Pac-12: UCLA Bruins

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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USC's impact visitor list, Stanford's statement in the Evergreen State, UCLA's major opportunity and a sophomore quarterback at his best under the bright lights are a few of the highlights from the recruiting weekend in the Pac-12 conference.

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Video: Breaking down Josh Rosen

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
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National recruiting analysts Craig Haubert and Tom Luginbill break down what makes five-star QB Josh Rosen, a UCLA commit, the No. 1 pocket-passing quarterback in the 2015 class.

UCLA makes a statement against ASU

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- UCLA's visit to Arizona State was popularly billed as a measuring stick game. It was a measuring stick for the Pac-12's South Division between the two teams that won it the past three seasons. It was a measuring stick for two teams that entered the game with as many questions as answers despite being unbeaten.

Apologies in advance for the unsubtle image, but UCLA took those measuring sticks and beat Arizona State over the head with them. The 15th-ranked Sun Devils jumped to an early lead but the No. 11 Bruins dominated for three quarters in a 62-27 victory.

Questions? The first one for UCLA was whether quarterback Brett Hundley would be healthy enough to play after getting knocked out of the win over Texas on Sept. 13 with a hyperextended elbow. Oh, he looked pretty healthy. He passed for 355 yards, completing 18 of 23 throws, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 72 yards and was sacked just once -- the Sun Devils sacked him nine times last year.

All that work for Hundley amounted to a 97.7 QBR rating, per ESPN Stats & Information, which is pretty close to a perfect 100.

"He's a freak of nature," said receiver Jordan Payton, who hauled in an 80-yard TD from Hundley on the first play of the third quarter; the score came during a monstrous 42-3 run from the Bruins after they fell behind 17-6 early in the second quarter.

That run required less than 20 minutes of game time and was highlighted by big plays. Other than Payton's catch and scoot, there was an 80-yard TD pass to Eldridge Massington that was brought on by comedically poor tackling, a 95-yard interception return from Ishmael Adams that was a back-breaker for the Sun Devils just before halftime, and a 100-yard kickoff return from Adams midway through the third quarter that sent Sun Devils fans stomping out of their stadium.

The Bruins needed less than nine minutes to score 28 of those points. They won by 35 points despite running practically half as many plays as the Sun Devils -- 58 to 105 -- and converting half as many first downs (19 to 38).

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsThe Bruins had plenty to celebrate on Thursday night.
"I think we showed we had some grit to us," UCLA coach Jim Mora said.

Since Hundley went down versus Texas, Mora played coy with the media about his QB's status. While Hundley sported a sleeve and a brace on his left, non-throwing elbow, he seemed none the worse for wear, taking a number of hits and even hurdling flailing defenders. The strong implication after the game was no one in the Bruins locker room had believed Hundley would again give way to backup Jerry Neuheisel, particularly considering he was playing in his hometown.

Mora was asked after the game at what point did he know Hundley would play.

"I don't know how to answer that," he quipped. "I can answer it truthfully or I can lie."

The truth is this performance made a statement for the Bruins, a team which had yet to live up to its preseason hype as a national title contender. The truth also is this performance was far from perfect. While UCLA dominated, its defense also yielded 626 yards.

"I'm not happy with it and I don't think they are happy with it," Mora said. "We have to play better."

On the other hand, Arizona State scored only 10 points after the 14:24 mark of the second quarter and averaged just 6.0 yards per play. Eight Pac-12 teams have averaged more than that per play this year, and the Sun Devils entered the game averaging 7.6 yards per play.

UCLA averaged 10 yards per play on offense, something that didn't make Arizona State coach Todd Graham very happy.

"Tackling was atrocious. Very, very poor tackling," Graham said. "Fundamentally we looked bad and looked inexperienced. I am lost for words. I think we got worn down. I do not think our conditioning was very good."

Unlike UCLA, Arizona State was forced to use backup QB Mike Bercovici because of a foot injury to starter Taylor Kelly. Bercovici made plenty of plays, completing 42 of 68 throws for 488 yards and three TDs, but he also hurled two interceptions and fumbled.

"I think Mike did some great things but you cannot make turnovers," Graham said. "That was the story of the night. He did make some great plays and overcame adversity. For his first time starting, he really showed some promise."

Hundley spent most of his postgame session with reporters celebrating his offensive line and receivers and downplaying his elbow injury. When asked how close the Bruins are to reaching their potential he said, "Very close."

