|COLLEGE FB PACKAGE: What's up with the Bruins? Pac-10 leaders have 2 losses, aren't ranked|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 24 October 2007 12:54|
The Bruins and No. 7 Arizona State are the two remaining unbeaten teams in Pac-10 play.
First, UCLA will have to get through Washington State this weekend in Pullman, Wash. Still on the Bruins' schedule are the Sun Devils, No. 5 Oregon and the season finale against No. 9 Southern California.
UCLA (5-2, 4-0 Pacific-10) was ranked to start the season, but took downward turns with a 44-7 loss at Utah and then a 20-6 loss at home to troubled Notre Dame. It is the only victory for the Irish this season.
The Bruins rebounded with a 30-21 victory over California last Saturday. The Golden Bears, with two straight losses after grabbing the No. 2 ranking, fell from No. 10 to No. 18 this week.
``This still can be a great year, and that's what we're anticipating it to be as we move forward,'' UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. ``The mistakes we've made in the past, we really can't do anything about those things right now.''
The Pac-10 should shake out a bit this weekend when the conference's four ranked teams play each other. Oregon (6-1, 3-1) hosts USC (6-1, 3-1), while Arizona State (7-0, 4-0) hosts Cal (5-2, 2-2).
``I think Oregon is playing awfully well right now and Arizona State is undefeated and playing well. USC has only lost a game,'' Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. ``I think it's going to emerge, but I think all those guys could have an argument for being the front-runner at this point.
``I think it (the conference) is the most competitive I've ever seen it. I don't want to say I told you so, but I said going in that this is as good as our league is top to bottom that I ever remember it.''
OLD PALS: First-year Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was Oregon State coach Mike Riley's quarterback when both were with the San Diego Chargers.
Harbaugh played 21 games under coach Riley, passing for 4,177 yards and 18 touchdowns during the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
``We were just about one dropped pass away from being in the playoffs that year,'' Harbaugh said of the '99 season.
Today, both share mutual respect. Harbaugh's Cardinal play Riley's Beavers on Saturday in Corvallis.
``Guys played hard for him and played creatively,'' Harbaugh said, ``and I see that in his team now.''
Said Riley: ``He was destined to be a coach. As a player in San Diego he was the motivation factor for our offense because of his leadership and his example.''
Stanford (3-4, 2-3) is coming off a 21-20 victory over Arizona. The Beavers (4-3, 2-2) were off last week after upsetting California 31-28 the week before.
Riley was impressed with how Harbaugh had so quickly taken charge of a Stanford team that won just one game last season.
``I think it's really about the confidence he's instilled in that group. They believe they can do it, and they've done it,'' Riley said. ``They had one of the big wins in college football this year and they're playing very passionately with a lot of fire.''
Stanford upset USC 24-23 in Los Angeles on Oct. 6.
PLAYERS: Oregon tailback Jonathan Stewart, along with UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner and kicker Kai Forbath, were the league's players of the week.
Stewart rushed for a career-high 251 yards on 32 carries and scored two touchdowns in Oregon's 55-34 victory over Washington last weekend. He also had three catches for 20 yards and a 34-yard kickoff return for 305 all-purpose yards.
Stewart's 251 yards rushing was the second-highest single-game total in Oregon history, and the performance topped the Pac-10 this season.
Verner had two interceptions, including a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:33 left in the Bruins' 30-21 victory over Cal. He also made six tackles, three solo, and broke up three passes.
Forbath was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, from 32, 28 and 27 yards. He also hit all three of his point-after attempts.
STOOPS UNDER FIRE: While there is ever-increasing grumbling over coach Mike Stoops among the Arizona faithful, he's handling his job as if it were business-as-usual.
He's also trying to keep the pressure off his players.
``That very easily can happen to kids. They understand what's going on around them and winning is important,'' Stoops said. ``My message has always been we've got a great opportunity every time we step on the field to do something special and not to worry about it. Things will fall into place. If you keep doing things right, it will happen.''
The Wildcats are 14-28 over the three-plus years Stoops has been at the helm. The team has gone eight straight seasons without a winning record.
They appear to be on the way to their ninth. The Wildcats (2-6, 1-4) were coming off a 21-20 home loss to Stanford, their third straight loss. Arizona visits Washington (2-5, 0-4) on Saturday.
``We've just got to do things a little better,'' Stoops said optimistically. ``We understand we're a couple of plays away in virtually every game.''