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November 19, 2008

Pac-10 Review: Week 12

This is coming out late, but when you get stuck in Eugene for an extra day these things can happen. The end is nearing for the 2008 season, and the Pac-10 standings are finally starting to take form.

Arizona:

It was a tale of two halves for Arizona and the Wildcats came short of a monumental comeback, losing to Oregon 55-45 in Eugene. What happened in the first half? Arizona found itself down 14-0 a minute and a half into the game after Jeremiah Masoli's 66-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game and Patrick Chung's pick-six on the ensuing Arizona drive. At halftime, Oregon had amassed 411 total yard and 45 points while possessing the ball less than 10 minutes. In the press box I was told that Oregon averaged a point every 13 seconds it had the ball; wow. The tide shifted in Arizona's favor in the second half. Down 48-17, Arizona scored 28 unanswered points and had the ball at midfield trailing by three with four minutes remaining. Keola Antolin had a career day with four touchdowns, but the key moment of the game was his drop on 4th down late in the game that put an end to Arizona's comeback.

Arizona State:

Arizona State has now won two in a row after beating Washington State 31-0 at home. Rudy Carpenter looked back to form with his 17 of 25, 213-yard, three-touchdown performance. Despite the score, Arizona State didn't look great against the lowly Cougars. ASU's 159 rushing yards, 398 total yards, and 31 points all rank below the respective averages allowed by Washington State. Still, the Sun Devils' win brings the team closer to a bowl bid and beating UCLA and Arizona is far from unreasonable.

California:

Cal was shut down in the fourth quarter, ultimately losing 34-21 to Oregon State. Despite Oregon State having over 100 more total yards and nearly twice as many first downs as the Bears, Cal still had all of the fourth quarter to take over the game. I know that Kevin Riley is the overwhelming fan favorite, but this team needs to name Nate Longshore as its full-time starting quarterback. Not only were Riley's numbers sub-par (11-25, 117 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), he also threw the pick-six in the final minute that struck the nail in Cal's coffin. Jahvid Best continued his remarkable season with 116 yards rushing, including another big touchdown run for 65 yards.

Oregon:

Oregon held off Arizona's second half rally, winning 55-45. Jeremiah Masoli's five touchdowns (two passing, three rushing) highlighted Oregon's ability to score at will in the first half. Despite all the ups and downs of this game, I credit the Ducks' +2 turnover margin as the key to this win. In the previous two games Oregon had turned the ball over eight times and was a late touchdown away from losing both contests. Oregon sported special "black-out" uniforms for this game. The jerseys had the usual Oregon flare, with wings on the shoulders in place of the usual metal meshing. I say they look far better than the Ducks' usual attire. Oregon can clinch a Holiday Bowl birth with a win against Oregon State in two weeks.

Oregon State:

The smell of roses is becoming more pungent in Corvallis after the Beavers beat Cal 31-14. Jacquizz Rodgers had 144 rushing yards and a touchdown while brother James Rodgers had two touchdowns of his own. Oregon State is 5-0 when both brothers reach the end zone and the Beavers can go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965 by beating Arizona and Oregon in the next two weeks.

Stanford:

Stanford is going to need a win at Cal for bowl-eligibility after falling to USC 45-23. Stanford was able to manage 202 rushing yards against the Trojan defense that allows the sixth fewest rushing yards (90.2 per game) in the country, but the Cardinal offense simply died late in the second quarter. Anthony Kimble scored on a touchdown run that gave Stanford a 17-10 lead with 4:29 remaining in the second quarter, but the Cardinal punted the next six drives before throwing an interception on the seventh. In that span of time USC scored 35 unanswered points and put the Cardinal's dreams of a bowl on hold for the time being.

USC:

There would be no repeat upset for Stanford this weekend, as USC beat the Cardinal 45-23. USC looked lifeless early, as it only gained six yards in its first three drives, but dominated the second half with 243 rushing yards while keeping Stanford scoreless until the final play. USC's title hopes still remain bleak and will need Oregon State to lose a game to even go to the Rose Bowl. I have mentioned this before, but it is astonishing that such a talented team as USC has out-penalized its opponents in all but two games this season.

UCLA:

Rick Neuheisel was out revenge over his former team as UCLA beat Washington 27-7. It wasn't a particularly impressive effort against the winless Huskies, as quarterback Kevin Craft added three more interceptions to his season total and the team gave up three turnovers, but believe it or not UCLA can still become bowl eligible. UCLA did manage to rush for a season-high 157 yards, which is a good sign seeing as the Bruins' 85.7 rushing yards per game in the fourth fewest in the country. Wins against Arizona State and USC would have UCLA heading to the postseason, but saying that feat is doubtful would be an understatement.

Washington and Washington State:

Same thing as usual here, but someone has to win when the two teams meet this Saturday.

Personal Experience: Autzen Stadium:

I had the privilege to do a broadcast of this past week's game in Eugene. I haven't been to too many college football stadiums, but I can say with certainty that it was the loudest game I have attended, and by a large margin.

The announcing of departing players for Senior Day was as loud if not louder than a game-winning moment at any other stadium I had experienced. When Oregon scored, I would take off my headset and couldn't hear a word of my play by play partner who was directly to my right.

Willie Tuitama told me in post-game interviews that the atmosphere wasn't as bad as he expected. Though I also heard that he said the noise was greater than when he played at LSU two seasons ago.

Safety Cam Nelson told me as I was leaving the stadium that It wasn't that big of a deal, claiming that USC was probably the hardest place he's played.

The stadium and surrounding facilities, to no surprise, looked more like a work of art than they did athletic buildings.

The press box was stacked: Beef roast, scalloped potatoes, salad bar, soda, coffee and popcorn topped off by much needed peanut butter cups desserts at halftime.

When I stepped on the field after the game, the stadium looked puny. I knew Autzen held 57,000 but at a glance it looked like Arizona Stadium dwarfed the place.

All and all I had a wonderful time in Eugene and would highly recommend a future trip there for any Wildcat fan.

Spencer Smith

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