Archive for October, 2017

Stanford squeaks past Oregon State, 15-14, in low-wattage Thursday night game

October 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 31, 2017

The Stanford football squad overcame plentiful mistakes by its offense, defense and coaching staff to secure a 15-14 victory in a nationally televised game at Oregon State on Oct. 26.

Stanford, now 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the Pac-12, likely would have lost if not for a last-minute touchdown drive. With superstar tailback Bryce Love sidelined after tweaking his ankle against Oregon, the No. 20–ranked Cardinal managed just 81 rushing yards and converted only five of 16 third downs against a 1-7 Beavers team that respectively ranks 12th and 11th in the league in those categories.

The first quarter was scoreless thanks to a sequence of punts and a missed 34-yard field goal attempt by Stanford sophomore kicker Jet Toner. The Cardinal offense began to find a rhythm late in the period as quarterback Keller Chryst completed five passes, including a 25-yarder to junior wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Toner capped the drive with a 40-yard kick to give the Cardinal a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Read the rest of this entry »


How I became a pinhead

October 24, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 24, 2017

A friend got me interested in pinball. Back in 2014 or 2015, I think, he bought a World Cup Soccer table. I occasionally noodled around with it when visiting his house.

In 2016, my buddy invited me to play in a couple of monthly tournaments at a downtown Raleigh bar/restaurant/arcade called Level Up. For a while, I resisted his blandishments, but eventually I decided to give competitive pinball play a try.

My first tournament was in March 2016; I finished in a three-way tied for last place in a 19-person field. I’ve played every other month or so since then, although I’ve never placed better than a two-way tie for seventh out of 15 participants.

I might have remained an extremely casual pinball player but for a few things. One was a complicated chain of events that began with the extended illness of a relative, which prompted me to spend a bunch of time in Ye Olde Family Home up north at the beginning of this year.

I had a few days in mid-January to myself. I wanted to participate in the annual charity Scrabble tournament in Durham, but I didn’t want to do a 1,000-mile road trip over the course of four days or so. I wound up driving to North Carolina and booking a pair of flights to take me up north and back down to Cackalacky.

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Everything you (n)ever wanted to know about my sock-wearing habits

October 22, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 22, 2017

About six or sevens years ago, I was sitting in West End Wine Bar on Main Street in Durham with a couple of friends when, for some reason, the subject of my wardrobe came up. I think that I was wearing a nice long-sleeve buttoned shirt, jeans and sneakers — a very typical outfit for me when the weather is cool or when I’m doing something social in the evening.

My outfit was fine… for the most part. However, my friends’ critical eyes were drawn to my socks.

As was my wont at the time, I was wearing white crew socks. This was, my friends told me, a no-no. Instead, they encouraged me to start wearing dark-colored socks.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 5-2 Stanford

October 19, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 19, 2017

Saturday was a sports-watching day. First I went to Devine’s to watch the Yankees lose 2-1 to Houston for the second straight game in the American League Championship Series. After going home to change into Cardinal colors, I walked over to one of downtown Durham’s pinball spots to play a few games before strolling on over to my favored Stanford sports-watching spot in Durham, Tobacco Road. The evening contest’s result was much happier than the afternoon’s, fortunately.

• The Bad 

Previously on Bad-Ugly-Good, I criticized the Cardinal for poor third-down conversion rates on both sides of the ball. In last weekend’s 49-7 demolition of the Ducks, I’m happy to report, these figures were much improved. The Ducks converted 4 of 11 third downs, while the Cardinal offense was successful on a rather healthy seven of 12 tries.

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Stanford pounds Ducks, 49-7

October 17, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 17, 2017

Bryce Love ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns in limited action and Keller Chryst threw for 181 yards and three scores as Stanford cruised to a 49-7 homecoming win over Oregon on Saturday evening.

The Cardinal moved to 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12 while dropping the Ducks to 4-3 (1-3). The outcome, combined with upset losses by No. 5 Washington and No. 8 Washington State, left Stanford at the top of the Pac-12 North standings.

Offensively, Stanford performed like a reincarnation of its 2015 edition. The unit converted seven of 12 third downs, cracked the 500-yard mark, averaged 6.0 yards per carry and controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes. The defense was in throwback mode as well, gathering a pair of interceptions and holding Oregon to four of 11 third-down conversions.

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Social and financial forces silently war in the American heartland in Colson Whitehead’s novel ’Apex Hides the Hurt’

October 14, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 14, 2017

Like many places, the Midwestern town at the center of Colson Whitehead’s 2006 novel Apex Hides the Hurt is torn by battling crosscurrents. In Winthrop, one especially acute conflict pits a nostalgic longing for the past against an eagerness to embrace change — the kind of conflict, one outsider will discover, that’s hard to settle in a town still rent by deep, unspoken feelings about race, history and money.

