NCAA

Time of possession is overrated

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Time of possession is overrated

Steve Berman
CSNBayArea.com

The final scores look similar, but the way Oregon went out their 53-30 victory over Stanford was quite different from their 52-31 win over the Cardinal in Eugene last year.

A year ago Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead before getting crushed over the last three quarters. This time Oregon showed early on that they were the superior team, jumping out to an early lead they'd never relinquish.

It was almost like Stanford head coach David Shaw saw his team's fate coming, at least based on what he said earlier in the week.

"We got to get drives in the end zone, because (Oregon) might have a 3-play, 78-yard drive," Shaw said. "And if you're kicking field goals and they're scoring touchdowns there's no chance, regardless of what the time of possession is."

Stanford's offense gained more yards than Oregon's (400-387) and led in time of possession (34:25-25:35). After the game was over and the Ducks flew out of California with a vise grip on the Pac-12, those numbers didn't matter in the slightest.

This game was mostly about Oregon destroying Stanford with the same speed the Cardinal and everyone looking forward to this game obsessed over all week, particularly the running ability routinely displayed by LaMichael James. James looked like the Heisman Trophy favorite in this game, rushing 20 times for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns.

However, this game was also about how each team reacted when good fortune (translation: the football) fell into their laps.

Former Heisman favorite Andrew Luck threw a first quarter interception that Dewitt Stuckey took to Stanford's 20, and Darron Thomas threw a TD pass to Lavasier Tuinei five plays later.

Stanford's Delano Howell used the cast on his right hand to knock the ball out of De'Anthony Thomas' arms a little while later, and the Cardinal squandered good field position with a drive that sputtered in the red zone before Eric Whitaker kicked a 37-yard field goal.

The Ducks started the third quarter by once again displaying in full abundance what they possess that Stanford doesn't. Ducks receiver Josh Huff caught pass in the flat from Thomas while Cardinal corner Terrence Brown was picking himself up off the sloppy Stanford Stadium turf. One juke later and Brown was back on the turf again. A split second later, Cardinal safety Michael Thomas was on the ground as well as Huff sped into the end zone past everyone for a 59-yard TD reception.

After Stanford went three and out on their next possession they finally experienced a little good luck, as James dropped David Green's punt and Stanford recovered the ball at Oregon's 34.

With Oregon holding a 29-16 lead after Huff's touchdown, the Cardinal couldn't settle for a field goal. And they didn't, as Whitaker's 48-yard attempt was wide to the right by almost the same distance.

Talk about a gut punch.

From there, it was an exhibition of pass rushing brilliance from Oregon. The Ducks sacked Luck three times on the night and hit him on several other occasions, proving speed can be a useful quality even when you don't have the ball.

Oregon also displayed the kind of rushing dominance that sucks the life out of teams, which heading into this game was supposed to be Stanford's identity. In the second half the Ducks broke off five runs of 10 yards or longer, compared to none for the Cardinal. For the game Oregon averaged 5.0 yards per carry compared to 3. 7 for Stanford.

Stanford won't enjoy looking back on numerous dropped passes and missed tackles, or the three turnovers they committed in less than 4 minutes at the end of the game. But just like last year, the Ducks proved again to be the superior team.

The Ducks took advantage of Cardinal turnovers, Stanford didn't take advantage of turnovers by Oregon, and at the end of the game the Cardinal couldn't stop turning the ball over. Different game than last year, same result: Oregon rules the Pac-12.
Steve Berman is the Bay Area Sports Guy and a contributor to CSNBayArea.com. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @BASportsGuy

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

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AP

Louisville has 'effectively fired' head coach Rick Pitino

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has placed coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich on administrative leave amid a federal bribery investigation.

Jurich is on paid leave, while Pitino is on unpaid leave. The coach’s attorney, Steve Spence, told the Courier-Journal Wednesday that Louisville has “effectively fired” Pitino.

Pitino’s exit comes after the school acknowledged on Tuesday that the men’s program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. The 65-year-old coach was not named in the indictment that resulted in the arrest of 10 people including four assistant coaches at other schools and an Adidas executive.

It is the latest black eye for the Cardinals program. Pitino and Louisville are in the middle of appealing NCAA sanctions following an embarrassing sex scandal.

Jurich has supported Pitino through his transgressions during the athletic director’s nearly 20-year tenure at the university.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

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AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.