Pac-12 Football: Bad Times in L.A. and the Farm; Good Times in the Desert

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) was part of a UCLA offense that gained 311 yards compared to the 611 yards gained by Oklahoma.Photo by Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports
Jake Curtis

Happy days in the desert; not so much in Los Angeles. And what’s going on at Stanford?

We’ll start in L.A., the traditional stronghold of Pac-12 football

USC lost to BYU, which is not a good look nationally for a Trojans team that was ranked at the time. Not only did the Trojans drop to 2-1 and out of the top 25, but their next three games are against No. 10 Utah, No. 22 Washington and No. 7 Notre Dame, with two of those games being on the road.

Things could get ugly quickly for USC coach Clay Helton, because his future will be determined by an as-yet-unnamed athletic director who will want to put his own stamp on the USC football program.

After lighting it up against Stanford last week, USC true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis threw three interceptions in first road start this week. It won’t get any easier the next three games.

As bad as things are at USC, they are infinitely worse at UCLA.

Let’s count the ways

---UCLA scored just 14 points for the third straight game, losing to fifth-ranked Oklahoma 48-14.

---Chip Kelly, the coach who is said to have revolutionized football, has a 3-12 record as UCLA’s head coach, and now there are whispers about how long he will last just two years after he signed a five-year, $23.3 million deal.

The Bruins rank 127th of 130 FBS teams in scoring, which is not what was expected from a coach whose Oregon teams ranked first, second and third nationally in scoring in his final three seasons with the Ducks, never averaging fewer than 46 points in that span.

---UCLA has started 0-3 for the second straight season. That has not happened since 1919 through 1921, the first three seasons that UCLA had a football program and a stretch in which the Bruins lost a 1920 game to Whittier 103-0.

---Oklahoma fans appeared to outnumber UCLA fans at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, even though UCLA season-ticket-holders were offered free tickets to the game and even though Norman, Okla., is more than 1,300 miles from Los Angeles.

UCLA attendance last year in Chip Kelly’s first season was the lowest since 1999, and it looks like it will be worse this year. The crowd of 36,951 for last week’s loss to San Diego State was UCLA’s fourth-smallest at the Rose Bowl since making it its home stadium in 1982.

---Finally, and worst of all, a shooting took place in the Rose Bowl parking lot several hours after the game that killed an 18-year-old man and wounded a 51-year-old man. About 20-30 gunshots were fired.

And now the Stanford mystery

The Cardinal has been known for consistently strong defensive teams in David Shaw’s time as head coach, but Stanford’s defense has been virtually nonexistent the past two weeks.

For the second week in a row a true freshman quarterback who began the season as a backup trashed Stanford’s defense. Last week it was USC’s Slovis, who completed 28 of 33 passes for 377 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 45-20 victory over Stanford. And this week it was Central Florida freshman Dillon Gabriel, who went 22-for-30 for 347 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 45-27 rout of Stanford that was not as close as the score suggests.

Stanford has yielded 45 points or more in consecutive games for the first time since 1918, when Stanford lost to Mare Island 80-0, and followed that with a 70-0 loss to Mather Field during an 0-4 season. It’s a good thing Mare Island and Mather Field are not on the schedule this season.

For the good news, we travel to the desert

Arizona State pulled off a 10-7 win over No. 18 Michigan State, but it took a penalty to do it.

Sun Devils freshman quarterback Jayden Daniel engineered a game-winning touchdown drive in the closing moments, throwing for 52 yards on that possession and running for 27 more, to give ASU a three-point lead with 50 seconds left.

The Spartans then reached the ASU 24-yard line with 11 seconds left, and Matt Coghlin booted a 42-yard field goal to tie the game . . . apparently. But Michigan State had 12 players on the field, and after a five-yard penalty, Coghlin missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt.

ASU moved into the top 25 at No. 24.

Later Saturday night, Arizona quarterback Kahlil Tate did what he did in 2017, but not in 2018 – run the ball effectively. His 84-yard touchdown run was part of a 129-yard rushing game for Tate, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble but was still on the winning side of a 28-14 win over Texas Tech.

Maybe the Wildcats and their defense are not as bad as they appeared to be in the season-opening 45-38 loss to Hawaii, which churned out 595 yards against Arizona.