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Kyle Whittingham attempts to defend bizarre timeout decision that doomed Utes vs. Washington

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If you went to bed a little early on Saturday night then the chances are pretty good you missed one of the more baffling coaching decisions of the season. With Washington and Utah tied at 30-30 after the Huskies battled back in the second half, Washington received the football with under a minute to play. Washington seemed to be playing for overtime with a short run to keep the clock rolling when Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham called a timeout. This gave Washington head coach Chris Petersen a chance to change the mindset on his sideline and go for the win before overtime, and it led to a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Whittingham essentially gave Washington a chance to win the Huskies had no intention of playing for in regulation, and it may end up costing Utah a spot in a postseason bowl game. After the game, Whittingham defended his decision-making by saying he was attempting to be aggressive, suggesting that if Washington really was playing for overtime, they would have taken a knee.

“You’d have to ask Chris that. But if they were not being aggressive they would have taken a knee,” Whittingham explained. “What’s the point in running a play if they’re not going to try to at least maneuver into field goal range. So we called timeout, had them in decent field position, second and eight or second and nine, and one incomplete pass and another timeout if they decide to run the ball. So it was a long shot, but we’re just trying to win and it obviously didn’t work out.

Here’s the play where Utah called the timeout. It sure seemed as though Washington had no real intention of playing for a field goal unless Utah made a huge mistake, which as it turned out they did,

Whittingham had no legitimate reason to call for the timeout and admitted it was a decision he would take back given the hindsight of knowing how the game would eventually end.

“In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have called the timeout,” Whittingham said. “But at the time, we were just trying to be aggressive and get the ball back to a guy who has about a sixty-yard range field goal wise.”

Petersen said after the game they were merely trying to run Myles Gaskin to see if there would be a crack or a big play. That never developed, but the timeout changed the situation for Washington. Petersen, not one to go out and trash an opposing coach over a questionable decision that benefits him, said he understood what Whittingham was trying to do.

“We wanted to run the ball and see if we could pop through with Myles and maybe get a 10-yard run,” Petersen said. “I get what Kyle was trying to do. You have to play aggressive in these situations.”

No, you do not.

There is a time to play with aggression, but this was not the time. Washington was settling on playing overtime, and Whittingham overthought the situation and got burned by it.

Bryce Love and Stanford knock over No. 9 Washington to knockout Pac-12 playoff hopes

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The Pac-12’s chances of participating in the College Football Playoff were on life support heading into a huge weekend of action.

Unfortunately for Larry Scott and company on the West Coast, those postseason dreams didn’t even make it to Saturday. Stanford once again threw a wrench into the league’s playoff hopes and did so in impressive fashion to upset No. 9 Washington 30-22 on Friday night behind the team’s big hitters on both sides of the ball.

Running back Bryce Love was not surprisingly the focal point of the Cardinal offense, looking solid despite still dealing with some issues from a bum ankle that was hurting coming into the game and was re-injured in second quarter. The Heisman candidate battled through all that though, not ripping off his typical huge runs but grinding away at one of the best defenses in the country to the tune of 160 yards and three touchdowns.

Stanford didn’t just rely on Love to be the only way to move the ball though, as quarterback K.J. Costello had his best game of the season on the way to 211 yards and several huge throws down the field to loosen up the box for his tailback.  Most of those throws went to his biggest target in receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who didn’t find the end zone but did rack up five catches for 130 yards in the upset.

The Huskies had been holding onto the slim hopes of sneaking back into the College Football Playoff again this season but never seemed to put a consistent effort on the field on both sides of the ball after jumping out to an early lead. Running back Myles Gaskin was nearly the equal of Love, managing 120 yards and three scores on the ground to help his team control some of the clock down on the Farm. Backfield-mate Jake Browning started the game with 10 straight completions but was lackluster in the second half — including an awful sack in the fourth quarter that later setup a Stanford touchdown.

Gaskin also added a fumble to Chris Petersen’s issues in the loss and Washington recorded an uncharacteristic seven penalties for 73 yards to set them back even further as their Pac-12 title hopes went almost completely out the window.

The victory allowed Stanford head coach David Shaw to tie Hall of Famer Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner (71) for most wins in school history and keep his team’s hopes for yet another Pac-12 title alive by the thinnest of margins. The Cardinal moved a half game up in the North division with only Bay Area rival Cal remaining on the conference slate (Notre Dame also comes to town) and will need these same Huskies to beat their in-state rival Washington State in the Apple Cup in order to make it to Santa Clara.

