September 5, 2012 in Sports

Debuts go well for QBs

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tiger lurking

 The Washington Huskies knew they were taking to the practice field Tuesday to prepare for their matchup with the third-ranked LSU Tigers this weekend.

 They didn’t expect to see a live tiger awaiting them.

 Sheena, a 16-month-old Bengal tiger, was sitting in a cage right at the entrance to the Washington practice field as the players made their way in. Players had not been told beforehand about their furry guest.

 Redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Feeney was one of many to be caught off guard by the giant cat.

 “I had no idea,” he said. “It was pretty funny when I ran out. … I was like, ‘Oh! A tiger!’ ”

 Washington contacted A Walk on the Wild Side, a private animal reserve in Canby, Ore., last week about the possibility of bringing the tiger in.

 The idea was to help the Huskies prepare for LSU’s live mascot, Mike the Tiger VI.

All things considered, the first week of the college football season went relatively well for the five quarterbacks who made their debuts as Pac-12 starters.

Of the five – Taylor Kelly of Arizona State, Josh Nunes of Stanford, Brett Hundley of UCLA, Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Jordan Webb of Colorado – four were winners, three of them by 25 points or more.

Colorado’s Webb, a transfer from Kansas, was the lone loser of the new guys, completing 22 of 41 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns in a 22-17 loss to Colorado State.

But the rest prevailed, though most were accommodated with fairly soft landings and none faced a team from a BCS conference. Kelly, for example, played outstanding in ASU’s 63-6 rout of Northern Arizona, completing 15 of 19 passes for 247 yards.

A tougher challenge awaits this week, though, with Illinois coming to Tempe. Coach Todd Graham noted that fact, but said he still learned plenty about his new quarterback despite playing an inferior opponent in Week 1.

“They blitzed a lot, they were a pressure team and I learned what I knew about him is true,” Graham said of his redshirt sophomore. “Very poised, doesn’t get rattled, takes care of the ball, manages the game, makes good decisions. That’s all he’s done. He’s been the guy since spring.”

UCLA coach Jim Mora said many of the same things about Hundley, a redshirt freshman who completed 75 percent of his passes and ran for a 72-yard touchdown on the first play of his career in the Bruins’ 49-24 win over Rice (No. 16 Nebraska is next for the Bruins, though).

And it was difficult to find anything wrong with the way Oregon’s Mariota performed in his first college game –18 for 22, 200 yards, three scores – a 57-34 win over Arkansas State that Mariota exited at halftime with his team leading 50-3.

Ducks coach Chip Kelly said he doesn’t use kid gloves when evaluating Mariota, a redshirt freshman.

“We grade all our quarterbacks the same way, whether you went into the game in the fourth quarter or you started the game,” Kelly said. “Everyone is graded the same way.”

Nunes, who was 16 for 26 for just 125 yards in Stanford’s narrow, 20-17 win over San Jose State, still impressed coach David Shaw despite his limited opportunities.

“Josh got us to the right place,” Shaw said. “We were relatively conservative early in the game and he executed the game plan and did well.”

Tedford, Cal moving on

Only three Pac-12 teams lost their season opener last weekend, with Washington State falling to BYU, Colorado losing to Colorado State and California losing at home to Nevada.

Cal’s loss may have been the biggest surprise.

“It just seemed like last week, what could have gone wrong did,” Tedford said.

The Bears fell behind and squandered several opportunities to pull even with the Wolf Pack in a 31-24 loss in their first game at the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.

But just as WSU and Colorado have a chance to rebound against FCS schools this week, Cal plays host to Southern Utah.

And those aren’t the only teams feeling upset about the way they performed in their openers.

“There was a little dissatisfaction with the way that we played,” said Shaw, whose Stanford team was a 26-point favorite over SJSU and won by just three. “San Jose State played us extremely tough, extremely well, but at the same time we didn’t play up to our capabilities.”

Had Washington coach Steve Sarkisian been available on Tuesday’s coaches’ call – the Huskies were practicing during his scheduled call-in time – he may have said the same thing about UW’s ugly 21-12 win over San Diego State.

Around the league

Oregon State, which had its scheduled opener against Nicholls State postponed due to Hurricane Isaac, prepares to host No. 13 Wisconsin this week in what coach Mike Riley called “the world’s longest training camp.” … Arizona managed to hold off Toledo in overtime last week, but the Wildcats could have won earlier if not for a missed 24-yard field goal by John Bonano, who also missed from 24 in the game. UA coach Rich Rodriguez had Bonano try the same kicks from the same distance in his team’s next practice. “I think he’ll make the majority of them throughout the year,” he said. … Sarkisian has yet to answer a question on the Pac-12 call this season. Last week, a reporter dialed in for a question a tad too late for Sarkisian’s liking. So he hung up.

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