Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-2 Stanford

September 20, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 20, 2017

With Stanford kicking off at 10:30 Saturday evening against San Diego State, I was flying solo for my football-watching this past weekend. I stopped by a downtown Durham barcade, where I chatted and played pinball with my pal D— and his girlfriend; I also set a high score on Star Trek: The Next Generation (836 million and change, good enough for No. 2 on the machine’s “honor roll”).

Then I walked over to Tobacco Road. At that hour, the joint was much less crowded than it had been the prior week at 8:30 p.m. A bartender recognized me and asked which channel the game I wanted to see was on; I told him and it was put up on a monitor at my end of the bar almost immediately.

• The Bad 

Stanford got off to a slow start offensively, gaining just 15 yards on its first 11 plays from the line of scrimmage. Three explosive Bryce Love runs — touchdowns of 51 and 53 yards and a 47-yard carry in the third quarter — accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Cardinal’s 254 yards of total offense.

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Stanford falls to 1-2 after offense sputters against San Diego State

September 19, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 19, 2017

Author’s note: The day after this post was published, I adjusted some erroneous references to statistics about Stanford’s total offense. The team gained 254 yards, not 238. MEM

A feeble offensive performance doomed the Stanford football team to a 20-17 loss at San Diego State on Saturday evening.

The Cardinal dropped to 1-2 by generating just 254 238 yards of offense, including an abysmal 64 yards passing, and converting only three of 11 third-down tries. Starting quarterback Keller Chryst completed only eight of 19 attempts for 56 yards and coughed up the ball on two interceptions and a fumble. To be fair, his offensive line surrendered four sacks, including a blind-side hit that led to his losing the ball.

Only two offensive players for the Cardinal turned in worthwhile efforts against the Aztecs, who moved to 3-0 after beating Arizona State and Stanford in consecutive weeks. Junior wideout Trenton Irwin had six receptions for 49 yards, including 11- and 17-yard gains. Junior tailback Bryce Love was his usual explosive self, accumulating 184 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Unfortunately, the Cardinal offense was all or nothing. Love accounted for 150 yards and two touchdowns on three of his carries. Aside from that, Chryst and his compatriots generated a paltry 104 88 yards on 39 snaps, an average of less than 2.7 2.3 yards per play. That production wouldn’t suffice against a slate of Mountain West opponents, let alone the run of eight Pac-12 foes and Notre Dame that Stanford will face starting this weekend.

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Cait Murphy’s ‘History of American Sports in 100 Objects’ admirably fulfills its mission

September 14, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 14, 2017

Cait Murphy’s 2016 survey, A History of American Sports in 100 Objects, is a lively tour of — well, of exactly what the title represents.

Murphy begins with a roughly 900-year-old red stone statue standing 9 inches in height, one of the few remaining relics of the Native American sport known as chunkey. The pastime, popular throughout much of North America, was founded in the community of Cahokia, which was once the continent’s largest city north of Mexico. A number of the other objects the author selects are similarly obscure, such as the “lawn bowle” — an oak bowling ball the size of a grapefruit — that once belonged to a 17th-century Puritan resident of Boston, or the riding boots of Tad Lucas, a female rodeo star who earned thousands of dollars during the Great Depression.

But many of the objects Murphy highlights are more familiar, or at least invoke recognizable names. The book’s early pages also include such items as Abraham Lincoln’s handball; one of the dumbbells that pugilist John L. Sullivan used to train before the last bare-knuckles heavyweight title fight, held in rural Richburg, Miss., in July 1889; and James Naismith’s original rules of basketball, written at a YMCA school in Springfield, Mass., and now housed at the University of Kansas, where the inventor of basketball taught physical education and (of course) founded and coached a hoops squad.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-1 Stanford

September 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 13, 2017

I saw most of the Cardinal football team’s demoralizing defeat at the hands of USC Saturday night. I rendezvoused with my fellow Stanford alum Jim at Tobacco Road, a downtown Durham sports bar that I particularly favor, right around kickoff.

But we decided to leave shortly after my arrival: The joint was packed, and none of the TVs seemed to be tuned to the game we wanted to see. We hiked over to Bull McCabe’s, where I’d watched Stanford’s 42-16 home loss to Washington State last October. We sat down in front of a television just in time to see Stanford wrap up its first possession, which yielded a meager 36 yards and concluded with a punt.

The game was exciting — but only for a time.

• The Bad 

Look, when your defense surrenders 623 yards to the opposing team and allows them to convert 10 of 12 third downs, there’s absolutely no question about it — they’re going to be labeled The Bad. Yes, I know USC was ranked No. 6 in the nation and is full of talented players, and I know Alijah Holder and Justin Reid each intercepted highly touted Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold.

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Trojans stomp Stanford football, 42-18

September 12, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 12, 2017

The sixth-ranked University of Southern California football team imposed its will against visiting Stanford on Saturday night, scoring touchdowns on its first four possessions en route to a 42-24 victory.

The Trojans moved to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-12 by rushing 48 times for 307 yards. Sam Darnold showed why he might join several earlier Trojans quarterbacks as Heisman Trophy winners: The sophomore completed his first 10 pass attempts and finished the evening 21 for 26 with 316 yards and four touchdowns.

