Conference games highlight Pac-12 Football weekend

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PAC-12 FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK:

SEEKING PERFECTION: There are 27 FBS teams that remain perfect at 3-0. Seven of those teams are from the Pac-12 - no other conference can match that as the SEC and Big Ten are next with five teams each at 3-0. Here’s a comparison to other conferences in non-conference play to date:

SEC 26-6 (.813) - 5 teams at 3-0
Pac-12 26-7 (.786) - 7 teams at 3-0
Big Ten 29-8 (.784) - 5 teams at 3-0, 2 teams at 2-0
ACC 22-9 (.710) - 4 teams at 3-0, 1 team at 1-0
Big 12 19-10 (.655) - 3 teams at 3-0, 1 team at 2-0

BEST STARTS: Seven Pac-12 teams are off to 3-0 starts this season. Here’s how that compares to previous undefeated starts to a season for those seven:

California - Best start since 2015 season (started 5-0).
Colorado - Best start since 2008 season (started 3-0). Started 5-0 in 1998.
Oregon - Best start since 2014 season (started 4-0).
USC - Best start since 2011 season (started 3-0). Started 4-0 in 2010.
Utah - Have won at least their first three games in each of the last three seasons.
Washington - Won first four games in three of the last four seasons, including last year’s 9-0 start.
Washington State - Best start since 2005 season (started 3-0). Started 7-0 in 2001.

GOOD HANDS: While the Pac-12 quarterbacks have deservedly received most of the attention early this season, there are those pass catchers who are making big contributions on the receiving end. Seventeen different players have posted 22 100-yard receiving games this season. USC’s Deontay Burnett and UTAH’s Darren Carrington each have three 100-yard games, with UCLA’s Darren Andrews adding two more ... In terms of receptions per game, the Pac-12 boasts five of the nations top 10 receivers - WASHINGTON STATE’s James Williams (9.0 receptions per game/3rd in FBS), Andrews and Carrington (8.7 rpg/tied 5th), Burnett and ARIZONA STATE’s N’Keal Henry (8.0 rpg/t 10th).

CONFERENCE OF PUNT RETURNERS: Everyone is now familiar with the exploits of WASHINGTON’s Dante Pettis (3 punt TDs), but he and ARIZONA’s Shun Brown (2 TDs) and COLORADO’s Leviska Shenault (1 TD) have combined for six touchdowns via punt return. That’s six of the 17 total punt returns for touchdowns this season in the FBS.

SHORTENED TIME OF GAME: The Pac-12 Conference will conduct a test program to improve the viewing experience for fans in stadium and on-air by taking steps to shorten the length of football games. All non-conference football games on Pac-12 Network this season (could be up to 15 games) will have reduced break times between the 1st and 2nd quarters and between the 3rd and 4th quarters. In addition, three non-conference games will have adjusted commercial formats to reduce four additional minutes of break time, and halftime for seven non-conference football games will be reduced from 20 to 15 minutes (approval was needed from each opponent). For certain games, Pac-12 Networks will experiment with :01 kickoff times. These experimental efforts are meant to shorten game length up to 10 minutes and reduce broadcast windows by up to 15 minutes. Below is the Pac-12 Networks schedule of games and the experimental adjustments for each game.

PAC-12 PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:

OFFENSE
Luke Falk, QB, WSU
In WSU’s 52-23 win over Oregon State, Falk completed 37-of-49 passes (.755) for 396 yards, six TDs and no interceptions. It was his eighth career 5-plus TD game and tied a WSU record with six TD passes. He now has 98 career TD passes, 4th-most in Pac-12 history. His career passing yards are now at 11,793, 5th-most in Pac-12 history ... In four career starts against Oregon State, Falk went 4-0, averaged 422.3 YPG with 1,689 yards and 22 TDs.

DEFENSE
Devante Downs, LB, CAL
Downs totaled a career-high and game-high-tying 14 tackles, including 2.0 sacks (-13 yards) and 3.0 tackles for loss (-21 yards), in the 27-16 win over Ole Miss. He added his fifth career interception and second of the season as well. Cal’s defense has allowed an average of 22.0 points per game in the opening three contests after giving up 42.6 ppg in 2016.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Dante Pettis, PR/WR, WASH
Pettis continued his historic start to the season, tying two NCAA records and one school record in the Huskies’ 48-16 win over Fresno State. Pettis returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown, tying the NCAA record for career punt return TDs, with his eighth. He’s also the third player in NCAA history to return a punt for a score in three consecutive games. He’s already tied the UW record for single-season punt return TDs with three this year. In addition to his special teams exploits, he also had five catches for 92 yards and 3 TDs (4, 7, and 73 yards). And if that wasn’t enough, he also completed a 39-yard pass to tight end Hunter Bryant on the UW’s first offensive play of the game.