The seemingly placid town of Winthrop is ruled by a congenial three-person council that’s normally very good at finding consensus. The group consists of Albie Winthrop, a batty divorce whose forefather manufactured and sold barbed wire to customers far and wide; Regina Goode, a grounded divorcee of decidedly more modest means, but whose roots run at least as deep as Winthrop’s; and Lucky Aberdeen, a wildly successful local software entrepreneur whose vision for the future of the town will bring as much change as that of Albie’s forefather did back in the late 1800s.

The specific issue that summons the New Yorker who is the focus of Whitehead’s novel is nomenclature. Aberdeen wants to change the town’s name to New Prospera. Goode wants to change it back to Freedom, which is what the place was originally called by her ancestors, former slaves fleeing the ashes of the Confederacy. Winthrop, of course, is perfectly content with the name that the town has had ever since it was officially incorporated by an alliance among his and Goode’s progenitors.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 4-2 Stanford

October 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 13, 2017

There was no real excitement concerning my game-watching circumstances on Saturday evening. I played some pinball and then walked over to my usual spot, where the “drama” consisted of trying to find the Stanford-Utah football broadcast because it had been shunted from Fox Sports 1 to Fox Business News due to the Kansas State–Texas game running long.

One other “point of interest” — this was the first Pac-12 meeting between the Stanford and Utah football teams that I’d seen on television. (Or indeed, in any live or semi-live form.)

• The Bad 

Last week’s The Bad took Stanford to task for its third-down conversion rates, both on offense and defense. I’m happy to report that the defense — despite playing a rather nerve-wracking bend-and-almost-break style at Utah on Saturday evening — stepped up, allowing the Utes to renew the downs just six times in 14 chances. The offense, alas, was simply woeful, as they refreshed the downs on only four of 13 opportunities.

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Determined Cardinal does just enough to prevail in a 23-20 road win over Utah

October 11, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 11, 2017

All-world runner Bryce Love found just enough space against a smothering Utah defense to secure a key 23-20 road win for the Stanford football team on Saturday evening in Salt Lake City. The Cardinal moved to 4-2 and 3-1 in the Pac-12 while handing Utah (4-1, 1-1) its first loss.

The Cardinal struck first on a seven-play, 71-yard opening possession highlighted by a 54-yard connection from starting quarterback Keller Chryst to sophomore tight end Kaden Smith. When the series stalled at the Utah 4-yard line, Jet Toner came on to make a 21-yard field goal.

After an exchange of punts, the hosts took advantage of great starting field position — the 50-yard line — to mount a five-play drive. Zack Moss (15 carries, 79 yards) scored from the 2-yard line to put the Utes ahead, 7-3.

After a sequence of punts and unsuccessful field goal attempts — Toner from 27 yards out for Stanford, Matt Gay from 50 for Utah — the Cardinal offense began to find a bit of a rhythm.

The Cardinal’s first series of the second period started with Love running twice, first for a gain of two yards and then for a two-yard loss. This was indicative of the challenge Love faced, as the Utes’ frequently stacked the box and swamped Stanford’s stellar junior tailback. But then backup passer K.J. Costello averted a punt by throwing to Trenton Irwin for 25 yards on third and 10.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 3-2 Stanford

October 6, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 6, 2017

Well, I’m still a bit under the weather. One of my fellow Stanford/Durham tweeple was kind enough to host me at his house to watch the Arizona State football team take on the Cardinal this past Saturday, a game that (how strange!) started while the sun was still shining on the East Coast.

• The Bad 

Stanford played well overall in their 34-24 victory over the Sun Devils, but there was certainly room for improvement. In fact, one statistic in particular jumped out for both the Cardinal offense and defense — third-down conversion rates.

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Love wins the day over visiting Arizona State with breathtaking 301-yard performance

October 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 5, 2017

Tailback Bryce Love ran for three touchdowns and an astounding 301 yards and strong safety Justin Reid recorded a pair of interceptions to power Stanford’s football team to a 34-24 home victory over Arizona State on Saturday afternoon.

The game threatened to be a blowout at times, but the home team was never able to push its lead past 17 points thanks to breakdowns on both sides of the ball. Stanford moved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12, while ASU dropped to 2-3 (1-1).

Love broke Christian McCaffery’s school record of 284 single-game rushing yards, set in November against Cal, and now leads the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,088 rushing yards on 98 carries. (This season’s No. 2 player, Rashaad Penny of San Diego State, has 265 fewer yards on 18 more runs.) Reid, meanwhile, is nicely positioned to challenge Phil Moffatt’s school record of nine interceptions in a single season, set back in 1930.

The victory was K.J. Costello’s first as a starter, which he got in lieu of the injured Keller Chryst and ahead of fifth-year senior Ryan Burns. The sophomore was efficient but not flashy, completing 15 of 24 pass attempts for 173 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

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