"We just keep getting better," he said. "The sky is the limit."

The "sky" was the lofty measure some ascribed to the Bruins in the preseason. After three unimpressive wins, however, more than a few pundits started throwing this team back to earth.

It's possible UCLA now will require a new measure after pounding the Sun Devils in their own house.


Plenty of intrigue: UCLA at Arizona State

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
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Blame Chip Kelly and his philosophy of "nameless, faceless opponents," but a lot of coaches no longer admit that certain games are bigger than others. A top-10 matchup? Whatever: You prepare the same every week. This makes some sense, of course. Coaches expect players to always do their best, so why would their best be any better against a ranked foe?

We get it. Still, some games ARE bigger than others, such as UCLA's visit to Arizona State on Thursday night. These are two top-15 teams, and the winner the past three seasons in this matchup has won the Pac-12's South Division title.

While Bruins coach Jim Mora wouldn't play along --“We try to treat them all the same,” he said -- Sun Devils coach Todd Graham was a bit more accommodating for media seeking a "This one is huge!" angle.

“I don’t need any motivational speeches for this game, or have to worry about the kids being flat because they are going to be fired up and ready to go," he said. "This is one of the marquee games each year, and quite honestly, it’s one of the games that we always put a star by. The next two games will be very critical to our team’s success this season.”

[+] EnlargeArizona State Sun Devils
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsArizona State carried a 35-13 lead into halftime at UCLA last season and then held on to win 38-33.
Arizona State visits another South contender, USC, next, but that game will lose some of its heft if the Sun Devils falter at home against the Bruins.

Besides being a key matchup, this game is intriguing from a national sense because we don't yet know what to make of either team. Are either legitimate candidates for the inaugural College Football Playoff? Early returns have been mixed. And -- oh, by the way -- there are questions behind center for both.

Graham announced that starting QB Taylor Kelly is out with a foot injury, though he told reporters Tuesday that he expects Kelly back inside of monthlong-plus projections from reporters. That means big-armed redshirt junior backup Mike Bercovici, the likely 2015 starter, will make his first career start well ahead of projections. UCLA? While most expect Brett Hundley to return after an elbow injury forced him out of the Texas game on Sept. 13, Mora has been tight-lipped about where things stand. He wouldn't even say that the hero of the win over the Longhorns -- backup Jerry Neuheisel -- would start if Hundley isn't available.

“He’s going to play," Graham barked before the question about Hundley's status was even finished. "There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to play.”

He later added, “Always prepare for the best one. If Brett Hundley doesn’t play, that makes it easier for us.”

The story of last season's 38-33 ASU victory in Pasadena was twofold: 1. Arizona State started furiously and then held on for dear life; 2. Hundley, as athletic as he is, couldn't avoid being sacked a season-high nine times -- a team 10-year high actually -- by the aggressive Sun Devils defense.

Arizona State rolled to a 35-13 lead at halftime but was outscored 20-3 in the second half. The Bruins also had two opportunities to take the lead in the fourth quarter. They had a first-and-goal at the Sun Devils' 11-yard line on their second-to-last possession but came away with no points, and two holding calls undid their last possession after driving into Sun Devils territory again.

The veteran Sun Devils front gave the Bruins' young offensive line -- three true freshman starters -- fits. Considering UCLA's offensive line didn't get off to a strong start this season and the ASU defense is pretty much completely rebuilt, this apparent weakness-on-weakness matchup will be critical, though obviously having the more mobile Hundley could be a big boost for UCLA.

Mora said his offensive line has improved significantly since its worrisome debut at Virginia.

“I’m happy where they are at and I’m even more happy where they are headed," he said.

UCLA certainly has been more tested. This will be the Bruins' third road game of the season against a Power 5 conference foe, and all three of their wins were not decided until deep into the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils have rolled through an overmatched early schedule, their closest contest being a 38-24 win at Colorado on Sept. 13.

While every game is critical for teams with national aspirations, this matchup will allow one consensus contender to remain unblemished while putting a substantial blotch on its rival's rsum, as a head-to-head win could function as a two-game advantage in the divisional standings.

So whatever the coaches say, this is a big one. It looked that way it the preseason, and it looks that way on game day.

