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Pac-12 Football Notes: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Bo Nix, Jaydn Ott, DTR shine. USC wins ugly. ACC apologizes (privately) about officiating error. Colorado, Karl Dorrell sink further.
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In an homage to Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach and 1960s Spaghetti Westerns, we present The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly 

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THE GOOD

---UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson put himself back into the Pac-12 Player of the Year conversation by going 19-for-23 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions to go along with 56 rushing yards in a 45-17 victory over Colorado to improve the Bruins' record to 4-0.  And he played only two and half quarters.

The only mitigating factor is that it was achieved against Colorado.

---Oregon quarterback Bo Nix reversed his reputation as a quarterback who is ineffective in the fourth quarter by leading the Ducks to 29-fourth-quarter points in a come-from-behind 44-41 road victory over Washington State.

Heading into Saturday's game, Nix was 5-for-9 for 37 yards with just one first down in the fourth quarter this season, continuing the late-game inefficiency he had shown at Auburn. But starting with 4:11 left in the third quarter and Oregon trailing 27-15, Nix went 16-for-21 for 192 yards, two touchdown passes, no interceptions, a successful two-point conversion run and eight pass completions that resulted in first downs. 

His first TD pass on Saturday ended a run of 99 consecutive fourth-down passes without a touchdown, a streak dating back Dec. 12, 2020, when he was a sophomore at Auburn. His second TD pass (see twitter video below) put Oregon ahead with 1:21 left in the game..

 ---Cal's Jaydn Ott rushed for 274 yards, the most ever by a Pac-12 true freshman, in the Bears' 49-31 victory over Arizona.

His rushing total is the third-most in Cal history and the most by any FBS player this season. And Ott did it with just 19 carries. The other four FBS players who have had games of 210 rushing yards or more this year all needed at least 28 carries.

"274 rushing yards, 14.4 average?" said Cal quarterback Jack Plummer. "That's pretty good if you're playing Pee Wee football, or you're playing at the highest level."

Ott leads the Pac-12 in rushing at 115.8 yards per game, and his 8.3 yards per carry for the season lead the nation among FBS players with at least 50 carries.

Ott had a 73-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game and a 72-yard TD run on his final carry. But it was the second of his three touchdown runs that was the most impressive, as seen in this twitter video:

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THE BAD

---When the most encouraging game of the season is a 45-17 loss at home to an unranked opponent, you know things are not going well.

Freshman quarterback Owen McCown, the son of former NFL quarterback Josh McCown, became Colorado's third starting quarter in four games on Saturday, even though injury did not precipitate any of the changes.  McCown showed promise by going 26-for-42 for 258 yards, one touchdown and one pick, but that is unlikely to ease the pressure on head coach Karl Dorrell.

The Buffaloes have lost all four of their games by at least 25 points, and none of those opponents was ranked at the time. 

The Colorado students chanted "Fire Karl!" during Saturday's game, and Denver Post columnist Sean Keeler responded with a column with this headline: -- "'Fire Karl! Fire Karl!' CU Buffs football is a 3-ring circus. Can QB Owen McCown keep Karl Dorrell, awful defense from 0-12?"

This comes several days after Colorado athletic director Rick George posted this on the Colorado athletics website:

Dear Buffalo Supporters:

Like all of you, I have been disappointed to watch our football team struggle this fall, most recently yesterday at Minnesota. I know that our coaches and our student-athletes are capable of so much more and that all of you deserve better results.

I want you to know that I hear you. I recognize and understand your disappointment and frustration and perhaps, even anger. We have not come close to meeting our expectations this season and we own that. I know that Coach Dorrell, our coaching and support staff, and our student-athletes are working hard to get us on track, and with conference play starting this Saturday, we hope we all will enjoy a home victory over UCLA.

Regardless of your feelings right now on Colorado Football, I encourage you to continue to support our tremendous football student-athletes, who need your cheers, encouragement and support now, more than ever.

Go Buffs!

Rick George

Not exactly a statement of unwavering support.

Dorrell was Pac-12 coach of the year two years ago, but we expect the ax to fall on him at any moment.

Even the mascot is losing interest

---The Atlantic Coast Conference acknowledged (sort of) that its officiating crew made a mistake in the Cal-Notre Dame game last week, and has suspended the side judge who make the call, according to a Tweet by Roxy Bernstein, a Cal alumnus and frequent play-by-play man on Pac-12 football and basketball telecasts.

The offsides call came and on a fourth-and-5 play in which the Irish kicker missed a 45-yard field goal.  The penalty gave Notre Dame a first down at the Cal 22-yard line and Notre Dame scored the tying touchdown on that possession to tie the game 7-7. Notre Dame would eventually win 24-17.