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

UTAH (3-0) at ARIZONA (2-1)
Fri., Sept. 22 • 7:30 pm PT • FS1 • #UTAHvsAZ

UTAH: The Utes snapped a four-game skid to Arizona with a 36-23 win last season in Salt Lake City ... Utah is 24-1 in non-conference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, including a 18-0 record the last four years ... Sophomore QB Tyler Huntley set a career-high for passing yards for the third-straight week as he completed 30-of-43 for 341 yards and 4 TDs in the 54-16 victory over San Jose State ... Huntley ranks second in the Pac-12 and is 10th nationally in total offense, averaging 360.0 yards per game ... Senior WR Darren Carrington collected 9 receptions for 153 yards and 3 TDs.  It was his third 100-yard game in three games at Utah and his 10 career 100-yard game (seven at Oregon). Carrington co-leads the Pac-12 and third in the nation in receiving yards per game (136.3 avg) and is second in the league and fifth nationally with 8.7 receptions per game ... Senior PK Matt Gay has hit on all 11 of his field goal attempts, including a 56-yarder in the win over San Jose State. It was the second longest in school history. Averaging an FBS-best 3.67 field goals per game.

ARIZONA: Junior QB Brandon Dawkins accounted for six TDs in Arizona’s 63-16 win at UTEP. He finished 18 of 22 through the air for 155 yards, three TDs and no interceptions, and rushed for 143 yards on 13 carries and three more rushing TDs ... Arizona rushed for 326 yards Friday and has now rushed for 150-plus yards in nine straight games dating back to last season ... Junior WR/PR Shun Brown returned a 63-yard punt for a touchdown for his second punt return touchdown of the season. He’s the first Wildcat to have multiple punt returns for touchdowns since Mike Thomas in 2008. He also added a 36-yard TD reception in the win.

USC (3-0) at CALIFORNIA (3-0)
Sat., Sept. 23 • 12:30 pm PT • ABC • #USCvsCAL

USC: Extended their winning streak to 12 games with the double overtime 27-24 win over Texas, its longest win streak since posting 12 straight in 2008-09 ... Freshman walk-on PK Chase McGrath hit a pair of clutch field goals in the win. He connected from 31 yards to sent the game to overtime, then hit from 43 yards to win the game in the second overtime. Those were the first two field goals of his career ... Sophomore QB Sam Darnold completed 28-of-49 for 397 yards and 3 TDs. It’s the 13th straight game he’s thrown for a least 200 yards and sixth time for over 300 yards ... Junior WR Deontay Burnett had 8 receptions for 123 yards for his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game. He added a pair of TD receptions to give him four on the season.

CALIFORNIA: Bears are looking for their first win over USC since 2003 (34-31 3 OT win in Berkeley) ...  Junior RB Patrick Laird has rushed for 278 yards on 37 carries (7.5 avg) in two games this season after posting just 65 rushing yards on 11 carries (5.9 avg) over the previous two years ... After allowing 42.6 ppg last season, Cal’s defense has allowed 22.0 ppg (down 20.6 ppg) in the first three games of the season ... Cal has tallied 9 sacks (3.00 sacks per game) to date this season. It had 18 sacks (1.5 sacks per game) all of last season ... Cal has rushed for six TDs (2.0 per game) this season, while only rushing for 16 TDs (1.3 per game) all of last season.

Nevada (0-3) at WASHINGTON STATE (3-0)
Sat., Sept. 23 • 3:01 pm PT • P12N • #NEVvsWSU

WASHINGTON STATE: With his 395-yard passing performance in the win over Oregon State, senior QB Luke Falk set the WSU career mark for passing yards. He now has 11,793 yards, passing former Cougar Connor Halliday’s mark of 11,304. His total ranks fifth on the Pac-12’s all-time chart and with 26 yards he’ll pass Carson Palmer (USC, 1998-2002) for fourth, and with 408 yards, he’ll move pass Jared Goff (Cal, 2013-15) into the top three ... Falk’s 98 career TD passes are fourth most in Pac-12 history, needing two more TD passes to leap Matt Leinart (USC, 2003-05) for third ... Junior WR Tavares Martin Jr. had 10 receptions for a career-best 197 yards and 3 TDs (21, 2, 57) against Oregon State ... The Pac-12 has seven receivers with 22 or more receptions with three coming from WSU - James Williams (27), Martin Jr. (22), and Isaiah Johnson-Mack (22).

WASHINGTON (3-0) at COLORADO (3-0)
Sat., Sept. 23 • 8:00 pm MT • FS1 • #UWvsCOLO

WASHINGTON: The Huskies have won seven straight in the series with Colorado, including last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game (41-10) ... For the third straight game, senior WR Dante Pettis returned a punt for a touchdown with a 77-yard return against Fresno State. It was his eighth career punt return for a TD, tying a the NCAA career record ... Junior QB Jake Browning connected on 19-of-22 passes for 255 yards and 4 TDs in the win over Fresno State. As a team, the Huskies completed 25-of-28 for 328 yards ... Over the last two games, Browning is 41 of 48 (.854) for 514 yards and 6 TDs with just one interception. He’s tossed multiple TD passes in 15 of his last 17 games ... The Huskies have spread around the passes to 13 different receivers, all with multiple receptions.

