ASU, Colorado surprise, Stanford stays on course in week 2

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The marquee Pac-12 matchup of the week, No. 17 USC at No. 10 Stanford, came and went in typical (and unexciting) Stanford football fashion. The Cardinal dominated ball control late in the game, ran the rock well and milked the clock.

USC (not unlike many, many others who have tried) could not contain Heisman candidate Bryce Love and the Stanford offensive line. The Trojans, though picking up seven more first downs than their NorCal rivals, coughed up three turnovers and forced none. The Cardinal rolled on as the J.T. Daniels-led offense sputtered in a 17-3 loss.

Arizona State and Colorado had the most success this week of the South Division. The Buffaloes grabbed a laudable win at Nebraska in a hostile environment, showcasing their ability to keep calm in a back-and-forth contest all the way through.

For the final three quarters, neither team broke away by more than eight points at any moment, and Colorado finished on top, 33-28, thanks to quarterback Steven Montez, who finished 33-50 for 351 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. His third touchdown pass came with less than two minutes in the game, silencing the sellout crowd for Scott Frost’s Nebraska debut.

Arguably the most exciting game of Week 2, Colorado’s win garnered even more attention on a national level because of controversy upturned a few days after it ended. Nebraska says it has video footage of the play in which Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez suffered a knee injury and that it looks like a Colorado defender intentionally twisted Martinez’s leg.

The Nebraska coaching staff has submitted the video to the NCAA for review on behalf of its quarterback, who had to sit out during a critical portion of the fourth quarter.

The biggest Pac-12 win of the week, though, was Arizona State’s upset of then-No. 15 Michigan State. Down by 10 at one point, the Sun Devils remained unbeaten with a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of a nerve-wracking 16-13 defensive standoff.

Under new coach Herm Edwards, ASU’s identity has drastically changed. The team is looking less like its West Coast offensive past and more like a grind-it-out SEC team. Though it’s very early in the season, it is still worth noting that the Sun Devils have allowed the fewest rush yards of any team in the country -— notwithstanding a Michigan State team known for its running.

ASU apparently no longer needs to win with an abundance of scoring, whereas in the past three seasons it has only won three times when scoring less than 30 points.

The other Pac-12 team in Arizona did not come mentally prepared after a home-opening loss to BYU last week. By the end of the first quarter, Houston had taken a 21-0 lead, which was extended to 31-0 by the half. At the end of the day, the Wildcats were unable to stop Houston, and some late scoring in the second half could not make up for that. Arizona’s defense did its offense no favors, as it hasn’t forced a turnover or recorded a sack this season.

Part of what’s occurring here is an offensive transition. New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is moving quarterback Khalil Tate into more of a pro-style quarterback role, accentuated by more pocket passing and less scrambling. On Saturday, Tate put up a career high in passing yards (341) while playing with an ankle injury.

Likely joining Arizona at the bottom of the Pac-12 South this season is UCLA, which suffered a 49-21 beating in Oklahoma against the No. 6 Sooners. Competing at a playoff contender’s home is no small task, and the Bruins were underdogs by 30 points — the biggest spread against UCLA in recent memory.

The Bruins did score first to take a 7-0 lead but had no answer for the Sooners’ arsenal of offense, especially quarterback Kyler Murray, who threw for three TDs and ran for two more.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Cal tallied a quality win at BYU, 21-18. The Bears’ three-QB rotation is now down to two, with redshirt freshman surprise Chase Garbers and dual-threat Brandon McIlwain leading the way. In fact, the Bears put up 386 yards with a strong balance of passing and rushing, but their three turnovers did make the game much closer than it should have been.

The conference has five ranked teams heading into Week 3 (No. 9 Stanford, No. 10 Washington, No. 20 Oregon, No. 22 USC, No. 23 Arizona State).

Armen Aprahamian writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @armnhammer_.