Pac-12 Football Notebook: The Conference Has an Overlooked Quarterback

Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley could set a Pac-12 record for passer rating.Photo by Troy Wayrynen - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

Quiz: Who leads the Pac-12 in passer rating? 

No, it’s not Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Hint: This player ranks fifth in the nation in passer rating, behind only LSU’s Joe Burrow, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, and ahead of Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, among others.

No, it’s not Washington State’s Anthony Gordon.

Give up?

It’s Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has somehow gone relatively unnoticed even though he has led his team to a No. 13 national ranking and is the only quarterback ranked among the top 30 in passer rating who has not thrown an interception this season.

Huntley was outstanding in the Utes’ 52-7 beat-down of Oregon State on the road Saturday, completing 14 of 17 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.

OK, Oregon State’s defense is a sieve, and Huntley benefits from a strong running game and an offensive line that had allowed Huntley to be sacked just four time this season. But I don’t see the respect for Tagovailoa, Hurts or Burrow being diminished despite having the same advantages.

If Huntley maintains his current passer rating of 187.6 it would set a Pac-12 single-season record, surpassing the 181.7 passer rating established by Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in 2014.

Washington's Second-Half Surprise

For all the good things Chris Petersen has done as Washington’s head coach, the Huskies have demonstrated one glaring weakness under him: 

They can’t play from behind.

Heading into Saturday’s game at Arizona, the Huskies had lost 10 games in a row – and 15 of the last 16 -- in which they trailed at halftime under Petersen.

Things did not look encouraging when they trailed Arizona 17-13 at halftime Saturday, with all of Washington’s points resulting from Arizona mistakes.

But for no apparent reason, things started clicking in the second half, when Washington amassed 316 yards of total offense and scored 38 points in a 51-27 win, ending the odious streak.

Washington hopes it can keep up that pace in next week’s big game against Oregon, which ranks third in the country in scoring defense. (Remember when Oregon was all offense, no defense? Things have changed.)

ASU Aging Process

There were snickers in December 2017 when Arizona State hired Herm Edwards, who was 63 yards old and had been out of coaching for 10 years.

And there was some head-scratching when Edwards named true freshman Jayden Daniels his starting quarterback more than two weeks before the 2019 season opener.

Well, it’s too early to draw any wide-ranging conclusions about Edwards, now in his second season, but let’s look at the one aspect of games that coaches and quarterbacks have the greatest impact: close games.

Each of the Sun Devils’ last four games has been decided by seven points or fewer, and Arizona State trailed in the fourth quarter of all four.

But ASU won three of those games, with Edwards and Daniels pressing all the right buttons down the stretch.

The Sun Devils are ranked 17th in the AP poll released Sunday and are tied for first place in the Pac-12 South with a big game at Utah coming up on Saturday.

No one’s laughing now.

The Arizona Comedy

Arizona is 4-2 and quarterback Khalil Tate looks like an all-star at times, but the outlandish mistakes the Wildcats made on Saturday against Washington were comedic.

First Arizona had a punt blocked, which led to a Washington field goal. OK, those things can happen to any team, although they rarely happen to disciplined teams.

Then, the Wildcats botched a punt return as Arizona player Thomas Reid III backed into a teammate attempting to make a fair catch. The punt bounced off Reid’s helmet for a fumble, and Washington recovered, setting up another field goal. Oh brother.

The third mistake was the most inexplicable. Tate was retreating, attempting to avoid a sack, when he switched the ball to his left hand and tried to flip the ball away. The ball traveled backward a few yards, was scooped up by a Washington player at the 5-yard line and run in for a touchdown.

Take a look here.