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Pac-12 Football Recap: Week Nine

A punt return touchdown by Washington’s Dante Pettis remains the signature image of Week Nine in the Pac-12.

NCAA Football: Washington at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

National Top 25 Scoreboard

#2 Michigan def. Michigan State, 32-23
#3 Clemson def. #12 Florida State, 37-34
#4 Washington def. #17 Utah, 31-24
#5 Louisville def. Virginia, 32-25
#6 Ohio State def. Northwestern, 24-20
#11 Wisconsin def. #7 Nebraska, 23-17
Texas def. #8 Baylor, 35-34
#9 Texas A&M def. New Mexico State, 52-10
Oklahoma State def. #10 West Virginia, 37-20
Wyoming def. #13 Boise State, 30-28
#14 Florida def. Georgia, 24-10
#15 Auburn def. Ole Miss, 40-29
#16 Oklahoma def. Kansas, 56-3
South Carolina def. #18 Tennessee, 24-21
South Florida def. #22 Navy, 52-45
#24 Penn State def. Purdue, 62-24
#25 Virginia Tech def. Pittsburgh, 39-36

USC Nixes Cal For 4th Straight Win, 45-24

A rare Thursday night showdown in the Pac-12, the Trojans took a 14-point lead to start the game and never looked back against California, dominating their way to an impressive 21 point win. The victory was the Trojans fourth consecutive win after starting the season with a 1-3 record. The story of the game for head coach Clay Helton’s team was the duo of quarterback Sam Darnold (18/25, 231 YDS, 5 TD) and running back Ronald Jones II (18 CAR, 223 YDS, 1 TD), who paced USC’s offense to it’s third forty-plus point outing in their last four games. For Cal, the issue on the night was their struggling defense, who allowed 629 yards of total offense to the Trojans, including a stunning 451 yards in the first half alone. The defeat now marks the Golden Bears’ thirteenth straight loss to USC dating back to 2003.

#4 Washington Holds Off #17 Utah, 31-24

In the game of the week in the conference, the Huskies outlasted a tough Utes team in Salt Lake City, with the help of a late punt return touchdown from one of the team’s most consistent stars. With Utah punting out of their own end zone with just three-and-a-half minutes left in the game, punt returner Dante Pettis fielded a Utes’ kickback on his own 43 yard line and broke three tackles on his way to pay-dirt. The special teams moment would be the eventual difference maker in the game, while also keeping the Huskies’ College Football Playoff dreams alive. For Utah, the defeat was a stunning blow to a team who has lost only twice all season long, both in back-breaking fashion. They’ll now have to time to regroup with a bye week, before heading to Arizona State, in a game that’s sure to have some serious Pac-12 South standings implications.

Oregon Steamrolls Arizona State, 54-35

After five weeks of “the sky is falling” in Eugene, Oregon bounced back in unprecedented fashion in Week Nine against Arizona State, using a balanced attack to thwart off a banged-up Sun Devils team. The loss broke a five-game losing streak for head coach Mark Helfrich and company, which dated back to September 11th. Oregon’s haphazard defense, a microcosm of many of the Ducks’ struggles this season, showed some signs of an improving big-play potential by picking off Arizona State quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole, three different times in the contest, but still displayed a world of improvement still needed. Overall though, it was the Ducks’ offense who starred on the day, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, who became the first player in Oregon history to tally over 500 offensive yards of offense in one game.

Washington St. Slips By Oregon St., 35-31

Oregon State looked to have Washington State exactly where they wanted them, going into the half with a 24-6 lead but the Cougars used a 29 point second half offensive display to knock off the Beavers in Corvallis on Saturday night, keeping their undefeated conference record alive. For Mike Leach’s squad, there was no player bigger in the Cougars’ comeback win than quarterback Luke Falk, who went 33/46 for 415 yards and 5 scores, including connecting with wide receiver Gabe Marks twice for touchdowns. The Beavers received solid contributions from their own gunslinger in former third-stringer, Marcus McMaryion, who posted 327 yards and 2 touchdowns in the four-point loss but proved himself, a worthy proprietor of the position. Beavers’ running back Ryan Nall also had a prolific outing, rushing the ball 19 times for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns, in what could be considered his breakout, “comeback” game.

Stanford Overpowers Arizona, 34-10

Stanford head coach David Shaw was in search of a catalyst to keep the Cardinal’s 2016 campaign on the right track. He tried to do what anyone would do by switching quarterbacks, starting junior Keller Chryst in favor of senior Ryan Burns. But when that plan worked mildly, Shaw somehow found his newest enigma in the most talented player on his roster. It’s just more proof that every week in a new adventure in the ever unexpected Pac-12. It was a “return to form” outing for star running back Christian McCaffrey this weekend against Arizona, who scored three touchdowns and totaled 225 all-purpose yards to lead Stanford over a faltering Wildcats team. Arizona is now 2-6 on the year, including having lost five straight games, all in conference play. With the win, the Cardinal move to 5-3 overall and 3-3 in the Pac-12, still chasing unbeaten Washington and Washington State in the conference’s North Division.