ASU, UCLA battle on field, on the trail 

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
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Arizona State head coach Todd Graham and the Sun Devils are doing everything they can to ensure a significant home field advantage on Thursday night when the UCLA Bruins come to town. They should, based on the past several years when it comes to recruiting, it’s the Bruins who have made themselves right at home in the Grand Canyon State.

You have to go all the way back to the 2008 class to find a year in which the Sun Devils signed the state’s top prospect out of high school. UCLA landed the top Arizona recruit in the 2013 class and comes to the desert this year featuring an offensive backfield comprised of quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Paul Perkins -- two former Arizona prep standouts who made the decision to leave the state.

Just as Graham is leading the charge for Arizona State fans to “Blackout the Bruins” on Thursday night, he’s made a conscientious effort to block them -- and any other out-of-state program -- out on the Arizona recruiting trail as well.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
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It was a strong weekend for Pac-12 recruiting, as the conference added two potential impact commitments and several programs hosted important visit weekends. While Utah and Washington emerged as obvious winners, UCLA extended an interesting 2016 offer and both California and Washington State looked to take steps forward with recruits.


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TEMPE, Ariz. -- On Jan. 6, 2012, Mike Bercovici was chilling with some friends when he got a call from then-Arizona State receiver Aaron Pflugrad. There was some big news for the Sun Devils' backup quarterback. In a surprise to many, junior Brock Osweiler, the team's starting quarterback, had decided to enter the NFL draft.

That is how an article began in advance of Arizona State spring practices in March 2012. Thirty-two months later, Bercovici can still recall exactly how he felt upon hearing the news of Osweiler's departure.

“It was an opportunity I had been waiting for my entire life," he said this week.

In 2011, Bercovici had beaten out Taylor Kelly for the backup quarterback spot. That made him a slight favorite to win the job over Kelly and redshirt freshman Michael Eubank in advance of the 2012 season. When spring practices ended, Bercovici was viewed as slightly ahead of Eubank, with Kelly a fairly distant third option.

Things changed. Dramatically. Kelly won the job -- coach Todd Graham even admitted at the time that it was a surprise -- and has played his way onto Arizona State's all-time top QB list over two-plus seasons. Bercovici has had to settle for being considered one of the conference's more talented backups, not that he ever got comfortable viewing himself that way.

“My hunger to be a starting quarterback hasn’t changed since I lost that competition," he said.

Just as the vice president is a heartbeat from the Oval Office, so a backup quarterback is an unfortunate play away from taking over an offense. The backup quarterback is the irrelevant mop-up guy with a backward baseball cap on the sideline -- until he becomes a team's most important player.

For Bercovici, that transition happened when Kelly hurt his foot on the Sun Devils' final possession of the third quarter Sept. 13 at Colorado.

[+] EnlargeMike Bercovici
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsMike Bercovici will make his first career start against No. 11 UCLA on Thursday night.
Bercovici, who has thrown 24 career passes, will therefore make his first career start this week. As if that isn't big enough, it will be Thursday night against No. 11 UCLA.

So, yeah, big stage for a first start. But the relentlessly upbeat Graham said he is completely comfortable with Bercovici starting.

“We feel like we’ve got one of the best one-two quarterback combinations in the country," Graham said.

“He’s one of the last guys I’m worried about," he added later. "If this happened to any other team -- or any other team I’ve had -- it would be devastating.”

There's a significant distance, however, between being theoretically good and proving it on the field. While Bercovici is well-versed with the Sun Devils' offense and has an undeniably strong arm, he remains an unknown commodity. The chief concern is that he too often believes he can use that strong arm to fire a pass through a window in the secondary that isn't much larger than a keyhole. He knows this just as well as his coaches. In fact, he recalls how it might have cost him the job during 2012 preseason camp.

“At the start of camp, something in the minds of every quarterback is not turning the ball over," Bercovici said. "That’s what we stress here at Arizona State. If you go back and look at film, I threw two interceptions. I knew from there I was playing catch-up. Taylor didn’t throw any interceptions.”

Said offensive coordinator Mike Norvell: “That’s huge. That’s part of his development. Obviously, he has a tremendous arm. He can make every throw on the field that needs to be made. But it’s also understanding progressions and getting to when it’s time to go to that next progression and taking what the defense gives you.”

