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Washington RB Myles Gaskin puts NFL on hold in 2018

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As the deadline to declare for the NFL Draft early approached, Washington running back Myles Gaskin made the decision to put his NFL plans on hold for another year. Gaskin announced on Twitter he will be coming back for another season at Washington, giving the Huskies an experienced and talented back to rely on in the fall.

Gaskin had an impressive season running the football for Washington in 2017, but it was overshadowed by other brilliant rushing performances around the Pac-12 with Stanford’s Bryce Love and Arizona’s Khalil Tate stealing the spotlight for the majority of the season (Tate was a bit of a late bloomer on the national radar), and Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay, and USC’s Ronald Jones II all recording more rushing yards during the season. Gaskin rushed for 1,380 yards and a Pac-12 leading 21 touchdowns.

Washington will be a team with stability and consistency to offer next fall with Gaskin and quarterback Jake Browning set to return for the 2018 season, keeping the Huskies in a favorable position to be a Pac-12 contender. Washington won the Pac-12 and played in the College Football Playoff in 2016 and played came just short of playing for the Pac-12 championship in 2017 although they ended the year playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Look for the Huskies to be a popular Pac-12 preseason favorite in 2018.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft is today.

Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates declares for NFL Draft

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Wake Forest defensive back Jessie Bates is joining the crowd of underclassmen in declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft. Bates announced his decision to declare for the draft this spring with a statement on Twitter.

Bates ended his 2017 season with 77 tackles and an interception. Some scouts seem to think Bates could have benefitted with his NFL Draft stock if he stuck around another year, but Bates will still be a talented prospect NFL teams in need of some defensive and special teams help will consider. He could go in the second or third round of the NFL Draft, in all likelihood.

There are now at least 75 underclassmen declared for the upcoming NFL Draft, with the deadline to make such a decision quickly approaching. Bates announced his decision th same day as USC running back Ronald Jones IINotre Dame running back Josh Adams, and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

No. 13 USC survives Sam Darnold turnovers to come back and beat Utah

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On Saturday night, the many faces of Sam Darnold in 2017 were on display.

There was the dazzling of course, throwing for 358 yards and three scores. There was the head-scratching, such as a trio of fumbles. All things considered, the bottom line might be the most important aspect of the star quarterback’s outing against Utah as No. 13 USC used a thrilling second half comeback to win 28-27 on Saturday night.

All three of those fumbles from Darnold, one that was returned for a touchdown, occurred in the first half where not much could go right for the cardinal and gold. Luckily a trip to the locker room proved to be just the remedy for the team’s struggles as three of their four second-half drives resulted in 88+ yard scoring drives. Playing a big role in that turnaround was the USC offensive line and running back Ronald Jones IIwho finished the game with 111 yards and the go-ahead points on a front flip touchdown into the end zone.

Making a return to Los Angeles not far from where he grew up, Utah QB Troy Williams started once again in place of the injured Tyler Huntley. The senior wound up throwing for 262 yards and a touchdown but tossed an interception and was stopped just short of the goal line on a two-point conversion with 42 seconds left that would have won the Utes the game. Running back Zach Moss, who bruised his way to 141 yards, but it was just not enough in the end.

Everybody in Salt Lake City will now be forced to bemoan the second half slump that led to a blown loss and the decision by Kyle Whittingham for go for two instead of the tie with under a minute left. Those second guesses won’t be easy to take as the team now has lost two straight in the conference but this still seems like the second best squad in the division.

The best? Well that is the school they narrowly lost to. The incredible momentum swings that resulted in a Trojans’ victory gives them a significant leg up in the Pac-12 South race and also keeps them in the hunt for the College Football Playoff. In addition to securing the tie-breaker over the Utes, a pair of bounce-back wins since that tough loss up in Pullman could be big for USC as they head to South Bend next for a huge game against rival Notre Dame next week.

On a weekend where a ton of top 15 teams looked shaky, surviving and coming out with a win is certainly a step in the right direction for Darnold and company given how things played out earlier.

Cal plays tough, but No. 5 USC pulls away late to stay undefeated

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USC’s annual trip to the Bay Area for what is commonly referred to as ‘The Weekender’ is typically a casual affair for the Trojans when they go to Berkeley and their team takes on overmatched Pac-12 rivals Cal. Such was not the case for most of Saturday afternoon however, as the Bears pushed and prodded their in-state rivals before the dam finally broke early in the fourth quarter for a 30-20 win by the cardinal and gold.

The closer-than-it-indicated final score may not have been all that pretty but still allowed USC to capture their 14th straight victory and run their record against Cal to 13 straight wins over nearly a decade and a half.

Part of the reason the Trojans couldn’t pull away until late was an ineffective offense that was a continuation of last week against Texas. Quarterback Sam Darnold had to carry the team at times but wasn’t quite as sharp early in the passing game, forcing several balls while throwing his seventh interception (after having just nine all last year). His numbers improved as the game went on and, in front of a bunch of NFL scouts, he still finished with 223 yards and two touchdown passes against a feisty defense.

The biggest issue for the signal-caller was the lack of a running game. Normal starter Ronald Jones II didn’t even make the trip with the team, while true freshman Stephen Carr had his moments rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown taking the bulk of the carries.

Head coach Clay Helton can once again thank his defense for bailing out the slow starting offense as they forced six turnovers and straight up took over in the final quarter to change momentum. Josh Fatu forced a fumble early in the 4th that was recovered near the goal line to kick the party off and interceptions by Ykili Ross and Jack Jones in the next few series all but sealed the deal in Strawberry Canyon.

As a result, the numbers for Cal signal-caller Ross Bowers looked dreadful on the final stat sheet (303 yards, 1 TD, four interceptions and a fumble). Still, he did help give the team a chance for most of the day and, combined with a solid run game and defensive performance, helped show that things are still looking up for Justin Wilcox’s team despite suffering their first loss of the year to move to 3-1.

That might not be the case for USC as they fly back and look over the game tape from a sloppy victory. While it does put the team up 2-0 in league play, notching another win might prove to be even more difficult if they play like that given they face a stiff test next Friday against a Washington State team that should be ranked in the top 20.

No. 5 USC opens flat against Cal and it’s all tied up in Berkeley at halftime

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Imagine telling somebody before the season that No. 5 USC would dominate Stanford in the trenches during a blowout, but struggle against the other Bay Area team in a nail-bitter. Up is down, down is up in the Pac-12 apparently.

The Trojans came out flat to start their annual weekend trip to the Bay Area and needed a few defensive stands to keep the score locked at 13-all on a warm California day between the two in-state rivals.

Quarterback Sam Darnold (157 yards, one touchdown) did his Heisman campaign no favors, tossing his seventh interception of the season (after just nine in all of 2016). Things could have been worse for the signal-caller and his inexperienced receiving corps too as the Golden Bears nearly grabbed two others. Part of the issue could be that his terrific tailback Ronald Jones II failed to make the trip up for the game with an injury and true freshman Stephen Carr (36 yards) was forced to carry much of the load.

Cal’s offense had its own moments but was just 2-of-8 on third down conversions to help stall some early momentum. QB Ross Bowers threw for 124 yards but it was big running back Vic Enwere who was the star of the show with 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown he punched in on 4th and goal. The real story for the home team was the continued play of their defense however, pressuring Darnold on a number of snaps, forcing two turnovers and covering exceptionally well downfield to limit big plays.

The performance through two quarters will lead many to question whether USC really should be ranked in the top five and considered the Pac-12 favorite but the cardinal and gold could turn things around with a trip to the locker room and some adjustments. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Justin Wilcox’s squad giving everything they can to another big name opponent in Berkeley this month.