The I-5: On Jonathan Smith’s confidence, WSU’s upset in Camp Randall and more from Week 2 in the Pac-12.
The five things you need to know from this weekend in the Pac-12.
It had all the makings of the games Jonathan Smith’s program has lost in years past.
But late Saturday night in Fresno, thanks to a shrewd, gutsy decision to forgo a potential tie in favor of a win, Smith and his Oregon State Beavers shook the Fresno State Bulldog off their back.
With seconds remaining, Oregon State lined up for a field goal to tie. After Fresno State called a timeout to ice kicker Everett Hayes, Smith had a change of heart. He sent the offense back on the field, let the multi-positional Jack Colletto corral a direct snap, then watched him haul the Beavers to a 38-35 win.
They may well have won in overtime. Smith wouldn’t leave it to chance.
“We came down here to win the game,” he said. “Not to go to overtime.”
At 2-0, with a road win as a double-digit underdog, something might be brewing in Corvallis. That the Beavers remain perfect despite converting just two of 10 third-down attempts, being outgained by nearly 100 yards and a so-so game from quarterback Chance Nolan (14-of-27 for 219 and one touchdown), confirms as much.
Tight end Luke Musgrave made what may have been the game-saving catch, running back Deshaun Fenwick took 19 carries for 102 yards and a score and safety Kitan Oladapo was brilliant, especially as a tackler in space — he finished with 15 tackles and a sack.
Oregon State’s been in these close games for two years, if they're starting to win them now, lookout. There’s plenty of room to improve. The USC Trojans march into Corvallis in two weeks. Nolan must be sharper. And the defense we’ve heard so much about needs to tighten up if they hope to hold USC’s Caleb Williams in check.
But Smith, with his ability to instill belief in a locker room, and his flare for advantageous risk-taking, has his Beavers right where he wants them.
The Cougars’ Camp Randall upset
With the Pac-12’s nonconference win of the season thus far, your… Washington State Cougars?
As inspiring as Oregon State was Saturday, the win Jake Dickert’s WSU team collected in Camp Randall may have been even more impressive. More shocking, too.
“My grandma told me something today. She was like, ‘Your grandpa would be so proud,’ if my grandpa was still here,” Dickert, a Wisconsin native, told reporters. “That’s a special moment. Special people that just know me as Jake Dickert. That’s always what we’ve been. I’m just proud to be able to win this game with all of them here cheering us on.”
In the consummate clash of styles, the Cougars’ quick-strike air-raid bested No. 19 Wisconsin’s smash-mouth ground game, 17-14 in Madison. Yet it wasn’t quarterback Cameron Ward (17-of-28, 200 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) and that passing attack in the end. The Cougars were more composed and more disciplined than the Badgers, who committed 11 penalties despite their home field advantage.
And how about that WSU front-seven?
The group recorded seven tackles for loss and held Wisconsin’s star running back Braelon Allen under 100 rushing yards for just the second time since he became a full-time starter 11 games ago.
The defense helped the Cougars to a momentous win. Can it keep them afloat as they enter Pac-12 play with a quarterback still adjusting to Power Five football?
Ducks’ skill positions hierarchy begins to shake out everywhere except running back
Oregon’s 70-14 get-right win over Eastern Washington tells us little about who Dan Lanning’s Ducks will become in the long run. It did, however, reveal another piece to the puzzle that is the hierarchy of skill position players.
Tight end Terrance Ferguson had a pair of impressive tackle-breaking touchdowns and wide receiver Troy Franklin had a career-high 10 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Running back, however, still remains unsettled.
Sean Dollars has grabbed the mantle as the third-down running back. Byron Cardwell is a sturdy power back and Noah Whittington is a nice change of pace with his home-run speed.
It’s Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving, the late addition who transferred from the University of Minnesota, who’s caught my eye. Through two weeks I find myself gravitating towards his running style above those of his peers’.
Irving, who rushed for 100-plus yards in three games during his freshman year in Minnesota, has never had more than 20 carries in a game. He rushed for 74 yards on just eight carries against Eastern.
The Ducks don’t need a bell cow. I’m guessing Lanning and Co. give it a few more weeks before they crown their primary back. If they crown one at all.
“I think each of our guys has a different skill set, and as the season goes on, we will continue to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses,” he said Saturday. “I feel good about that group with a lot of players that can play, and I want to see them.”
Trojans ahead of schedule?
USC passed its first real test on Saturday. Stanford’s had a middling few years, but wins against David Shaw’s Cardinal should never be taken for granted. Even in down years, they’ve been happy to play spoiler.
On the Farm, the Trojans beat the Cardinal 41-28 for Lincoln Riley’s first Pac-12 win.
"We're just on our climb, on our journey," he said postgame.
Caleb Williams, the quarterback marvel, threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Addison, the star receiver, pulled in 172 of those yards and scored twice. Travis Dye, a marquee name during his time in Eugene, had 124 all purpose yards.
To be fair, USC’s top-end talent, especially on offense, was never in doubt.
Are the Trojans deep enough? Disciplined enough after years of underwhelming seasons? Talented enough along the trenches?
Two weeks in, will it even matter?
The offense is virtually a lock for 20-plus points a week. And that’s being conservative.
And after they recorded four interceptions in Week 1, taking three to the house for scores, the defense picked off Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee twice. USC has secured eight takeaways through two weeks. It’s an opportunistic unit, which is all it needs to be to complement that offense.
At the end of the day, the college game is about stars — USC has several. They’re on a collision course with the Beavers in Week 4 in what’s looking more and more like it could be a defining game in the conference.
— Shane Hoffmann
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