This Week In The Pac-12: Concussion Discussion

Otto Greule Jr

A number of recent concussions reminds us that we're watching a brutal game. Should the Pac-12 be doing more to combat player head injuries?

Arizona 39, USC 36

For the second time this season a Pac-12 player received a serious concussion, and for the second time this season that player was not immediately removed from the game. And that is a big, big problem that needs to be addressed by Pac-12 coaches and administration.

Here's a description of the events from The Daily Wildcat:

Scott hiked the ball, took it himself and ran for a sliding first down. As he began his slide, Trojans linebacker Dion Bailey’s helmet struck the back of Scott’s head on an attempted tackle, then safety T.J. McDonald dove headfirst at Scott’s head from his front side, leading to a 15-yard penalty.

As the Wildcats readied to take control at the 9-yard line, Scott walked over to the 28-yard line, and began vomiting.

"From my vantage point, whatever he had for breakfast is no longer in him," Rodriguez said. "It’s all at about the 20-yard line."

Thoughts:

1) I've been very vocal in my criticism of USC safety T.J. McDonald. Hell, I criticized him well before the Arizona game for his dangerous play. And I was plenty harsh when it appeared that he gave Scott his concussion on Saturday. But evidently that wasn't the case. Frankly, that doesn't change much. McDonald still led with his helmet against a defenseless quarterback. Just because it didn't result in a concussion this time doesn't mean it won't next time. How many players will McDonald concuss before he stops attempting tackles like that?

2) Evidently, from Rodriguez's vantage point, he saw Matt Scott vomit. And he kept Matt Scott in the game. And he called a play that resulted in Matt Scott running the ball. For all the publicity concussion research has gotten, it clearly hasn't penetrated the consciousness of many football coaches. If there aren't consequences for coaches who ignore stuff like this, what motivation do they have to protect amateur athletes? Matt Scott threw a touchdown on that drive - Rodriguez and the Wildcats were rewarded for throwing any safety concerns aside. Larry Scott and the ADs at each conference school need to step up, because evidently some coaches in this conference won't.

3) I said it in the Utah game thread, and I'll probably say it again. Avery Sebastian is an immensely talented player and he has a very bright future. And so far, I'm not willing to brand him as 'dirty' or a 'head-hunter' or anything like that. But he's picked up a few personal fouls for leading with his helmet, and I'm concerned about it. I can't criticize T.J. McDonald if I'm not honest enough to do the same to Cal players. Obviously, there's a very fine line between playing 'physical' and playing dangerously. I hope Cal's coaches help our players get on the right side of that line.

Oh yeah, by the way, Arizona won a thrilling game to muddle up the Pac-12 South race. Football, I love you and I hate you.

Arizona Desert Swarm wanted Scott out of the game:

Of course, it was likely that Scott has a concussion. The unanimous reaction in our game thread was to pull the starting quarterback then and there -- Rodriguez didn't as Scott somehow avoided a thorough evaluation during the timeout. He didn't look completely out of it, and even showed alertness on the next three plays that included a -1-yard rush and a touchdown throw to David Richards.

That doesn't mean he was "fine", however.

Conquest Chronicles questions a number of coaching decisions:

For those that still have questions with the decision-making and play calling: How many were wondering why Kiffin didn't kick the field goal with USC at the Arizona 15 in the first quarter? They went for it on fourth down and that's when Barkley missed Grimble in the end zone. At the time, it seemed a logical call to just take the points on the road. Who would've figured that field goal would be difference in the game.

Should the Pac-12 get involved in disciplining players for illegal hits or coaches for marginalizing player safety?

UCLA 45, Arizona State 43

Another thriller that harkened back to the days when announcers said "The team that has the ball last will win." In this case, Arizona State scored their potential game winning touchdown too quickly, leaving Brett Hundley with 1:33 left to get their game-winning field goal.

Arizona State (who clearly badly miss all-conference level performer Will Sutton) perhaps should have emerged victorious as they gained more yards and won the turnover battle - but three times the Sun Devils settled for field goals in the red zone while UCLA was much more clinical inside the 20. A Bruin win combined with Arizona's mild upset win over USC adds a ton of excitement to what is now a four team race to get destroyed by Oregon.

Bruins Nation is happy but still skeptical:

This program is better than what we have seen in recent years - as no way do any of our recent teams, except maybe MJD's, come back in the end of yesterday's game. But that still doesn't mean that the team is good enough or has come far enough for anyone to be satisfied. Does anyone have complete confidence for next week against Arizona, or on the road again in Pullman (ok, maybe there), or with the Southern Cal receivers, or with the Stanford ground game?

House of Sparky misses Sutton:

If this were the NFL, Will Sutton would have made himself a lot of money today without having to do a thing. Without him in the lineup, the Sun Devils had no answer for the UCLA running game. Davon Coleman did make five tackles and a sack in his place, but the Bruins consistently gashed the defense for gains all game long, including on the game's deciding drive. Johnathan Franklin ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 6.3 yards-per-carry.

