the two-point conversion, but it would have been nice to see it play out.

"I looked up and he bobbled it about six or seven seconds," Liufau told The Daily Camera. "But, you never want to put the referee in that position and I don't blame him for our loss. You'd like that chance to kill the ball and take a shot at the end zone, but we just have to execute so that we're not put in that position later."


USC cruises to win over Arkansas State


What is there to say about No. 8 USC's crushing 55-6 win over Arkansas State on Saturday night?

The Trojans scored seven touchdowns, each by a different player. Quarterback Cody Kessler's numbers looked impressive on paper—four touchdown passes, 19-of-26 on pass attempts and 236 yards passing. The running game looked impressive too, with Tre Madden gaining 106 yards on 12 carries and Ronald Jones picking up 86 yards on six rushes.

There was some trouble though. Kessler was sacked four times and USC was 3-for-10 on third down conversions.

If anything, Saturday night's win showed what the Trojans looked like with a full array of scholarships as it finally looks past NCAA sanctions. Twenty-two players made their debut for USC in the victory.

"We have more of a rotation this year," linebacker Su'a Cravens told The Daily News. "We can put in guys now that have the same skill set."


Collins wins starting QB job in Oregon State win over Weber State


Seth Collins did not begin the day Thursday as Oregon State's starter, but he sure ended the day as the new No. 1.

After the Beavers stalled in the first half alternating between Marcus McMaryion and Collins, Collins was handed the reigns in the fourth quarter for good, and dazzled.

Collins had 92 yards through the air, threw the only two touchdowns for Oregon State and had 152 yards on the ground, all in Gary Andersen's debut as the head coach, all in the Beavers 26-7 win over Weber State.

The decision to go with Collins came after McMaryion threw a pick-six. The series before that, Collins guided Oregon State to a 16-play drive that he ended with a four-year touchdown pass to Victor Bolden.

"Right now, we would say after that performance, that Seth is our starter," Andersen told The Oregonian. "Seth, for a freshman, you gotta say he solidified himself into a pretty good spot. "It's hard for a freshman to walk in there and play in your first Division I game, and I thought he handled it pretty darn well."

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