The maroon and gold squad was forced to punt just once by the Stanford defense, which recorded only one tackle-for-loss, a single pass breakup and no quarterback hurries. The Trojans, by contrast, were credited with 10 breakups, five tackles behind the line of scrimmage (including two sacks) and a hurry.

Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst, playing by far the most challenging opponent of his college career, completed 15 of 28 throws for 172 yards and two scores. But while the Cardinal offense finished with a respectable average of 6.5 yards per rush, the team only ran the ball 26 times, and the Trojans were able to stifle most carries between the tackles.

The most telling numbers of all were the third-down conversion rates. No. 14 Stanford, now 1-1 overall and 0-1 in league, was successful six times in 12 tries, while the hosts missed twice in a dozen opportunities.

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Aug. 26, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 3

September 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 5, 2017

My foe in game 7 was L.B., a veteran player I’d never encountered before. She was seeded seventh and had begun the day with a 1029 rating.  To that point, her only loss on the day was a 538-351 defeat to A.H., the top seed, who’d beaten me to start the afternoon session.

I got off to a rocky start. L.B., playing first, opened with GRADED 22. My rack was awful, IILRRUX; I played off LURID 7 and drew AADO, which left me with a similarly puzzling rack of AADIORX.

L.B. used my L to play QUALE 30. (You can read the definition of quale here; I won’t claim to understand it.) I answered with RODE 15 and drew EIS, which gave me AAEIISX. Once again, these were not stellar tiles.

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Aug. 26, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 2

September 4, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 4, 2017

Despite getting off to a 3-0 start with a win against the tournament’s highly rated third seed, I knew that I’d have a stiff test in the fourth game, which would close out our early session. I was to play F.T., the fourth seed in the field, who began the day with a rating of 1394. We’d played once before back in March, which had resulted in my sustaining a 49-point loss.

F.T. opened with DIDY 18, which was not positioned so as to enable me to convert my rack of AELLMST into the obvious bingo of MALLETS. (Didy, alternatively spelled didie, means diaper; its plural is didies.) I settled for MALL/MY 14.

F.T.’s second play, FUMY 14, didn’t cooperate with my rack of AEEIPST. (Fumy, of course, means emitting or full of fumes.) I settled again, this time for APE/LA 17, which left the score 32-31 in my foe’s favor.

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Aug. 26, 2017, mall Scrabble recap, part 1

September 3, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 3, 2017

I plunged back into competitive Scrabble play last weekend with another tournament at Northgate Mall in Durham. I knew it would be an exciting day: Stanford football would kick off its 2017 campaign in Sydney, Australia, that night, and I was planning to drive up to Northern Virginia as soon as the event ended.

I didn’t get a great night’s sleep, but I felt pretty sharp in the morning. I’d already packed most of my bags. I woke up in timely fashion, showered, and walked over to the mall, arriving 15 or 20 minutes ahead of start time.

The field was small, only 12 contestants; I was seeded ninth with a player rating of 922. I was a little nervous about my first opponent, C—, a Scrabble veteran with a sixth seed and a rating of 1080. C— is a Carolina resident and shows up to all of the Durham tournaments, so I knew him a bit, but I was a little intimidated by his extensive experience and higher rating.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 1-0 Stanford

September 1, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 1, 2017

I missed the early scoring in the Stanford football team’s season-opening win over Rice last weekend. I played (poorly overall, alas; details forthcoming) in a Scrabble tournament in Durham that day before driving to my friends’ home in Northern Virginia. (R— seemed happy to see me; then again, I think she’s pretty much happy to see everyone.)

I’d planned to listen to the start of the game while driving courtesy of the good offices of KZSU, the Stanford radio station, but every time I tried tuning in via my smartphone, I only heard music. Belatedly, I came to understand that the station hadn’t sent broadcasters (or even a single broadcaster!) to Sydney, Australia, presumably because of the expense involved.

So it wasn’t until after I arrived at my destination and spent a while chatting with my friends, and eating some of their food, that I settled down in front of a television to watch the game. By that point, Stanford held a 35-0 lead. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy these days to find video highlights.

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Cardinal drops highlights aplenty in 62-7 season debut vs. Rice

August 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 31, 2017

Stanford cruised to victory down under Sunday as it opened the 2017 campaign with a 62-7 win over Rice in Sydney, Australia.

The field seemed to be tilted in the direction of the Cardinal from the start of the contest. The white-clad squad outgained the Owls 656 yards to 241, scored touchdowns on its first four drives, and failed to produce points just three times in 13 possessions — one of which came at the very end of the game.

The contest’s opening play seemed to forecast the beatdown to come. Head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren decided that the first play from scrimmage should be a handoff to Bryce Love, the junior who started two games last year in place of all-world athlete Christian McCaffrey, now employed in the NFL. The tailback burst through a hole cleared by sophomore guard Nate Herbig, zipped out of the arms of two would-be tacklers and hit the open field at full speed. A dive by Owl cornerback V.J. Banks enabled fellow cornerback Justin Bickham to force Love out of bounds at the 13-yard line following an electrifying 62-yard run.

Two plays later, senior quarterback Keller Chryst tossed a nicely placed ball to freshman Colby Parkinson for a 13-yard touchdown. The 6-foot-7 tight end, who had lined up out wide, exploited his six-inch height advantage over Bickham in making his first collegiate reception.

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