Snippets from Pac-12 football coaches on Tuesday’s teleconference:
Coach Rich Rodriguez has apparently unearthed a plum in freshman running back Nick Wilson, who has run for 449 yards already.
“We thought he was special when we recruited him,” said Rodriguez of the 5-10, 199-pound Fresno product. “He had kind of a quiet confidence about him. I think most pleasing for us, we knew the first two weeks in camp how quickly he was picking up the system, not only the run game, but the passing game. He’s way advanced mentally than most freshmen would be at the position.”
Todd Graham said of Taylor Kelly’s replacement, fourth-year junior Mike Bercovici, “We’ve got a lot of confidence in Mike. We felt in camp and through spring, we had one of the best 1-2 quarterback combinations in the country. He’s got a tremendously strong throwing arm and he’s a tremendously smart guy. All he has to do is come in and execute the offense and take care of the football.”
In what should be an early, telling sign, the Bears go to Tucson this week to play Arizona, and quarterback Anu Solomon.
“I’ve been impressed with him,” said Sonny Dykes, the Bear coach. “He’s played in a couple of tight ball games, and it seems to me, when the game gets tight, he plays better.”
Mike MacIntyre’s team hosts Hawaii this week, which he characterized as a “very physical football team with a huge offensive line that’s taken both Pac-12 teams (Washington and Oregon State) right to the wire.”
MacIntyre also notes that Hawaii’s Scott Harding may be unique, at least in big-time college football: He’s the Warriors’ punter, averaging 40.7 yards, and also their punt returner, and averaging 10.6 yards per attempt.
“I’ve never seen that before,” MacIntyre said.
Mark Helfrich says he doesn’t have a problem with quarterback Marcus Mariota somersaulting for a touchdown, as he did Saturday against Wyoming (although he might have had a brief heart palpitation).
“The part that I had a little conversation about was, making sure we’re taking care of the football and being smart,” said Helfrich. “As long as you’re protecting the ball . . . other than that, Marcus has to be Marcus. The part that makes him great is when he improvises. Marcus is Marcus and we love him.”
OSU hosts San Diego State, whose coach, Rocky Long, was ex-defensive coordinator at OSU years ago and runs an unorthodox defense, in which, Mike Riley says, “they blitz from the bleachers.”
The Beavers, who haven’t averaged 4.0 yards per rush in five years, have shown improvement on the ground, having run for 340 yards, and both Terron Ward and Storm Woods are averaging more than six yards a carry.
“Not that it’s what you want totally,” said Riley, “but it sure is a better start than a year ago. It feels better than a year ago.”
The Cardinal gets the week off with Washington in its crosshairs next week in Seattle. Stanford has shut out Cal-Davis and Army and allowed but 13 points and 291 yards to USC.
David Shaw lauded the play of two defensive linemen, Henry Anderson and David Parry, and two inside linebackers, A.J. Tarpley and Blake Martinez, and said “the back end is playing great team defense. It’s everybody doing their jobs and trusting each other.”
The Bruins have a bye before a Sept. 25 game at Arizona State, but Jim Mora expressed pleasure at how all three phases of his team came together in the final minutes to survive a stiff challenge by Texas.
“It had to happen that way for us to have a chance,” said Mora. “I can’t say we’ve put a complete game together, but we sure put a nice sequence together.”
Mora said the thrust of the Bruins’ off-week will be to “self-scout,” to assess areas of struggle. One of those obviously will be an offense that, in its first and third games against Virginia and Texas, put up only three touchdowns – albeit with a backup quarterback for most of the Longhorn game in Jerry Neuheisel.
The Trojans are getting it from all sides this week, after rushing for a mere 20 yards at Boston College and getting gashed for 452 rushing on the other side of the ball. And now they have a bye to stew in it an extra week.
Steve Sarkisian said some of the offensive problems arose from Boston College’s good schemes, and “hindsight is 20/20; we would have liked to attack it a little differently. And we had some calls where we left people unblocked in the hole, which is uncharacteristic.”
The conventional takeaway on the defense is that it played tired. Said Sarkisian: “I don’t know if physically tired is exactly what they were. You can get a little mentally fatigued when you give up big plays. It wasn’t like they were extended drives I think there could have been a little mental fatigue there.”
And as for the bye: “It’s always a little bit more difficult when you have a loss like that and then you have a bye. You have to sit with the loss longer. We had a very physical practice today. There’s a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths around here – which is not a bad thing.”
The Utes go to Michigan this week, something Kyle Whittingham has done before. In 2008, the Utes launched a 13-0 season as a slight underdog with a 25-23 victory in the Big House.
“Obviously, it’s one of the steeped-in-tradition venues, and programs, in all of college football,” Whittingham says. “And the crowd is going to be enormous. What you’ve got to tell your guys is to block everything out – just remember you’re playing those 11 guys across from you, you’re not playing the tradition or the helmets.”
Chris Petersen talked about Shaq Thompson, who had two defensive touchdowns against Illinois: “He’s just a football player. You could use him on offense and he’d be just as effective as he’s been on defense. I think we could use him on multiple positions on defense. He’s got a really high football IQ, and he’s just a really good person – always got a smile on his face, shows up to work hard. He just goes.”
Isiah Myers has nosed ahead of Vince Mayle in receptions, 26 to 25, off his 11-catch effort Saturday night at Portland State.
“He’s off to a good start,” said Mike Leach, referring to Myers. “He’s always had a little explosion in him. I think in the past, he’s been streaky at times, but he hasn’t been streaky at all this year and it’s really paid off for him. Also, he’s gotten a little bigger and he’s in better shape, too.”
As for whether defensive concentration on Mayle has helped Myers, Leach said, “I think having a good one on each side is helping them both out. It’s hard to tend to both of them.”