Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 8-3 Stanford

November 25, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 25, 2016

I got my five miles in during the afternoon hours just before the 119th Big Game. Oddly, I encountered dogs in all three phases of my afternoon outing.

A coffee shop opened sometime in the last year on Hillsborough Road on the western end of Durham. It’s about a mile and a half from where I live, but if I take the scenic route, I can stretch the distance out. I decided to do that on Saturday.

Near the beginning of my stroll, I was walking up a residential street when I saw some people tailgating in their driveway. (I think they were North Carolina State fans, if I correctly recall the logos on display.) They had a tent and some chairs set up along with a TV and some refreshments. They also had two little dogs that were attached to long leads.

When the dogs spotted me — now, all I was doing was walking alongside a public road — they ran toward me, and their people got up to take control of the animals. In some circumstances, I might have stopped to say hello, but both dogs were barking, and both were tied up; what’s more, their leads seemed to be attached to different things. The leashes were long, but I didn’t want to step into someone’s yard to say hello and deal with the lines getting tangled — especially because, as I mentioned, the dogs were barking. This wasn’t unfriendly barking, mind you, but discretion is the better part of valor, as they say…

There were some cars parked on the curb in front of the house where these dogs were. I continued walking on the street side of the vehicles, as I would have done if the dogs and the people hadn’t been there. But one of the dogs zipped around to the street and nipped at me.

Right at this time, one or more people were gathering up the dogs. I took a step or two farther to get outside the attacking dog’s range and looked down. It was quite warm for a mid-November day in Durham, N.C., and I’d been wearing my nicest pair of shorts. Now, however, I saw that the dog’s mouth had sliced a little part of the hem.

“Your dog ripped my shorts,” I said to the man who had come to gather the attacking dog. But with all the barking, I wasn’t sure if he heard me.

“Your dog ripped my shorts,” I said, more loudly this time.

“Sorry,” he said.

I resumed my walk. When I got to the coffee shop, I had 2.53 miles under my belt.

I sat outside on the patio in front of the shop. At the table to my side was a man with a medium- to large-sized gray dog; it may have been a Weimaraner, but I’m not sure. This dog, which I think was female, seemed sweet-tempered and interested in me, but the man was wrapped up in his laptop. Since he didn’t appear to want to interact with me, I ignored the dog.

A little later on, I spotted a fellow Stanford alumnus and his young son; so did the dog. The dog, much to my chagrin, seemed to begin barking at the pair. They went into the coffee shop. Fifteen or so minutes later, when they came back out, the dog seemed to bark at them again. I overheard the man saying that the dog was riled up by a plastic bag in the road, but I wasn’t sure about this.

The temperature dropped sharply over the couple of hours or so that I was sitting outside. When it was time to go, I pulled my Stanford sweatshirt hood over my ears and walked briskly to keep warm.

I varied my return path a little bit. This time, as I was walking up a short residential street close to the coffee shop, a dog across the street started barking at me. This dog was fenced in, so I didn’t worry about it. But, as I often do, I spoke to it. “Hi, dog!” I said brightly.

As it happened, a young woman was sitting on the steps of a house on the side of the street where I was walking. A moment after I’d addressed the dog, I noticed her. (The hood cuts down on my peripheral vision.) “Oh, hi,” I murmured, a little self-consciously.

So in a sense, that was my bad-ugly-good of dog encounters prior to the Big Game. On to assessing the game itself!

• The Bad

To paraphrase what I wrote in this section last week: When a team wins, 45-31, there aren’t that many negatives to be found. Stanford did a lot of things well on Saturday in Berkeley.

But looking at the box score, one thing jumped out at me: Penalties. Stanford was flagged seven times (seven!) by the officials. Most of these were small penalties — the Cardinal only ran up 50 penalty yards. (Cal, by contrast was flagged four times for 45 yards.) Still, to return to paraphrasing last week’s post, against a better team than Cal, that lack of discipline could change the outcome of a game.

Therefore, Stanford’s repeated infractions clearly constitute this week’s The Bad.

• The Ugly 

Stanford finally put together a solid game against a team with an established starting quarterback. But it still hasn’t really done that against a team with a good defense. Here are the total defense rankings, through games of Nov. 24, of the teams Stanford has beaten on its current four-game winning streak plus of Saturday’s opponent:

• Arizona: Ranked 111th of 128 teams, 467.3 yards per game allowed.

• Oregon State: 87th, 433.3 ypg.

• Oregon: 126th, 528.2 ypg.

• Cal: 127th, 541.8 ypg.

• Rice: 123rd, 501.8 ypg.

These… these are ugly numbers. Stanford is likely to face a better team in its bowl game. The Cardinal’s ability to put together a complete 60-minute performance against a good team is still in doubt, and will be until its bowl game ends, this must be called The Ugly.

• The Good 

As I wrote last week, there are a ton of positives to be found. Here are some candidates:

• The Stanford offense for rolling up 555 yards, including 357 rushing yards on 50 attempts (7.1 yards per carry), for scoring six touchdowns and for not giving the ball away.

• J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for gaining 107 yards on just four catches (26.8 yards per catch).

• The Stanford offensive line for its performance opening holes for runners (see above) and for protecting quarterback Keller Chryst, who was sacked only once on the afternoon

• Chryst for completing 13 of 28 passes for 198 yards (8.6 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns while also carrying six times for 23 yards with a 16-yard touchdown run.

But heck. You know and I know who’s getting this award: Christian McCaffrey for racking up a school-record 284 rushing yards on 31 runs (9.2 yard per carry) with three touchdowns. McCaffrey, who also caught four passes for 22 yards and had an 11-yard punt return, finished with 317 all-purpose yards and now leads the NCAA in that category with 205.6 all-purpose yards per game. Because of these accomplishments, this outstanding athlete is wholly deserving of being labeled this week’s The Good.

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