With a wacky and sloppy #Pac12AfterDark game between Arizona and Cal, the Wildcats got a win to return to .500. Four other games took place in the conference of champions this weekend, and the results old a lot about who in the conference is for real.
Here’s the weekly roundup of Pac-12 action.
No. 21 Colorado 28, Arizona State 21
With their first win over an opponent with a winning record, the Buffs went a long way towards legitimizing their claim to their Pac-12 South.
The big story in Boulder was the continued dominance of Steven Montez and his receivers. Laviska Shenault Jr. was as incredible as ever, accounting for all four of CU’s touchdowns, including two through the air and two on the ground. His teammate K.D. Nixon was just as effective against the Sun Devil defense, racking up 97 yards on just 5 catches.
After merely keeping up with ASU for most of the game, Colorado finally broke through with two scores in the third quarter to take a lead they would not relinquish.
For Arizona State, the offense still performed pretty well despite the low score and loss. Eno Benjamin still looks like one of the Pac-12’s better backs, as he managed 128 yards on 20 rushes and two scores. Frank Darby and N’Keal Harry both caught some excellent passes from Manny Wilkins, including a 40-yard touchdown for Darby.
Nevertheless, Arizona State now has lost their head-to-head against the new presumptive favorite in the chaotic South, and they’ll face a tough rebound against Stanford after a bye. Plus, Wilkins and Harry are banged up.
No. 10 Washington 31, UCLA 24
It was way too close to comfort for the Huskies, but Chris Petersen was able to get Washington a road win and keep them in the playoff discussion.
As was expected, UW ran out to a 24-7 lead at the half thanks to a couple of solid drives and a Jake Browning touchdown throw to Aaron Fuller. Nevertheless, UCLA slowly chipped away at the lead until it was suddenly 24-17 in the fourth quarter. After trading touchdowns late in the game, UCLA couldn’t convert an onside kick, and Washington was finally able to run out the clock.
Despite the close shave with disaster, the Huskies still had good performances from their leaders. Myles Gaskin ran for 116 yards on 27 tries, and Jake Browning continued his run of high accuracy with an 18-of-26 performance in Pasadena. Unfortunately, they had trouble finishing off a struggling UCLA loss, and with Stanford’s second loss in a row Washington is pretty much officially the last hope for a Pac-12 Playoff team, so they’ll need to improve. Meanwhile, Chip Kelly and UCLA are still searching for that elusive first win.
Washington State 56, Oregon State 37
WSU continues to keep up its surprisingly winning ways, although not without some discomfort in a shootout with the Beavers.
Just like his last five performances, Gardner Minshew II lit up the scoreboard this Saturday. He went 30-of-40 for 430 yards and five scores, including two pivotal touchdowns that put the game away in the fourth. Unfortunately for Leach’s admirers, the running game actually managed 100 yards against OSU, an improvement of 100 yards over last weekend. Davontavean Martin and Easop Winston Jr. have been overshadowed by the incredible receiver play in the Pac-12 this year, but they’ve proven themselves as another dynamic duo.
Oregon State has to view this game as an improvement or moral victory of some kind, as their offense was able to keep up with a Mike Leach offense for three quarters. The Beavers actually took a 30-28 lead for a while in the third, but the Cougars were able to take over late. Jermar Jefferson still looks like the future of Oregon State, thanks to another great performance (138 yards on 24 carries). While it will obviously be a few years before Oregon State can start to succeed, Jonathan Smith may have shown he’s on the right path with this game.
Utah 40, No. 14 Stanford 21
After the nearest of misses against Oregon, Stanford has now been dominated two weeks in a row, and is essentially eliminated from the CFP.
Utah’s offense has been one of the worst in the country this season, and against this Stanford defense in Palo Alto it was assumed they’d struggle again. Instead, Tyler Huntley FINALLY looked like the quarterback we expected to see with a 17-of-21 performance netting him 199 yards and a touchdown throw. Running back Zack Moss was finally able to find some seams, and managed 8 yards per carry and two scores. Utah took a 21-0 lead early, and the game was mostly out of reach fro Stanford from then on.
For the Cardinal, the absence of Bryce Love clearly hurt badly. Wheras the K.J. Costello to JJ Arcega-Whiteside combo had smoked opponents for most of the year thus far, Costello was sloppy, with two picks and a lost fumble to go along with otherwise OK numbers. Stanford was only able to rush for 42 yards as a team without Love, and with Costello’s mistakes the game was essentially unwinnable. There is still slim hope for a Pac-12 title, but with two crushing losses in a row, Stanford’s biggest ambitions probably ended on Saturday. On the flipside, Utah managed to cling to their slim conference title hopes with the win and is now 3-2.