Nothing like a pair of crazy finishes to complete a profitable Saturday for Pac-12 football.
First Oregon State, more battered than any team in the conference, found a way to overcome Utah in overtime, 51-48, in a game that ended right around midnight in Salt Lake City.
Minutes later came the controversial events in Tempe, where Arizona State outlasted Wisconsin, 32-30. The Badgers were at the ASU 13 with no timeouts left, and should have simply lined up for a 30-yard, right-hash field goal.
Instead, quarterback Joel Stave ran left, appeared to try to take a knee (it’s questionable whether his knee actually touched the ground), and placed the ball down to center it for the would-be field goal. Whistles could be heard, while with 12 seconds left, ASU linebacker Anthony Jones fell on the ball and stays on it.
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The officials didn’t spot the ball ready for play and Wisconsin never had a chance to spike it. Game over. Celebration on, except on the visiting sideline.
“We knee it with 15 seconds left and never had a chance to snap it again,” said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. “I don’t know how that happens.”
This much is clear: The Pac-12 needs to explain what the officials saw and whether they handled it properly, or this one will go in the dubious annals of the Oklahoma-Oregon onside kick controversy in 2006 and a similar incident involving Wisconsin at Oregon State last year.
What we learned
The Pac-12 still has the Big Ten’s number.
Of the four head-to-head matchups Saturday, the Pac-12 won three, even if ASU’s victory has a hint of spuriousness to it.
Most resounding was UCLA’s second-half wipeout of Nebraska.
“Being down 21-3 and coming back to win in front of 90,000 is an epic thing,” said Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley.
Nebraska invited some of its own misery after running successfully in the first half. It passed on six of its first eight plays in the third quarter, then threw three incompletions on its third series as UCLA took all the momentum.
Meanwhile, the heat is coming fast on Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. Wrote Tom Shatel in the Omaha World-Herald: “Don’t even bother trying to rank this collapse. Who cares? At some point, they all look the same.”
Oregon may just apply for the NFC West.
The Ducks scored 59 straight points against an SEC defense (Tennessee’s) and had their fans chanting, “We want ‘Bama!”
“That’s the students,” receiver Josh Huff told reporters. “We’re going to just continue to win the day.”
How about obliterate the day?
It wasn’t a completely rosy weekend for the Ducks, as tight end Colt Lyerla told The Oregonian he was “really upset” with coach Mark Helfrich for explaining Lyerla’s absence from the game as “circumstances” when, said Lyerla, he was merely sick much of last week and told to sit out Saturday’s game.
USC responded to choosing a QB.
In a four-touchdown win over Boston College, Cody Kessler went 15 for 17 for the Trojans, who threw a deep ball (incomplete) for Marqise Lee on the first play. But coach Lane Kiffin managed to attach a bit of snarkiness to it, saying, “That was (USC president) Max Nikia
s’ play. He told me, ‘Just throw it deep and they’ll cheer, even if it’s incomplete.’ ”
Offensive player-of-the-week candidates are as plentiful as Harbaugh-haters in Seattle. Try to choose among Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (456 yards passing), Washington’s Bishop Sankey (35 carries, 208 yards at Illinois), Oregon State’s Sean Mannion (443 yards passing at Utah) and OSU receiver Brandin Cooks (nine catches, 210 yards, three TDs).
There’s a final tepid Saturday before things heat up Sept. 28. Best of the schedule is Arizona State’s visit to Stanford.