USC, Arizona, ASU or UCLA - who ya got?

Washington 20, Oregon State 17

That game that few if any Cal fans watched. Which is probably just as well. Washington's defense forced 4 Sean Mannion interceptions, and that was enough to overcome a 134 yard Beaver advantage in total yardage. Oregon State's victory script - mistake free play - was turned on its head as Washington won by simply not screwing up on offense. Mannion, who may not be fully healthy, was later pulled for Cody Vaz who almost pulled off the comeback. Just one more school with a quarterback controversy.

Oh yeah. Another Pac-12 player was knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion on a borderline hit. Oregon State probably wins this game if that hit doesn't happen and Markus Wheaton keeps playing. Seriously, there are good reasons why football is falling on my list of favorite sports.

UW Dawg Pound praises the Husky secondary:

While there were some notable breakdowns -Brandin Cooks going for 54 yards and a TD on a busted coverage being the most notable - this was also the group that did the most to hold Oregon State to 17 points, coming up with critical interceptions time and time again, and preventing Cody Vaz from finding anyone open on the game-winning defensive series when the Beavers turned over the ball on downs.

Building the Dam missed having Wheaton on the field:

Markus Wheaton was knocked out of the game on a brutal hit early in the 2nd quarter, on a play that resulted in an interception after Wheton was separated from the ball in midair. The senior receiver appeared to be knocked cold bye the helmet-to-helmet, arguably a penalty, hit. He didn't return, and the Beaver offense felt the effects of it. Obum Gwachum was targeted 5 times, dropped 2 passes, and wasn't fast enough to convert a fourth down on another.

Was the hit to Wheaton clean or should it have been flagged?

Are you on the Cody Vaz train or the Mannion express?

Oregon 70, Colorado 14

The game went exactly like everybody expected, but events around the country conspired to freak out Oregon fans who want to play for the mythical title. The Ducks languish at 4th in the BCS standings because of a weak schedule. I'm sure you're all feeling a ton of sympathy for them right about now?

Addicted To Quack is starting to get frustrated with the system:

Here is my biggest problem with the polls. Why isn't Oregon ranked #1? Look at what Oregon has done to its opponent this year and tell me there is another team in the country that would do the same thing. Alabama played starters until the 4th quarter and used their entire offense against Ole Miss. Kansas State? North Texas 35-21 at home, enough said. Notre Dame beat 0-4 in the Big Ten Purdue by 3. Oregon hasn't played starters all the way through a game the entire season. Their closest game was 17 points to a team they led 35-6 at halftime. I know voters want to put returning champs as #1, but in this case, I'd like to hear the arguments why, using what has happened in this season alone.

When the final BCS standings come out, do you think an undefeated Oregon will beat out an undefeated Kansas State or Notre Dame? Do you believe they should?

Stanford 24, Washington State 17

On the bright side, Stanford almost lost. On the down side, Washington State scored almost six times as many points against Stanford as Cal did.

Rule of Tree bemoans an awful offensive effort:

When you hold a team to minus-16 yards rushing, get a defensive touchdown and register double-digit sacks, your backup quarterback should be orchestrating the offense in the fourth quarter. That was the case yesterday, but not because the Cardinal managed to put away the Cougars early.

Washington State had a chance to force overtime, or, knowing Mike Leach, possibly go for the win in the final seconds because the offense played like crap and the Stanford secondary made Jeff Tuel look like the second coming of MattBarkley Scott.

CougCenter, as always, looking for signs that the future may be bright:

There are certainly some positives to take away from this game. WSU took a Top-25 team to the brink on the road. The defense is improving. The offense is starting to come around. Hopefully those strides will translate to victories down the stretch.

After destroying Colorado next week Stanford faces Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA to end the season. Can Stanford muster enough offense to beat Oregon State and UCLA in L.A.?

Next Week

Friday
That game between some assistant coach and his former employer that's a big deal I guess, 6:00 pm, ESPN2

Saturday
Stanford at Colorado, 11:00 am PT, FX
Washington State at Utah, 12:00 pm, Pac-12 networks
Oregon at USC, 4:00 pm, FOX
Arizona at UCLA, 7:30, Pac-12 networks
Arizona State at Oregon State, 7:30, ESPN2

Two awful early games followed by three brilliant late games. Oregon and USC might be the most important Pac-12 game left in the regular season as it seems to be the only conceivable loss the Ducks will have all year.

But Arizona/UCLA and ASU/OSU both seem more likely to provide competitive excitement. Can Arizona continue their blistering offensive pace, and can Brett Hundley keep pace? Will Oregon State bounce back from their first defeat, and who will be the QB to try to make that happen?

Oh yeah, and the Tosh melodrama on Friday night. Whoopee.

Basketball content returns next week. NON-SARCASTIC WHOOPEE!

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