September 20, 2007

Pac-10 heats up as conference play starts

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Saturday's games

Overview : Six Pac-10 teams completed their nonconference schedules last week, and the league has a 20-6 record against out-of-conference foes. The Pac-10 took its lumps last week in two embarrassing losses UCLA lost 44-6 at Utah and Arizona lost 29-27 at home to New Mexico. The only remaining nonconference games for the Pac-10 are Notre Dame's matchups against USC, UCLA and Stanford, and Washington's trip to Hawaii.

Best matchup : Cal WR DeSean Jackson vs. Arizona CB Antoine Cason. Cason's team got the victory last year, but both he and Jackson - who went to high schools about 8 miles apart in Long Beach, Calif. - had big days. Cason clinched a 24-20 win with a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown, but Jackson had two touchdowns: a 95-yard punt return and a 62-yard catch. They are among the nation's best at their positions.

The pressure is on : UCLA coach Karl Dorrell's critics got a little more ammunition when UCLA committed five turnovers in a 44-6 loss to Utah, a team that entered the game without its starting quarterback and a 0-2 record. UCLA opens its Pac-10 schedule at home against an improved Washington team. The Huskies defeated UCLA 29-19 last year.

Who's hot : With Jackson limited by a strained thumb, Lavelle Hawkins has been Cal's most productive receiver. He leads the team with 19 catches for 220 yards. He also returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown last week against Louisiana Tech. Washington State receiver Michael Bumpus has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time in his career. Cal has 10 sacks in three games. Arizona State linebacker Robert James has 30 tackles (6.5 for losses and two sacks) in three games. Washington has nine sacks this season after having 27 a year ago.

Who's not: UCLA quarterback Ben Olson is 33-for-68 (48.5 percent) and has thrown four interceptions and no touchdowns in his past two starts. After three seasons of the offense lagging behind, Arizona's defense has been largely responsible for the Wildcats' 1-2 start. Arizona is eighth in the Pac-10 in scoring defense and pass defense. Oregon State has not defeated Arizona State in Tempe since 1969. The Beavers are 5-23-1 against the Sun Devils since then.

Keep your eye on : Oregon State wide receiver Sammie Stroughter made a surprise return to the lineup in the second game of the season against Cincinnati. He didn't have a catch against the Bearcats, but had a career-high nine catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns last week against I-AA Idaho State. This week, he faces Arizona State - which leads the nation in pass-efficiency defense.

Numbers game : Arizona had three 100-yard receivers - Mike Thomas, Terrell Turner and Anthony Johnson - against New Mexico but still lost 29-27. With a 37-0 win over San Jose State, Stanford earned its biggest win since defeating the Spartans 43-3 in the 2004 opener. The Cardinal has had two coaching changes since then. Mike Bellotti won his 100th game as Oregon's coach with last week's 52-21 win over Fresno State. Jim Harbaugh earned his first Division I-A win when Stanford defeated San Jose State last week. Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart rushed for 140 yards, the first time a Cardinal back rushed for 100 yards in a game since Oct. 2, 2004. That's a span of 31 games without a 100-yard rusher.

Freshman to watch : USC fullback Stanley Havili. If you follow USC at all, you can probably list most of the Trojans' scholarship tailbacks. However, Havili may be the key to the backfield. In addition to blocking, he was a big-play threat against Nebraska. He had a 50-yard run on USC's first play from scrimmage, and scored two touchdowns later in the game. Havili redshirted last season after suffering a broken leg in the third game of the year.

Injury update : UCLA's Olson did not practice Tuesday because of headaches, but coach Karl Dorrell said he did not think they were concussion related. Olson's status for Saturday is unclear. Stanford starting middle linebacker Fred Campbell will no longer play football after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured vertebra in his neck. He was injured in Stanford's win over San Jose State on Saturday. Cal defensive linemen Matt Malele and Rulon Davis, who both have foot injuries, could return to practice soon. It was feared the injuries sustained Saturday against Louisiana Tech could end their seasons. Arizona State tailback Ryan Torain, who missed last week's game with knee and ankle injuries, is expected to play against Oregon State. Stanford's Gerhart has a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament and could miss 3-4 weeks. UCLA guard Shannon Tevaga (knee) could return Oct. 6 against Notre Dame.

Arizona State0-03-0
Southern California0-02-0
Washington State0-02-1
Oregon State0-02-1
They said it :
"They vent their frustration just like I do sometimes. I understand that. It has been hard to pinpoint (why). That is the game we play. It is demanding in a lot of aspects. It takes a lot to win."
Arizona coach Mike Stoops on fans' frustration with a 1-2 start.

"This year is more like the year I came in with Kellen (Clemens). You just knew you were not going to lose, especially with Kellen in the huddle. He had poise, and it seems like a lot of people on this team now have poise."
Oregon tailback Jonathan Stewart on quarterback Dennis Dixon.

"We don't have any sense of urgency about giving anyone the ball. I like the way we're mixing it up."
USC coach Pete Carroll on his talent-laden offense.

Worth noting : Arizona was called for three personal fouls in the loss to New Mexico, including one on Stoops for unsportsmanlike conduct after a tantrum with officials. Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson will once again face his old team, Oregon State. Preceded and succeeded by current Beavers coach Mike Riley, Erickson went 31-17 with three bowl appearances in four season in Corvallis. Erickson lost to Oregon State 38-0 last year as the coach of Idaho.

David Fox is a national writer for He can be reached at

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