November 17, 2010 in Sports

High-flying Pac-10 offenses grounded

The Spokesman-Review
 

PULLMAN – Quick, without looking, name the Pac-10 Conference team that scored the most points last week.

It wasn’t Oregon, the nation’s top scoring team. And it wasn’t Stanford.

Give?

It was Washington State.

The Cougars’ 31 points at Oregon State were a touchdown better than USC’s total in Arizona.

WSU scored more points by itself than were scored combined in Oregon’s victory at California (15-13, Ducks) and Stanford’s win at ASU (17-13, Cardinal).

What’s going on? Isn’t this the conference of offenses?

“As teams start to figure out more and more what they’re doing, they find more ways to create problems for the offense,” said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, whose team didn’t participate in the conference-wide offensive slowdown last week because of a bye.

Most teams are about 10 games into their 12-game schedule, plenty of time for defenses to dissect the nuances of the conference’s offenses.

“The more people play, the more (defenses) find tendencies,” Neuheisel said. “You find out who their players are that are going to make differences in games, the matchups, that all helps, no question.”

No defense should get more credit than California’s. The Bears held the Ducks to one offensive touchdown and almost 40 points less than their season average, which was a little better than 54 points a game coming in.

So what was the exotic defensive scheme Bears coordinator Clancy Pendergast came up with?

There really wasn’t one.

“A lot of other teams have tried that scheme and it hasn’t worked,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “I give a lot of credit to the Cal players. They played really hard.”

California coach Jeff Tedford, whose team hosts No. 7 Stanford – averaging 39.8 points per game – this Saturday in the Big Game, concurs with Kelly.

“I thought we played very physical up front,” he said. “We were able to hold point and not get stretched out of gaps. And then I thought we tackled well in the open field. That’s always important against Oregon, because they do a great job of getting into the open field. … Those guys are hard to tackle.”

Around the conference

For the first time in his tenure at Washington State, coach Paul Wulff was able to talk about a Pac-10 victory during his press conference time. “I thought about, ‘Finally, I can talk about a win,’ and feel better,” Wulff said after laughing at the mention. “It’s very satisfying, to be honest. And I’m looking forward to many more of these.” Wulff’s only other conference win came in the final game of the 2008 season and there was no teleconference the next week. … Washington will play its last home game Thursday night and the Huskies will wear all black. They have also asked their fans to show up in black, for a nationally televised “blackout” game. “Before I got here even, the color black has become almost a secondary color,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “So much of the gear, not just the uniforms, but the gear people are wearing, is on black.” The official school colors are purple and gold. … After the 17-13 loss to Stanford last Saturday, Arizona State is 4-6 overall. It has four losses by four or fewer points. Which doesn’t make it any easier for coach Dennis Erickson. “There is no consolation whatsoever,” Erickson said. “The thing is, we’ve played hard and come close, but they aren’t wins. That’s the bottom line.” Meanwhile, the Pac-10 reprimanded Erickson for publicly criticizing the officials in the Sun Devils’ loss to Stanford. Erickson told the Arizona Republic on Sunday that he was frustrated about a facemask call on Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict during Stanford’s winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Cal has played so much better at home than on the road, the Bears have to be glad this year’s Big Game is in Berkeley. It hasn’t seemed to matter where it’s been recently, as Cal has won seven of the last eight games. “We’re trying to make this rivalry game a rivalry,” Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. “You can’t call it much of a rivalry when you’ve lost seven out of the last eight games.” … So what has happened to the Oregon State Beavers? After defeating Cal 35-7, they’ve lost at UCLA and to WSU at home. The last defeat still boggles coach Mike Riley’s mind. Asked what went wrong, Riley said, “That has a long answer to it. There was a lot that went wrong. … We didn’t play in any phase detailed, disciplined football.” … At least the Beavers get USC this week. The Trojans have struggled in Oregon recently and especially at Reser Stadium.


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