No one can dispute Stanford head coach David Shaw's assessment of his team's red-zone failures Saturday in a 20-17 loss at USC.
"We didn't score touchdowns," he said plainly on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call.
Shaw drew his share of scrutiny for the play-calling, particularly down the stretch. The Cardinal had a red-zone opportunity at the USC 6-yard line in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Kevin Hogan's pass attempt on third-and-goal was intercepted by USC linebacker/safety Dion Bailey.
"Local [reporters] know, I don’t answer questions about play-calling," Shaw said, though he did offer this thought: "When plays work, [the coaches are] smart. When plays don’t, we’re dumb.
"We’ve been as good as anybody in the nation for the last four or five years in red-zone efficiency. As far as the plays we called [against USC]…we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing," he said.
Coaches Talk Marcus Mariota for Heisman
Don't count Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez among those who jumped off the Marcus Mariota Heisman Trophy bandwagon after Oregon's 26-20 loss to Stanford on Nov. 7. Rodriguez, whose Wildcats host the No. 5 Ducks Saturday, called Mariota "one of the best players in the country."
"He hasn’t thrown an interception, he's very productive, and from everything I understand, a great leader," Rodriguez said. "There are two or three guys at the top [of Heisman race], and he’s one of them."
Mariota's head coach, Mark Helfrich, agrees.
"Marcus is phenomenal, All you have to do is watch the tape," Helfrich said.
Mariota suffered his worst individual performance of the season against Stanford's tenacious defense, going three quarters without a point and fumbling in the red zone. However, the sophomore still threw two touchdown passes and had no interceptions—all while battling the effects of an injured knee.
"It’s unfortunate how we played in the quote-unquote marquee big game," Helfrich said. "A lot of that was not his doing."
Oregon's policy is to not talk specifically about individual player injuries, though Helfrich did offer some insight into Mariota's mindset.
"That guy is a warrior," Helfrich said.
Utah Faces a Challenging Quarterback Situation
Utah has lost sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson for the season, head coach Kyle Whittingham announced Monday. Wilson suffered a head injury in the Utes' 20-19 loss to Arizona State on Nov. 9, though a pre-existing condition contributed to his removal from the lineup and missing the team's trip to Oregon last week.
Lya Wodraska of The Salt Lake Tribune reports team physician David Petron found a previous injury to an intracranial artery, which supplies blood to the brain. The condition could force Wilson into retirement.
A dual-threat playmaker, Wilson exhibited flashes of brilliance in his injury-plagued second season at Utah. He had only recently returned from a hand injury.
The Utes lost their 2012 season-opening starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to a series of shoulder injuries that ended his playing career last season. But, as ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel documented, that started Wynn on a different career path.
As for Wilson, Whittingham is hopeful for the best.
"It’s never a done deal until it’s a done deal," Whittingham said. "We’re hoping at some point he can return to us."
Adam Schulz remains the Utes' starter until Wilson returns. Schulz is a former walk-on who Whittingham said played in a Wing-T offense in high school. Utah recruiters discovered him when he sent homemade tapes of himself to the program.
"Building a Program...Doesn't Happen Overnight."
Cal's 41-24 loss at Colorado last week virtually ensures the Golden Bears will finish their first season under head coach Sonny Dykes winless both in Pac-12 play and against Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Their only win came in Week 2 against Big Sky Conference member Portland State.
Frustration may be mounting in Berkeley, Calif., but Dykes said Tuesday he's seen adversity before in his career.
"There’s not much you say, really. If you watch us play on Saturdays, you’re not going to be encouraged," he said. "But there’s a lot of good things going on in the locker room."
Dykes finished 5-7 his first season at Louisiana Tech, but led the Bulldogs to the Western Athletic Conference championship his second year. His third Louisiana Tech team won nine games and led the nation in scoring.
Dykes said he and his staff "have a history of building programs. This is the first time it’s been this difficult, but building a program’s building a program. It doesn’t happen overnight."
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.