COLORADO: Colorado is looking for its first win over Washington since the 1996 Holiday Bowl (33-21) ... Sophomore QB Steven Montez set career-highs with 29 completions, 41 attempts, 357 yards passing and 4 TDs in the 41-21 win over Northern Colorado. In six career starts (5‐1 record), Montez has already tied a CU record: he joins Koy Detmer, Mike Moschetti and Sefo Liufau as those at Colorado with two career 400‐yard total offense games ... Senior TB Phillip Lindsay posted 151 yards rushing on 26 carries with 1 TD in the win over Northern Colorado. It was the eighth 100-yard rushing game of his career, second this season ... CU’s receivers have nicknamed themselves the “Blackout Boyz,” mainly led by the four starters: seniors Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields and Devin Ross and junior Jay MacIntyre. Those four combined for 26 catches for 342 yards (13.2 per), with four TDs and all 16 first downs earned in the passing game in last Saturday’s victory.

OREGON (3-0) at ARIZONA STATE (1-2)
Sat., Sept. 23 • 7:01 pm MT • CBSSN • #UOvsASU

OREGON: Sophomore QB Justin Herbert (178.1 passing efficiency/13th in FBS) continues to lead Oregon’s high-scoring attack to the tune of 609.0 yards per game and 56.0 points per game. The total offense figure is second best average among FBS team, while its scoring average is third ... The start-fast Ducks have scored 42 points in the first half in each of their first three games, but just 42 points total in the second half of those three games ... Senior RB Royce Freeman carried 30 times for 157 yards and 3 TDs. He tied LaMichael James with 53 career touchdowns and is just six rushing touchdowns shy of matching the Pac-12 career mark held by Oregon State’s Ken Simonton (1998-2001). Freeman become the all-time UO leader in carries with 785. His 4,606 career rushing yards place him fifth on the Pac-12 career chart behind USC’s Marcus Allen (4,810 yards, 1978-81).

ARIZONA STATE: Junior QB Manny Wilkins has completed 69 of 101 passes for 924 yards and 7 TDs this season. He is one of two Pac-12 starting quarterbacks (Arizona’s Brandon Dawkins) who have not thrown an interception this season.  He is one of three FBS quarterbacks (N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, Temple’s Logan Marchi) who have attempted at least 100 passes and not thrown an interception this year ... His 168.0 passing efficiency rating ranks 21st nationally ... Sophomore WR N’Keal Harry had a career-high 13 receptions for a career-best 148 yards in the loss at Texas Tech ... The Sun Devils are a perfect 8-for-8 in red zone opportunities (all eight are TDs). Only Stanford (11-11) and Oregon State (9-9) are batting 1.000 in the red zone this season.

UCLA (2-1) at STANFORD (1-2)
Sat., Sept. 23 • 7:30 pm PT • ESPN • #UCLAvsSTAN

UCLA: Junior QB Josh Rosen completed 34-of-56 for 463 yards and 4 TDs in the 48-45 setback to Memphis ... It as his third consecutive 300-yard passing game, matching Brett Hundley’s school record. It was his sixth career 350-yard passing game, while his 495 yards of total offense moved him into fourth on UCLA’s career total offense list with 6,821 yards ... Rosen has an FBS-best 13 TD passes this season, and now has 46 for his career ... In the loss at Memphis, senior WR Darren Andrews finished with 10 receptions for a career-high 175 yards and one TD (65 yards). It was his sixth TD reception of the season. He entered the year with five career touchdown receptions.

STANFORD: The Cardinal have won nine straight over UCLA ... Stanford is 1-2 to open the season for the first time since 2008 ... Junior RB Bryce Love is currently second in the FBS, averaging 174.7 rushing yards per game. He’s rushed for 100 or more yards in each of the last five games for a total of 754 yards on 71 carries (10.6 avg). Love has an impressive 8.9 yards per carry average for his career as he’s rushed for 1,533 yards on just 173 carries over the last two-plus seasons ... Before a second-quarter interception at San Diego State, Stanford had 199 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Senior quarterback Keller Chryst had 170 straight attempts without a pick ... Stanford’s 75 wins against FBS opponents this decade ranks second nationally. Only Alabama (82) has more ... Stanford leads the nation with 266 sacks since 2011 ... Head coach David Shaw has 65 career wins, six shy of matching the school record set by Glenn “Pop” Warner (71 from 1924-32).

OPEN DATE

OREGON STATE: The Beavers return to action next week as they host Washington ... Junior RB Ryan Nall rushed for 118 yards and 2 TDs in the loss at Washington State. It was his seventh career 100-yard game and sixth in the last 10 games. He is 13th on OSU’s career rushing list with 1,729 yards ... Senior QB Darell Garretson filled in for the injured Jake Luton during the Washington State game and connected on both pass attempts for 20 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown toss to Seth Collins. Garretson started six games last season, throwing for 617 yards and 3 TDs, while Collins was OSU’s starting quarterback for nine games during the 2015 season before being converted to a wide receiver last season.

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