RB Myles Gaskin rolling as No. 9 Washington leads Stanford at halftime

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If you expected a heavy dose of the running game with No. 9 Washington traveling to Stanford, you would be spot on. The Huskies put together several impressive drives in the first half offensively to jump out to a 14-10 lead after two quarters in a battle of Pac-12 North heavyweights.

Tailback Myles Gaskin proved to be a workhorse in the backfield to edge out his more highly touted counterpart on the other sideline, rushing for 87 yards in the half to go along with his two scores for the College Football Playoff contenders. He wasn’t the only one racking up yards however, as the play-action game was working well for quarterback Jake Browning (120 yards) on his way to 10 consecutive completions to start the game. Washington really mixed in tempo to their advantage and moved the ball against the normally stingy Stanford defense.

The Cardinal offense was also surprisingly effective despite Heisman contender Bryce Love being bottled up fairly well. He still finished the half with 43 yards and a touchdown but never busted any sort of big run and had a long of eight at the break. Love’s first quarter score did allow him to extend his streak to 11 straight games with a touchdown, tied for the longest in school history and the best active mark in the FBS right now. Just as interesting was the fact that the team came out throwing a lot more than they have in recent weeks, with starter K.J. Costello throwing for 137 yards on 10 completions.

Given the past history of these two programs, a low-scoring affair that is built around defense and running the ball should come as no surprise. It should be fascinating to see what adjustments will be made in the locker room as the game carries several division and national title implications.

Washington’s Dante Pettis sets FBS record for career punt return TDs

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Why anyone ever punts anywhere near Dante Pettis is beyond me.  Yet, here we are.  Again.  And again and again and again…

Entering Saturday’s action, the Washington returner extraordinaire was tied for the FBS career record for punts returned for a touchdown with eight.  In the second quarter of the Week 10 game against Oregon, the wide receiver put himself alone at the top of that particular chart.

That 64-yard scoring return gives him nine and breaks the tie that Pettis had been in with Texas Tech’s Wes Welker (2000-03) and Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins (2001-04).  Not only did Pettis, who has four for scores in 2017, break that career mark, he’s also now also within one of tying the single-season mark of set first by Hawaii’s Chad Owens in 2004 and matched by North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer in 2013.

Earlier this year, Pettis also joined Kansas State’s David Allen (1998) and Switzer (2013) as the only players in FBS history to return a punt for a score in back-to-back-to-back games.

Khalil Tate saving Rich Rodriguez and putting Arizona in Pac-12 contention

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Those who have sacrificed their sleep on the weekends to watch a talented running back duo of Stanford’s Bryce Love and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny this season are already conditioned for this, but Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has become one more reason to stay up late on Saturdays. Tate is close to carrying Arizona by himself as the main attraction in a much-needed turnaround season for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats.

After diminishing win totals each of the past two seasons, it was fair to suggest this was a critical season for Rodriguez in Tucson. And after a 2-2 start to the season that included some offensive struggles against Houston and Utah at home, Tate’s sudden rise could not have come at a better time. Since taking over at quarterback in early October against Colorado, Tate has been off and running, literally. Tate is essentially Rodriguez’s 2017 edition of Pat White.

Tate is Arizona’s leading rusher with 926 yards and eight touchdowns following his 146 rushing yards and a touchdown Saturday night against No. 15 Washington State in a 58-37 victory. Tate also had 275 passing yards and two scores through the air to lead Arizona to a blowout win with a strong second half.

Tate is playing his way into the Heisman Trophy mix against incredible odds, and it is easy to see why. He legitimately has a chance to break a big play every time he touches the football. And as the quarterback, he has his hands on the football every play Arizona runs. Tate is second in the Pac-12 in plays of 30+ yards with 12, trailing only Stanford’s Love. He is one of five players in the conference with a play of 80+ yards and he is the only Pac-12 player with 4 plays of 70 yards or longer (Washington’s Dante Pettis is second in the Pac-12 with two).

As we have noted before, Tate was not the starting quarterback for Arizona at the start of the season, making Tate’s sudden rise in the Pac-12 even more entertaining to those tuning in. This week Tate will be one of the reasons to stay up late once again as Arizona prepares for a road game at USC. With the Trojans also winning last night on the road against Arizona State, first-place is on the line for the Wildcats and Trojans, the last two teams in the Pac-12 South with just one loss in conference play.

If Tate can make similar plays happen against USC and Arizona can leave Los Angeles with a win and a head-to-head tiebreaker, Arizona will have an incredibly manageable path to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Taking down the Trojans will be no easy task, but neither will USC’s mission of stopping Tate.

USC hosts Arizona at 10:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4. Put a pot of coffee on. It will be worth it.