A lackluster Week 3 performance may have been understandable from USC quarterback Cody Kessler, considering the extensive off-field distractions.
But after being named the team’s definitive starter for the Trojans’ tilt with Boston College, Kessler responded with an impressive two-touchdown, 15-of-17 showing that head coach Lane Kiffin said on Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference began immediately after the Week 2 loss to Washington State.
Kiffin cited several factors that bolstered the sophomore quarterback’s play.
“Increased reps throughout the week in practice,” Kiffin said. “Guys performed well around him, making plays, and protections; [running back] Tre Madden picking up different blitzes.”
Perhaps most importantly was the confidence Kessler showed. Kiffin described the quarterback as “comfortable, having fun…very loose” by the second quarter of the Trojans’ 35-7 win.
USC suffered through what Kiffin called “a classic week after playing really bad…all the negativity starts swirling around.
“They do a good job of blocking that out and practicing extremely hard,” he said.
Nebraska win was emotional for UCLA
Head coach Jim Mora’s dedication of UCLA’s 41-21 win over Nebraska last Saturday to the family of wide receiver Nick Pasquale was as emotional a moment as any in college football this season.
Pasquale’s death on Sept. 9 left his UCLA teammates with heavy hearts, and presented a unique challenge to Mora.
“I tried to do the best I could to balance being their coach, [and] a sounding board—someone they could come to talk to while getting ready for Nebraska [with] the contrasting emotions they felt,” he said.
Mora said rather than any schematic shifts at halftime after his team had fallen behind by double digits, he credits the Bruins’ big second half to the team's deep-seeded desire to succeed for their fallen teammate.
“They all wanted to do so well…I think we were pressing,” Mora said. “We were just not playing how we typically play, which is loose and fast.”
A late, first-half touchdown “relaxed” the team, Mora said.
“I’m proud of the way they got themselves righted,” he said.
No more made Mora prouder than the Pasquales, though.
“The people that are really impressive are the Pasquale family. I can see why Nick is so special,” he said.
Storm Woods is out for Week 4
Storm Woods is out of the lineup for Oregon State’s Week 4 contest at San Diego State, but after the Beaver running back was taken out of the Beavers’ 51-48 overtime win at Utah via ambulance, his prognosis could have been much worse.
“He has a concussion,” head coach Mike Riley said. “Very scary moment for all of us. He has not started the countdown protocol.”
“He’s going to be OK soon,” Riley said. “Not soon enough to play in this game obviously…but making good progress.”
Woods’ absence further muddies the outlook for a struggling Beaver ground game.
Oregon State was a team built offensively on the rush throughout the 2000s, featuring such standouts as Stephen Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers. A severe downturn in rushing productivity in 2011 turned Oregon State into more of a passing team in the last few seasons, though Woods began the process of reestablishing the Beavers’ rush.
However, Oregon State is averaging just 70 yards per game on the ground so far this season.
“Running totals…are way down from where we need to be. As group, [the running backs] need to do better,” Riley said.
Terron Ward filled in for Woods down the stretch at Utah.
Colorado working to fill its schedule
Colorado needs to find a solution for its schedule, which was thrown into flux last week when its non-conference tilt against Fresno State was postponed. CU athletic department brass is seeking to readjust its docket with the Buffs facing a three-week layoff between games—Week 4 is their official bye.
Devastating floods ravaged the Boulder, Colo. area last week. Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said, his coaching staff and members of the Buffalo team helped provide food to over 800 displaced families in what MacIntyre called “an eye-opening experience.”
“The saddest thing of all…is the loss of life,” he said. “There are still quite a few people missing. Prayers…that they are safe.”
The Buffs’ scheduling conflicts obviously pale in comparison but are something he said administrators have been “working on diligently last 48-72 hours.”
One possibility was moving a Nov. 16 date with Cal to Saturday. Both teams are on byes.
“[Moving the game to Saturday] is tough for Cal to do playing Ohio State [in Week 3] and Oregon next,” MacIntyre said. “It’s not everybody’s [obligation]… to have to fix their schedule to help us. We’re just hoping somebody does.”
Oregon State faced a similar situation last year, when its opener against Nicholls State was postponed due to a hurricane. The Beavers and Colonels played the week of the Pac-12 championship.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.