This item is placed in the "bad" category not because the call was missed. Those things happen.  This is bad because the ACC refused to acknowledge its mistake and suspension publicly.

The Pac-12 made a series officiating blunders several years ago that led to nationwide criticism of Pac-12 officiating.  But at least the conference acknowledged the mistakes publicly.

On Sunday the Pac-12 even acknowledged a mistake in  Saturday's Oregon-Washington State game that was caught in time and did not affect the game.

The ACC hasn't publicly acknowledged anything and apparently is trying to hide its official's mistake from the general public. We have a word for that weak approach, but we can't print it here.

UPDATE: SFGate, the San Francisco Chronicle's online arm, reported Monday that the ACC official in question, Matthew Fitzgerald, was not suspended and in fact worked the Notre Dame game against North Carolina on Saturday, 

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THE UGLY

---USC stayed unbeaten by getting by Oregon State 17-14 in a result that can only be described as an ugly win.

The Trojans' offense in general and quarterback Caleb Williams in particular had wowed observers over the first three games, making them look like College Football Playoff contenders and making Williams look like a Heisman Trophy contender.

But with 4:35 left in Saturday's game, Williams was 10-for-28 for 123 yards and no touchdowns, and the Trojans had scored just 10 points.against a Beavers defense that ranked in the bottom half of the conference in every defensive category.

It was at that point that Williams saved the day and his image by mounting an 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to win the game. Williams was 6-for-8 for 57 yards in that drive, which ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison.

However, Williams most important play on that possession may have been his 7-yard scramble for a first down on a four-and-6 play from the USC 43-yard line with 2:42 left (see twitter video below). I'm guessing Beavers fans will say his forward momentum was stopped short and the whistle should have been blown. We say the officials did the right thing by letting the play run a few seconds longer.  Of course, in the days when it was illegal for offensive teammates to push a ball-carrier forward, we would agree with Beavers fans. 

Despite the shaky performance, USC moved up in the AP rankings this week from No. 7 to No. 6, the Trojans' highest ranking since they were No. 5 on Sept. 24, 2017.

---Utah tight end Brant Kuithe is probably finished for the season after suffering a knee injury during the Utes' 34-13 victory over Arizona State.

This is not an ordinary personnel loss. Kuithe, a preseason first-team all-conference pick, is one of the most important non-quarterbacks in the Pac-12. His nine receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown in the close, season-opening loss to Florida showed his value when Utah faces quality teams. So did his 118 receiving yards in last year's late-season win over Oregon, and his six catches for 77 yards in the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State.

---This news following last week's dismissal of Herm Edwards as Arizona State's head coach is a bit unsettling.

A Sept. 19 story by Doug Haller of the The Athletic reported that people inside Arizona State's athletic department leaked information about ASU's football program to opposing teams with the hope of getting Edwards fired.

The report also noted that Edwards did not become familiar with NCAA bylaws, which did not exactly endear him to folks in the ASU athleti department.

It's getting ugly out there.

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Top Five Pac-12 Teams

1. Washington (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) -- The Huskies are fifth in the nation in total offense and up to No. 15 in the AP rankings.

2. USC (4-0, 2-0) -- Unbeaten and ranked No. 6, USC showed vulnerability against unranked Oregon State. But the Trojans are the only team in the country that has not committed a turnover this season.

3. UCLA (4-0, 1-0) -- The Bruins have done nothing yet, but Friday's nationally televised game against Washington and a game against Utah the following week will tell us plenty.

4. Utah (3-1, 1-0) -- That loss to Florida, which is 0-2 in the SEC, still haunts the Utes.

5. Oregon (3-1, 1-0) -- That horrible loss to Georgia is starting to fade, but can't be erased yet.

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Pac-12 Player of the Year Standings

(You'll notice that four of the five are newcomers to the conference this year)

1. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Washington-- He leads the nation in passing yardage and leads the Pac-12 in passer rating for an unbeaten, nationally ranked team,

2. Quarterback Caleb Williams, USC -- 9 TD passes, 0 interceptions for a top-10 team still looks good.

3. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA -- He's just hanging around, lurking under the radar.  The next two weeks will determine his fate.

4. Running back Jaydn Ott, Cal -- His 463 rushing yards lead the Pac-12 by 72 yards, and his 8.3 yards per carry are a full yard better than anyone else in the conference.

5. Linebacker Daiyan Henley, Washington State -- He's second in the conference in tackles (9.5 per game), leads the Pac-12 in tackles for loss (8.5), has forced two fumbles and has an interception for a team that would be 4-0 if it had held onto a 12-point lead with seven minutes left at home against Oregon. 

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Cover photo of Bo Nix by James Snook, USA TODAY Sports

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