Bercovici can't try to overcome two-plus years of frustration on every pass of every drive. Against UCLA, he needs to distribute the ball to his playmakers, of which he has plenty, and not force the action. Although he might get a few more shots downfield -- and fewer runs -- than Kelly, Bercovici's first priority is to protect the football. Considering the past two games between these teams have come down to the final possession, every miscue figures to be as critical -- if not more so -- as every big play.

It's probably a good sign, then, that Bercovici doesn't sound like a guy looking for personal vindication.

“I feel like it is my duty to have no setbacks with me at quarterback," he said. "It’s my duty to make sure we’re still undefeated when [Kelly] comes back. I owe that to him, and I owe that to the team.”

Such thinking shouldn't be too surprising, considering Bercovici's decision not to transfer already revealed him to be an unselfish guy. While many college quarterbacks quickly go looking for starting jobs after losing a competition -- Eubank is now the starting quarterback at Samford in Birmingham, Alabama -- Bercovici opted to stick it out. Yes, he thought about leaving, but those thoughts lost.

“Obviously, those thoughts race through your head, but it [would have been] a bitter taste to put on different colors," he said.

While the present is big enough for the 15th-ranked Sun Devils, there also is the future. Bercovici stuck around because he saw himself as the starter in 2015, when Kelly heads to the NFL. If anyone knows that's not a given, though, it's Bercovici. For one, there's a potential challenge from touted incoming freshman Brady White.

Playing well and winning while Kelly is out for what might be a month or more would significantly bolster his case for next year. Bercovici knew that question was coming.

“In theory, it would," he said. "But for these seniors, these guys I’ve been around for four years, it’s their time right now. My 100 percent focus is I want to be the best quarterback I can be on Thursday night for those guys.”

In other words, the future is now for Bercovici. It's not how he envisioned things 32 months ago, but he has too much on his plate this week to quibble with the whims of fortune.

Pac-12 Live: Week 5

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
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Join ESPN.com Pac-12 reporters Kyle Bonagura, Kevin Gemmell, Chantel Jennings and Ted Miller at 5 p.m. ET as they discuss the crazy finish to Week 4 in the conference and look ahead to Week 5. Don't forget that you can also ask the experts your Pac-12 questions live on the show.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
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The early weeks of the high school and college football seasons slow things down a bit when it comes to Pac-12 recruiting. Only a handful of official visitors made their way to Pac-12 campuses, while a junior college commitment to Arizona was the first addition to the conference in nearly two weeks. But there were still interesting developments at a number of conference schools as Stanford hosted a huge visitor, UCLA made an important statement, and Colorado looked ahead to the 2016 class.


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Injuries, implosion muddle South picture

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Wait. That's been used before. But, with apologies to Dickens, it fits. The Pac-12 weekend was a tale of one division, two teams, two cities, two quarterbacks, and it was a day of thrills and it was a day of misery.

The plot certainly thickened in the Pac-12's South Division on Saturday, but not necessarily in a good way.

A week after posting a gritty upset at Stanford, USC was humiliated at Boston College, while UCLA cobbled together a win over Texas behind scrappy, ebullient backup QB Jerry Neuheisel. Neuheisel's services were required because Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury. His status remains uncertain, though there was reasonable hope based on initial reports that his injury wasn't serious.

[+] EnlargeAntwaun Woods
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesUSC's shocking loss to Boston College underscored the vulnerability within the Pac-12 South division.
Our second city is Tempe, Arizona, where UCLA will be on Thursday, Sept. 25, squaring off with defending South Division champion Arizona State, which beat Colorado on Saturday but also lost its star senior quarterback, Taylor Kelly, who beat out Hundley for second-team All-Pac-12 last year. Seeing Kelly on crutches due to a foot injury -- and his body language -- probably won't fuel great expectations that he will be ready for the Bruins.

The UCLA-Arizona State game was one we eyeballed in the preseason as a major measuring stick in the battle for the South. A significant part of the appeal was the quarterback battle. That hasn't changed, only now the intrigue is whether it will be Neuheisel for UCLA and Mike Bercovici for Arizona State. A week ago, that quarterback news would have heavily favored the Sun Devils. While Bercovici isn't the runner Kelly is, he's got one of the best arms in the conference and is well-versed in the Sun Devils offense. He is expected to win the starting job as a fifth-year senior next fall. Neuheisel was widely viewed as a career backup with a well-known father -- former UCLA QB and coach Rick Neuheisel -- but his second-half performance against the Longhorns suggested he can be more than a rudimentary game manager.

