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PACIFIC 10 / CHRIS DUFRESNE

All Good Things Have Come to Pass

September 12, 2003|CHRIS DUFRESNE

John Brodie, Joe Kapp, Jim Plunkett, Troy Aikman, Steve Bartkowski, Warren Moon, Rodney Peete, Joey Harrington, Jake Plummer, Drew Bledsoe ... that was then.

Nic Costa, Matt Kegel, Trent Edwards, Derek Anderson, Drew Olson, Reggie Robertson, Kellen Clemens ... this is now.

As the all-time passing conference, how did the Pacific 10 get caught with its slants down?

We knew the loss of Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller and Jason Gesser would leave the conference in transition, but we had no idea it would be such a mishmash.

There is plenty of time for the 2003 crop to get under center and snap out of it, but so far this year appears more training ground than breeding ground.

A sampling of comments from Pac-10 coaches:

* "We have some young quarterbacks, they're going to have some ups and downs," Arizona's John Mackovic says of his guys.

* "He's got a lot to learn," Stanford's Buddy Teevens says of his man.

* "It's our job to help him," Oregon State's Mike Riley offers of his struggling junior.

* "I think it will work itself out," Oregon's Mike Bellotti says of his platoon system.

* "We'd like to play them both," California's Jeff Tedford says of his two quarterbacks.

Washington State Coach Bill Doba gave his guy a vote of confidence this week after a wobbly second half against Notre Dame; UCLA's Karl Dorrell went from three decent quarterbacks to one after one player was lost to injury and another to a public-intoxication charge.

When you boil it down, there are only two stable quarterback situations out of 10.

Arizona State junior Andrew Walter is an emerging superstar in the desert; Washington's Cody Pickett entered his senior season as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Yet, you know it's a thin year when Pickett's reaction to winning Pac-10 player of the week was basically, "huh?" Pickett earned the honor with a ho-hum 290-yard performance against Indiana that included, he said, one of the ugliest passes he has ever heaved.

Only four Pac-10 quarterbacks are ranked among the top 50 of this week's NCAA passing stats and Pickett is 54th.

This is not your older brother's Pac-10.

A school-by-school breakdown:

Arizona State: Walter is the gold standard. He opened the season with four touchdowns and no interceptions against Northern Arizona.

Washington: Pickett is off to a slow start but figures to put up huge numbers.

USC: With a dominant defense, the Trojans can afford to nurse first-year starter Matt Leinart along. If not, USC has 15 or 20 backups.

UCLA: The Bruins are down to Olson after an injury to Matt Moore and John Sciarra's one-game suspension.

Oregon: Bellotti is happy -- for now -- rotating Clemens and Jason Fife, or is it Kellen Fife and Jason Clemens?

Oregon State: Riley may have a head case on his hands in junior Anderson, once billed as the league's next best fling. Anderson had five passes intercepted in last week's hideous loss to Fresno State. Riley will stick with Anderson for Saturday's game against New Mexico State, because the alternative is someone name Adam Rothenfluh.

Stanford: Senior Chris Lewis lasted nine snaps against San Jose State before Teevens benched him in favor of redshirt freshman Edwards, who rallied the Cardinal to victory.

Edwards already has been named the starter for the Sept. 20 game against Brigham Young.

California: Tedford is starting Robertson but trying to work in Aaron Rodgers, a talented junior college transfer who Tedford thinks has the upside of other prodigies he has mentored: David Carr, Harrington and Boller.

Washington State: Doba is stuck, um, sticking with Kegel.

Arizona: With this sad-sack team, it may not matter whether Mackovic stays with Costa or Ryan O'Hara. Scarlett O'Hara couldn't have fared worse in Saturday's 59-13 loss to Louisiana State.

Pac Bits

Hottest rumor: If Mackovic is fired at the end of this season, Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood will hire Mike Price, the recently deposed Alabama coach. The connection? Price worked for Livengood when both were employed at Washington State.... UCLA and Illinois are meeting for the first time since the Bruins eked out a 6-3 victory in the 1991 John Hancock Sun Bowl. Who knows, maybe one of the schools will score a touchdown this time.

Oregon at Arizona on Saturday marks the start of conference play. All other Pac-10 play is out of conference.... The Pac-10 entered the week a shaky 11-7 in nonconference games, with plenty of potential trouble ahead: Washington State at Colorado, Michigan at Oregon, Arizona at Purdue, Arizona State at Iowa and UCLA at Oklahoma.

Washington received a double dose of bad news when it was confirmed linebacker Joe Lobendahn and guard Rod Meadow have been lost to season-ending injuries. Both players were hurt in Saturday's victory against Indiana.

USC has a better defense than UCLA, right? Not officially. UCLA ranks 15th nationally this week in total defense; the Trojans are 21st.

One of Riley's goals in his first year at Oregon State was to restore some on-field order. The Beavers led the Pac-10 in penalties last year with 126. Through two games, they are on a 138-penalty pace. The team amassed eight penalties for 83 yards in the first half against Fresno State, including four conduct calls. Coach's assessment: "We just unraveled."

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