Back in August, everybody targeted Nov. 12, the day Oregon would play Stanford, as the football game of the year in the new Pac-12. Ten weeks later, here...
Back in August, everybody targeted Nov. 12, the day Oregon would play Stanford, as the football game of the year in the new Pac-12. Ten weeks later, here we are, right on schedule.
Not that there haven’t been a few twists and turns along the way, Rick Neuheisel.
What We Learned
He’s doing it again. Two weeks ago, Neuheisel was left for dead, here and elsewhere. His UCLA team had just gone to one-victory Arizona and been waxed, 48-12, and the speculation wasn’t over whether he could keep his job, it was about his successor.
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Enter a plan. Remember the celebrated (if contrived) “Northwest Championship” of 2002, when, during a season gone awry at Washington, Neuheisel hatched a plan to keep the Huskies engaged?
This time, it was “Burn The Boats,” a reference to a tale of war in which generals, invading a battleground by boat, warned their troops they had no way to retreat because their boats would be burned, so they had to win or die.
The Bruins even wore T-shirts before their last two games against California and Arizona State emblazoned with the initials “BTB.”
“I know it sounded corny,” Neuheisel told the L.A. Daily News. “But we’re on this island and there’s no time to point fingers. It’s time to bond together and fight our way off.”
UCLA (5-4, 4-2) responded with two surprise victories, and by winning out would get to the Pac-12 title game. Still, if I were a Bruins fan, I’d be deathly afraid of a trip to Utah this week.
Oregon has a defense, too. The popular assumption was that Washington would get its yards and points against Oregon, and if it couldn’t keep up, it would be on defense.
Wrong. In their 34-17 victory, the Ducks held Chris Polk to 80 yards, limited the Huskies to 2.3 yards a play and had six sacks.
Could Washington go a full decade without beating Oregon? The streak is now at eight.
Sadly, Chris Owusu is a magnet for illegal hits. I can’t remember a player in the league who was so regularly the victim of hits above the shoulders, dating to Stanford’s season opener in 2009 at WSU.
Saturday, OSU’s Jordan Poyer was flagged for such a hit and it nullified an OSU touchdown. Afterward, Stanford coach David Shaw told reporters, “I was fighting back tears, just to see Chris lying on the ground again.”
Shaw didn’t rule out that Owusu could be back for Oregon. Stanford also said tight end Levine Toilolo should be available after some sort of upper-body injury, and that’s important because the Cardinal is already missing tight end Zach Ertz.
Meanwhile, when the reality of the 38-13 loss began sinking in, OSU fans did the only proper thing, encouraging Stanford by chanting, “Beat the Ducks! Beat the Ducks!”
Utah is resilient. You can understand why the Utes’ Kyle Whittingham is respected as a good coach. In a season in which his team has been widely mocked for starting 0-4 in its new league, he has kept Utah (5-4) on track with wins against Pittsburgh, Oregon State and now Arizona in the last four games.
Utes quarterback Jon Hays won’t win any all-league honors, but in the past two weeks, he has thrown for four TDs with no interceptions.
Besides the Oregon-Stanford soiree in California, there’s UCLA’s important date at Utah, and Washington, winner of two straight against USC, travels to L.A. to face a Trojans team that no doubt will be ready.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com