Both teams have an off week, when they can either get healthy or retool their plans. The stakes continue to be high, perhaps more so after USC threw up on itself with a wet-noodle performance at Boston College. While a nonconference game doesn't affect the Trojans' Pac-12 standing, it certainly made them look extremely vulnerable heading into a much-needed bye week. Other than USC fans, the most miserable folks watching that game surely root for Stanford, which probably can't believe it lost to the Trojans just a week before.

What this implosion and these injuries reveal in a wider sense is vulnerability in the South. In the preseason, UCLA looked like a decisive South favorite. Then USC made a statement with a win over the Cardinal. Arizona State was lurking with a great offense and a questionable defense. At this point, however, none of these three teams is scaring anyone. And don't look now, but Arizona and Utah remain unbeaten and have shown flashes that suggest they might be factors in a divisional race that previously seemed limited to the aforementioned troika.

The Wildcats play host to California on Saturday. Lo and behold, the Bears also are unbeaten, and this game suddenly possesses some potential meaning it didn't seem to have in the preseason. If Cal gets the upset, it can fully erase last season's misery and start thinking bowl game. If Arizona gets the win, it will be 4-0 and eyeballing the Top 25 with a visit to No. 2 Oregon looming on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Arizona appears suspect on defense, but the offense, with impressive redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon, a good O-line, deep corps of receivers and breakout freshman running back Nick Wilson, will make the Wildcats a threat to any foe.

Utah visits Michigan on Saturday. While the Wolverines don't look like they'll be hailing in much victory this season, a Utes win would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. While Utah's trouble hasn't been in nonconference games since joining the Pac-12, a 3-0 start would hint they are not a South afterthought, particularly if the offense continues to shine with QB Travis Wilson.

While Oregon's win over Michigan State coupled with Stanford's loss to USC only boosted the Ducks' status as North Division favorites, the South intrigue has seemingly spiderwebbed since the beginning of the season. The race appears more wide open and complicated. UCLA's visit to Arizona State remains a major measuring stick, but it's just as likely either team would sacrifice that game -- as horrible as that sounds -- to know it will get its starting quarterback back healthy for the rest of the season.

Vote: Pac-12 Play of the Week

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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Every Sunday, we're going to be giving y'all a sample of the best plays of the weekend in the Pac-12.

SportsNation

What was your play of the week?

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    30%
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    52%
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    14%
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    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,678)

You get to vote on which you thought was the most impressive and we'll name our Pac-12 Blog Play of the Week.

If you see something you believe deserves to be nominated, tweet at the Pac-12 Blog here with the hashtag #PlayOfTheWeek.

We'll bring you the best in Pac-12 action and then it'll be up to you to decide which is the best of the best. We start with Week 3, which had a few surprises across the conference.

But to kick off the Play of the Week, we have two offensive and two defensive plays for you to sift through.

1. Jerry Neuheisel's second TD pass

Jordan PaytonMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports
The redshirt sophomore stepped in for an injured Brett Hundley and managed to keep UCLA’s playoff hopes alive in hostile territory. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns, but none were more important than his final pass of the game -- a 33-yard TD pass to Jordan Payton. The score pulled the Bruins in front of Texas 20-17 and would end up being just enough to keep UCLA undefeated. “This kid is everything that's right about college football and about UCLA," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "I just thought, 'Wow. You couldn't write a better script than this right here.' His dad was a great player here. For him to come to Texas and bringing his team from behind to get a win. It's incredible.”

2. Marcus Mariota's Superman dive

Marcus MariotaAP Photo/Steve Dykes
On a first down in the second quarter, Mariota escaped the pocket and rushed to the right sideline before taking off from the 4-yard line, flipping over five players and going end-over-end for a TD. (Technically, it was a rushing TD, but we're thinking of it more as a flying TD.) Oregon wide receiver Keanon Lowe, who blocked for Mariota on the play, said he expected Mariota to run him over or for the QB to step out of bounds before getting to him. “I hear the crowd go crazy and as I’m blocking I kind of look up and I see him doing a flip outside the back of the end zone,” Lowe said. “First thought that goes through my head was: Did he just jump over me? Good thing I’m only 5-foot-9.”

