Connor Halliday threw a football an NCAA-record 89 times Saturday night at Oregon. But the real missiles flew afterward.
Nick Aliotti, the longtime Oregon defensive coordinator, accused Washington State coach Mike Leach of being “low-class” and said he was “stunned” the Cougars’ Halliday stayed in to finish with other first-team offensive members.
“They want stats, they got stats,” said Aliotti. “We got the most important stat, and that’s the ‘W.’ ”
“I don’t criticize other teams or coaches,” Leach said in a text Sunday evening. “I focus on coaching my team.”
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I don’t get either party in this little contretemps, which came after Oregon beat WSU, 62-38.
First, Leach, who I’m guessing loves Aliotti’s outrage. Leach loves to defy convention, and he’d be first to tell you he doesn’t have to subscribe to anybody else’s rules of engagement.
Thing is, I’d bet he doesn’t give a rip whether Halliday set any NCAA or school records. Why he kept Halliday in the game to lead two drives past the midway point of the fourth quarter, gathering 133 more yards, is anybody’s guess.
I don’t see how it was smart pragmatically. Halliday admitted after the game he’s banged up, and if he had happened to get belted in the knee by one of Oregon’s subs and it had long-term implications, Leach would have looked silly. Besides, I’d argue the last two series would be better experience for his backup, Austin Apodaca, if and when he might need to play.
Then there’s Aliotti. Why not merely say, “Hey, those last two touchdowns came against our twos and threes,” and let it go at that? I don’t see how it’s any affront to Oregon’s defense that Halliday stayed in. Is the fact Oregon won 62-38 rather than 62-24 going to keep the Ducks from the national-title game?
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said Sunday that Aliotti’s comments “were not representative of him or our program. I know he’s remorseful and more or less got caught in the moment of defending our players.”
What we learned
The schedule has gotten to Washington … to a point: Not only were the Huskies meeting a good Arizona State team on the road on the heels of two taxing games against Stanford and Oregon, there’s this big-picture jolt of realism about 2013:
In what was supposed to be a breakout season — and it still could be, though the Huskies better get with it pretty soon — the schedule was lined up all wrong. Washington’s home games in the Pac-12 are mostly a combination of conference doormats — California, Colorado — and the nigh-unbeatable (Oregon). The road games are all against teams that have realistic big-bowl possibilities (Stanford, ASU, Oregon State, UCLA).
That’s not the normal road map to success. But it shouldn’t completely rationalize a crashing loss at ASU, one that drops Steve Sarkisian’s record in Pac-12 games to 20-20.
Stanford got back to being Stanford: A week after inexplicably throwing the ball on two key game-deciding downs from the Utah 6-yard line, the Cardinal ran Tyler Gaffney 36 times for 171 yards.
Meanwhile, the Cardinal defense prevented any real UCLA downfield passing game in a 24-10 victory. There was one Bruins passing play longer than 16 yards in 39 attempts by Brett Hundley.
For the second straight week, Utah had its season rearranged: The Utes lost at Arizona, and their rising quarterback, Travis Wilson, left with what appeared to be a hand injury after throwing for only 15 yards with two interceptions. Any long-term absence would be problematic for the Utes, now 4-3, who went much of the way with unproven sophomore Adam Schulz.
On the other hand, it was a pivotal first league win for Arizona, which got 236 yards on 40 carries from meal-ticket Ka’Deem Carey.
UCLA, which dropped to 12th in AP, visits Oregon and Stanford travels to Oregon State. Utah is at USC, whose Marqise Lee tweaked his problem knee at Notre Dame.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org