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Pac-12: Stanford's defense comes to life after loss at Utah

Published October 29, 2013 2:33 pm

College football • Since playing Utes, Cardinal have been defending with an 'edge'
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Considering what has happened since then, the performance of Utah's offense in the first three quarters against Stanford may be the most remarkable development in the Pac-12 this season.

Surprising the Cardinal with perimeter passing, the Utes posted 394 total yards through 45 minutes of that 27-21 upset at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Partly because of Stanford's long drive that ended at Utah 6-yard line, the Utes posted only 21 total yards in the fourth quarter. That trend has continued for each team. In losses to Arizona and USC, the Utes have produced 27 points and 530 total yards. In wins over UCLA and Oregon State, Stanford has allowed 22 points and 554 yards.

Beginning with that fourth quarter at Utah, the Cardinal defense has "played with the edge that we're used to playing with around here," said Stanford coach David Shaw. Veteran players have "just set the standard higher, and it's won us the last two games."

Stanford, which hosts Oregon on Nov. 7, will miss defensive end Ben Gardner for the rest of the season with a pectoral injury.

Beehive Boot to USC?

The loser of Friday's game between USC and Oregon State will become a stronger candidate for the No. 6 position in the Pac-12's bowl selection order, meaning a potential date with BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.

If that's USC, the Trojans would have an opportunity for a rare sweep of Utah State, Utah and BYU in the same season. That raises the question of where USC would display the Beehive Boot, among the six Heisman Trophies in Heritage Hall.

Carey's not Arizona's only carrier

Arizona's 405-yard rushing day at Colorado was made more impressive by the fast that Ka'Deem Carey carried the ball only 23 times, among 50 running plays. Carey's 119-yard effort was topped by quarterback B.J. Denker's 192 yards, while reserve tailback Daniel Jenkins added 87 yards.

As a senior who was Arizona's backup QB in 2012 as a junior college transfer, Denker now is "understanding not only what we're doing, but why we're doing it and how teams are defending it," said coach Rich Rodriguez. "There's so much on our quarterback, from a run-and-pass and decision-making standpoint."

Strange Saturday

The combination of Thursday/Friday games and a 14-week regular season creates some scheduling oddities in 2013, and this week's Pac-12 docket is the weirdest of all. Only two games will be staged Saturday — California vs. Arizona and UCLA vs. Colorado. Nobody's playing in any of the three Saturday late-night TV windows that the league often fills.

Conference of Linebackers

The Pac-12 claims four of the 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, presented to the most outstanding linebacker in college football. The list includes Utah's Trevor Reilly, Cal's Khairi Fortt, Stanford's Shayne Skov and UCLA's Anthony Barr.

Surprisingly, Skov made the cut ahead of teammate Trent Murphy, who leads the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks. Murphy is a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, given to the top defensive player.

More giving than taking

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham generally likes his secondary's play this season, and the Utes are among the national leaders with 27 sacks in eight games. Intercepting passes is another story, and Whittingham said the lack of takeaways is as disturbing as the giveaways. Utah has picked off two interceptions, while throwing 15. That's the biggest negative discrepancy in the country. The numbers for Pac-12 teams, in all games:

Team Int. Opp. Int. Margin

Oregon 13 2 +11

Oregon State 14 4 +10

Arizona 10 3 +7

Stanford 9 5 +4

Washington 8 4 +4

Arizona State 10 7 +3

USC 10 7 +3

UCLA 9 8 +1

Colorado 8 10 -2

California 4 10 -6

Washington State 11 19 -8

Utah 2 15 -13