3. Shaq Thompson's fumble recovery touchdown

Shaq ThompsonOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Shaq Attack (OK, no one calls him that, but let’s consider it?) strikes again with a 52-yard fumble recovery for a score. He barely broke stride to grab Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt's fumble and then made his way down field to bring the Huskies’ lead to 35-5. “I enjoy watching him play,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “You put him on offense, and he does some good things. He’s good on special teams. Then he creates his own offense on defense.”

4. Erick Dargan tipped pass leading to his INT

Erick DarganSteve Conner/Icon Sportswire
Dargan picked off two Wyoming passes in the first half of the Ducks’ 48-14 blowout. But the second one displayed a ridiculous amount of athleticism and focus. Sandwiched by two Wyoming offensive players, Dargan stepped in, tipped the ball to himself and grabbed it in midair. Mariota, who has been picked off by Dargan quite a few times in Oregon’s practices, was pleased to see Dargan picking off another player. “I told him after his second one, ‘Hopefully I won’t throw you any more in practice, you’re getting enough of them,’” Mariota said. “He makes plays like that all the time.”

Best of the visits: Pac-12

September, 14, 2014
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A fairly uninteresting slate of games provided for some notable outcomes and entertaining storylines for Pac-12 official and unofficial visitors this weekend. Despite a somewhat sluggish start and less than capacity crowd, Stanford put up a big win in front of some important visitors, while Colorado hosted a few in-state commitments and UCLA overcame adversity in front of some notable out-of-state targets.

Stack in the house at Stanford

The Cardinal had two ESPN 300 visitors in attendance in 2015 defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and 2016 defensive tackle Garrett Rand, but there was a famous father who took in the game as well: former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse and his son, Jaye Stackhouse, a 2015 cornerback from Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett, watched Stanford shut out Army. While Stackhouse doesn't hold an offer from the Cardinal, it's not surprising to see Stanford recruiting a player from Georgia, a state the program has found plenty success in over the past few years.

Big names, frames at Stanford

Speaking of Wilkins and Rand, the two standouts were joined by another fellow big man, ESPN 300 offensive lineman Nick Wilson, a Stanford commit who made an unofficial visit across the country this weekend. Wilson undoubtedly took his turn as recruiting coordinator while watching the game with the uncommitted defensive linemen.

Big lineman takes in Buffs game

Colorado held up well in a 14-point loss to Arizona State, and the Buffs took advantage of their first home game of the season by hosting top committed recruit and ESPN 300 offensive guard Tim Lynott on an unofficial visit. Lynott is the No. 2 player in the state, so getting him on campus often this season and keeping him engaged in the program will be a priority for Colorado.

Movin' on up

UCLA had an opportunity to impress a number of Texas recruits during its trip to Arlington to take on the Longhorns. The Bruins have done very well recruiting the state and already have two commitments from Lone Star State players in 2015. But head coach Jim Mora and staff have their sights set on pulling several more commitments from the region, including ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson, who has already said he will use one of his official visits on the Bruins. Luckily for UCLA, Jefferson had a great view of the Bruins' comeback win.

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
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Time to tip our cap to those who were the best of the best in Week 3.

Jerry Neuheisel, QB, UCLA: It was Jerry’s World. The redshirt sophomore stepped in for an injured Brett Hundley and completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns as he led the Bruins in a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over Texas.

Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA: Perkins took a bit of the pressure of Neuheisel as he was a weapon in the pass and run game. He had 126 yards on the ground on 24 carries and tallied 69 receiving yards on five catches.

Devon Cajuste, WR, Stanford: The senior recorded the first three touchdowns of the day for the Cardinal in a 35-0 win over Army. His 13 yards per catch (four receptions, 52 yards) was a game-high.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: The junior compiled quite the stat line in just under three quarters of play in the Ducks' 48-14 victory over Wyoming: Two passing touchdowns and 221 passing yards on 19-of-23 passing plus two rushing touchdowns and 71 rushing yards on five carries.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington: Thompson became Washington’s first player to record a fumble return score and pick six in the same game since at least 1978. He finished the game with four tackles and three carries for 16 yards in Washington’s 44-19 win over Illinois.

D.J. Foster, RB, Arizona State: The junior recorded his third-straight 100-yard rushing game, as he accounted for 147 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries. Foster also had three receptions for 52 yards and tallied his first receiving touchdown of the season as the Sun Devils defeated Colorado 38-24.

Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona: He helped seal the game for Arizona as he rushed for 171 yards on 29 carries. He recorded the first two touchdowns of the game for the Wildcats en route to a 35-28 win, giving Arizona a perfect 3-0 record entering Pac-12 play.
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Without quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA could not win. It didn't matter that Texas was beaten up and beaten down. It didn't matter that Hundley was just one guy. He was The Guy, the face of the Bruins, the biggest reason some touted them in the preseason as national title contenders. Moreover, to put it gently, the depth chart behind him was unpromising.

Backup Jerry Neuheisel? Son of Rick Neuheisel, the guy who was fired before Jim Mora built the Bruins into contenders? The guy who some suspected got a scholarship only because his dad was the head coach? No way.

So when Hundley was surrounded by trainers after going down with an apparent elbow injury in the first quarter against the Longhorns, you could sense impending doom. You could sense the Bruins, who had struggled to beat Virginia and Memphis with Hundley, joining teams such as Ohio State, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia and Michigan State on the slag heap of exposed contenders.

[+] EnlargeJerry Neuheisel
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsBackup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel got a hero's exit after leading No. 12 UCLA to a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over Texas.
Texas thought the same thing.

"[Neuheisel and Hundley] are two different quarterbacks," Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "One guy is up for the Heisman and the other guy is someone we've never heard of."

Yet there was Neuheisel eyeballing Diggs' cornerbacking counterpart, Duke Thomas, in man coverage against receiver Jordan Payton with three minutes left in the game, sensing his moment had arrived.

"As soon as I saw [Thomas'] eyes, I thought, 'Oh, my God, this might just work,'" Neuheisel said.

The Bruins were down four on Texas' 33-yard line and pretty much hadn't allowed Neuhiesel to throw downfield since he came off the bench, but offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone expected man coverage and decided Payton might get free with a double move.

In fact, Thomas appeared to bite on Neuheisel's pump fake, and the ball arrived soft and sweet into Payton's hands. Touchdown. After the defense forced a four-and-done, the Bruins hoisted Neuheisel onto their shoulders. They'd won 20-17 without Hundley to improve to 3-0.

"I felt like it was going to be a little bit of a defining moment for us," UCLA coach Jim Mora said of when Hundley went down.

While it might seem to some like an ugly 3-0 for the nation's No. 12 team, it was a dream come true for Neuheisel. Literally. He told his teammates that at halftime. He grew up dreaming of following in his dad's footsteps as the UCLA quarterback, imagining throwing winning touchdowns in his backyard. The general expectation from fans and media, however, was the redshirt sophomore would remain on the bench behind Hundley, holding for field goals and then backing up whoever won the job next year when Hundley was off to the NFL.

Yet a point of emphasis from Mora and the Bruins after their victory was never doubting Neuheisel.

"We all expected it," Payton said.

Said Mora, "His team fricken' loves him. There was never any doubt."

Well, there was and is some doubt. What's next, for one, is a big issue. Hundley's status is questionable, to say the least. Mora would only say Hundley would be evaluated by UCLA team doctors back in Los Angeles. While beating a struggling Texas team with a backup QB is one thing, the Bruins visit Arizona State on Sept. 25 after a bye week. That's an entirely different deal, a critical South Division showdown. Of course, in an unfortunate twist of fate, both teams could be without their starting quarterbacks, as Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury against Colorado on Saturday.

Neuheisel, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, could square off with Sun Devils backup Mike Bercovici in a game with major Pac-12, and even national, implications. The Bruins, however, were still operating inside the 24-hour rule Saturday, which means their primary concern is enjoying the present, not refocusing on the next foe.

Neuheisel is his father's son. He looks and sounds like Rick Neuheisel, and he's quick with a quip like his dad. When he walked into the postgame interview room, he noted, "Holders don't get this kind of publicity." After the elder Neuheisel led the Bruins to an upset of Illinois in the 1984 Rose Bowl, he cracked wise during a postgame interview about the Fighting Illini band blasting music behind him.

"I just talked to my dad," Jerry Neuheisel said. "He said, 'You did it. It's kind of a Neuheisel thing.'"

On a day when UCLA's crosstown rival, USC, wilted at Boston College, the Bruins found a way to dig deep, overcome adversity and win. UCLA might not be a beautiful 3-0, but it is 3-0 and that's what matters.

"They never flinched," Mora said. "They never blinked. That's kind of what we are trying to become. And we're getting closer and closer every day."

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