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Pac-12 alumni impress over NFL Wildcard Weekend, setting sights on Divisional Round

Jan 14, 2021

With the first weekend of the NFL playoffs in the books, many Pac-12 alumni have already distinguished themselves while more will get a chance to make their mark in the upcoming Divisional Round. Here's a look at some of these notable performances as well as a look ahead to this weekend's action: 

USC Receivers

USC has often been referred to as Wide Receiver U, so it only makes sense that a trio of ex-Trojan wideouts would turn in impressive performances over Wildcard Weekend.

Rookie Michael Pittman Jr. was the latest USC product to post major postseason numbers, leading Indianapolis with 90 receiving yards on five catches in the Colts' 27-23 loss to Buffalo. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster, who dazzled at USC from 2014-16, had a monster game with 157 yards and a touchdown in the Steeler's 48-37 loss to the Browns. 

And Robert Woods, who collected 32 touchdowns for the Trojans from 2010-12, made the pivotal play in the Los Angeles Rams' surprise 30-20 victory over Seattle, putting the game on ice with a 15-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. 

One famous former Trojan who may not have been thrilled with Woods big-time play, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll... 


A Battle of Cal Quarterbacks

Jared Goff came off the bench, recovering from a recent broken thumb, to turn in a gutsy performance for the Rams and secure a spot in the Divisional Round. Goff could be forgiven if he's less than ecstatic about his reward for his efforts against Seattle, as he now faces a date with fellow former Golden Bear, and current NFL MVP frontrunner, Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field.

Goff and Rodgers both capped illustrious careers in Berkeley by being selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Goff went No. 1 overall to the Rams in 2016 while Rodgers notoriously slipped all the way to the Green Bay Packers at No. 24 in 2005. Since then, Rodgers has had a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career having already won a Super Bowl, earned two NFL MVP awards and is generally considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. 

Goff won the only previous meeting of the two former Golden Bears back in 2018 when he exploded for over 300 total yards and three touchdowns. He will likely need to produce a similar performance if he hopes to unseat the almighty Rodgers and get his team back to the Super Bowl. 

Hooper and Hekker headed to second round

The Cleveland Browns made a major investment in former Stanford standout Austin Hooper with a four-year contract this past offseason. It seems to be paying dividends as the tight end caught seven passes and scored a touchdown to help earn the Browns their first playoff win since 1995. 

Meanwhile punter, and occasional trick play quarterback, Johnny Hekker made fans in Corvallis proud over Wildcard Weekend. The former Oregon State Beaver had a strong game (7 punts, 317 punting yards) contributing to the Rams win over Seattle. 

Is this it for Alex Smith?

Finally, while he wasn’t active in the Washington Football Team’s loss to Tampa Bay, Alex Smith played a tremendous role in getting Washington to the playoffs. Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick out of Utah, overcame a serious leg injury to get back to lead Washington to the top of the NFC East. If Smith does indeed decided to hang it up, he will go down as one of the most successful Utah alumni of all time, having played fifteen seasons, earned three Pro Bowl selections and taken three different teams to the postseason.