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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 9, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Snippets from Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches conference call . . .

Tuesday marked the football season’s third Pac-12 conference call. Some highlights:


Coach Rich Rodriguez’ team this week hosts Nevada, which probably got the Wildcats’ attention with its 24-13 win over Washington State last week.

“They just did an outstanding job of taking away some things Washington State wanted to do, and controlling the game with their defense,” said Rodriguez.

It’s a revisit of Arizona’s crazy 49-48 win against the Wolf Pack in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl, a game notable for the fact the Wildcats came back from a 21-0 deficit, tied it, then fell 17 behind again and eventually won it in the final minute with the help of an onside kick.

Asked what he remembers about it, Rodriguez said, “How lucky we were to win it. They had like a thousand yards on us.”

For the record, it was only 659.

Arizona State

Entering this week’s only league game – Sun Devils at Colorado Saturday night —Todd Graham is encouraged by a defense that returned only two starters this year.

“These guys are fast,” he said. “We’re gaining depth on the defensive line. We’ve got seven or eight guys we feel good about playing, and five corners we feel we can play. Every day, we’ve got to improve fanatically about our defects. They’ve done well to this point, but it gets harder and harder.”


The Bears, off to a 2-0 start, have a bye before meeting Arizona next week in Tucson.

Says Sonny Dykes, “When you sit down and say, ‘When would you like to have a bye,’ you’d say before the Pac-12 season starts. We had a physical fall camp. It’s probably not the perfect time, but at the same time, I think it’s probably needed.”


This is what happens when one of the Pac-12’s bottom-feeders goes on the road to play a MAC team (a MAC team only this year, however) that’s appearing in a pro stadium 90 miles from campus: You draw a little more than 10,000 people to play Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots.

But Mike MacIntyre said the day was positive for the Buffs, not only because they beat the Minutemen, 41-38.

“There were a lot of empty seats,” said MacIntyre. “But honestly, when you get out between those lines, you’re still excited when you win and down when you lose. We had 2,500-3,000 Colorado people there, and they were really excited. A lot of them (from the East) hadn’t seen a Colorado game in years, and the kids sang the fight song for them.”.


Mark Helfrich, asked what “stamp” he has put on the Duck program since his arrival two years ago, predictably downplayed that factor.

“I’ve said from the beginning, I don’t own a stamp,” he said. “If we’re the group and the team that kept on winning after Chip Kelly left, that’s good enough for me.”

Oregon State

The Beavers have a bye this week before hosting San Diego State. Until a second-half lapse, the OSU offense against Hawaii was much improved over the opener versus Portland State.

“We were much crisper,” said Mike Riley. “We had a pretty good mixture of run-pass.”

As for PSU, Washington State’s opponent this week, Riley said, “They’re very well-coached, thoughtful and dynamic on offense. They’re much like playing Eastern Washington, and we all know what that’s like.”


The Cardinal hosts Army this week, but there was no mistaking the disappointment in David Shaw’s voice at how his team let a victory slip through its hands against USC.

“The defense was outstanding,” he said. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win by our execution in the red zone. You’re talking about opportunities to score a lot in that game – not about scoring four points (necessary to win), but opportunities to score a lot.”


Texas (in Arlington) is next for Jim Mora’s team, and Mora was asked if he was a candidate for the UCLA job when the Longhorns hired Charlie Strong.

“You’d have to ask them if they considered me,” he said. “I’m excited to be the head coach at UCLA.”

As for the Bruin defense, which backslid in allowing Memphis 35 points, Mora said, “They played a very unorthodox offense; they had 17 different run concepts, and we didn’t handle it as well as I’d like.”


The Trojans will be without middle linebacker Hayes Pullard for the first half of their game at Boston College, because of Pullard’s illegal hit to Ty Montgomery’s helmet during USC’s second-half meltdown period at Stanford. He’ll be replaced by sophomore Michael Hutchings, whom Steve Sarkisian initially called “adequate,” and then “a really good football player.”

Sarkisian said Stanford’s red-zone problems had something to do with the fact USC emphasized that on defense last week after some deficiencies against Fresno State.

“In the coaching world, generally, you get what you preach,” he said. “The biggest thing we did, we dug deep. People are going to move the ball; that’s football. But just because they drive the ball into your red zone doesn’t mean they’ve earned the right to score.”


The Utes have a bye this week before a trip to Michigan – this is the series that caused them to back off the annual BYU game, riling a lot of “Y” fans in that state – and after the Wolverines lost to Notre Dame, 31-0, it’s looking a lot more like a winnable game for Utah.

Said Kyle Whittingham about the bye, “I’d just as soon play 12 straight every year.”

Whittingham says he likes the transition to a fast tempo, and that defensive end/linebacker Nate Orchard has given that side what standout Trevor Reilly provided the past couple of years.


Nose tackle Danny Shelton had four sacks against Eastern Washington, and responding to a questioner, Chris Petersen said, “I don’t think I’ve seen that, either. Sometimes nose guards don’t even make many tackles, they just take on blocks so somebody else can make them. Danny’s been doing a really nice job.”

Washington State

One of WSU’s puzzlers right now is the play of Darryl Monroe, veteran middle linebacker. His 17 tackles is tied for second on the team, but of nine players with a tackle for loss, he isn’t one of them. He simply hasn’t been a consistent force over two games.

“I think he’s played ‘cluttered,’ ’’ said Mike Leach. “He’s got to clear his mind. He’s just got to pull the trigger and do it. I don’t know if he’s thinking too much . . . he needs to focus on just making plays.”



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