Archive for September, 2018

Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 4-0 Stanford

September 29, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 29, 2018

I watched last Saturday’s 38-31 come-from-behind overtime victory at Oregon at my usual Durham spot, accompanied by my buddy Jim. Things looked very grim at first… and then they didn’t… and then they did again… and then they didn’t. It was an astonishing spectacle.

• The Bad

Things looked very very very grim for Stanford during the first half, which saw them fall behind, 24-7. The Cardinal offense looked confused and directionless, while the defense appeared to be helpless to interfere with the Ducks’ attack. The team’s performance over the first 30 minutes of the game is this week’s The Bad.

• The Ugly

Stanford yet again had trouble establishing a ground game, thanks to a spirited and dynamic Oregon defense. The final numbers — 24 carries, 71 yards and a touchdown, with a long gain of 22 — are somewhat misleading, because a sack of and fumble by quarterback K.J. Costello saddled him and the team with a 19-yard loss. On the other hand, even discounting Costello, Stanford’s other rushers, Bryce Love and Cameron Scarlett, combined for 22 runs for 90 yards. (Scarlett had only a yard on three carries.) That thoroughly…mediocre…production is this week’s The Ugly.

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Unlikely, improbable, AMAZING! Stanford rallies from 17 down for a 38-31 overtime road win at Oregon

September 28, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 28, 2018

The Nerd Nation Comeback T-shirt that went on sale this week encapsulates the roller-coaster ride that was Stanford football’s improbable rally at Oregon Saturday evening.

The Ducks moved the ball easily early on, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions and adding a field goal on their fourth and last drive of the first period. Their phenomenal quarterback, junior Justin Herbert, completed 13 of 14 passes before the break, racking up 184 yards with a short touchdown toss to junior tight end Jacob Breeland. Oregon was also devastating on the ground, with running back C.J. Verdell scoring on a 48-yard rush; he and Herbert also had several other carries of at least 11 yards.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal offense seemed hesitant in its first road game of 2018. A 13-yard K.J. Costello-to-J.J. Arcega-Whiteside fade left Oregon holding a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, but after that, the unit was only able to gain 17 yards in their last two series before halftime.

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Before me, the deluge — again!

September 25, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 25, 2018

Having finished most of my hurricane preparations on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 13, I checked the forecast decided that I should conduct the rest of my day as I normally would. That meant going to Raleigh to play poker.

That went more or less as it usually does, although some wind buffeted my car on the drive home. I monitored weather conditions and watched and listened for wind and rain throughout Friday, but conditions in Durham didn’t seem in any way remarkable to me, even though the storm system made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., early that morning.

Things could change radically, of course, if the Hurricane Florence’s track shifted north — but it never did. On Saturday, if anything, the rain and wind seemed to be even lighter than what we’d seen on Friday.

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Disaster preparedness: Getting ready for Florence

September 24, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 24, 2018

As mentioned in my previous post, Hurricane Florence largely spared the Research Triangle. But up until Tuesday, Sept. 18 (if memory serves), the projected track showed the storm heading directly for our area. I was determined to be ready for it.

In the very early hours of Monday the 17th, near the end of my drive home from an evening of playing free poker, I diverted to a Durham gas station at the corner of Main and Ninth streets. After filling my tank, I went to a nearby 24-hour supermarket so I could stock up on fruit and canned soup. If the storm hit my city hard, I’d have enough gas to travel a few hundred miles and enough food to eat for several days.

There was more to be done to prepare for trouble. I always keep some large bottles of water in my refrigerator, but I filled additional containers to be on the safe side. (Most emergency preparedness guides recommend having one gallon of water per person per day.)

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 3-0 Stanford

September 21, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 21, 2018

Thankfully for those in the Research Triangle, Hurricane Florence had its strongest effects elsewhere in the Carolinas. I wound up listening to the first half of the UC Davis–Stanford game on the Internet on a rainy (but not spectacularly so) Saturday afternoon before driving to James Joyce Pub in Durham’s Brightleaf area to watch most of the second half.

• The Bad

As noted in my game writeup, Stanford’s offense was uneven in beating Davis. That may have been most in evidence in the Cardinal’s third-down conversion rate: Stanford was successful on only three of 14 tries, a performance that will not cut it against nearly every other team remaining on the schedule. This woeful effort clearly deserves to be called The Bad.

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Stanford beats Aggies, 30-10, despite an uneven performance

September 20, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 20, 2018

Stanford moved to 3-0 on the young football season with a 30-10 victory over UC Davis on Saturday afternoon. But the victory, which closed out a three-game home stand, was not without its blemishes.

The teams began the game by exchanging punts. Things began to get interesting on the second snap of Stanford’s second possession. Following a fake handoff, junior quarterback K.J. Costello underthrew junior tight end Kaden Smith, who had lined up wide and was surrounded by gray-clad defenders. Junior linebacker Nas Anesi was perfectly positioned to grab the ball and returned it nine yards, to the Cardinal 12-yard line. The Aggies couldn’t earn a first down but were able to get on the scoreboard thanks to Max O’Rourke’s 26-yard field goal.

After the kickoff, Stanford — which was resting all-world runner Bryce Love — handed off twice to junior tailback Trevor Speights. His second run seemed to gain 13 yards but was called back because Smith was flagged for holding.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 2-0 Stanford

September 15, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 15, 2018

After playing some free poker in the afternoon, I drove to my favorite Stanford-sports viewing spot in Durham. It proved to be a very enjoyable evening, even though I didn’t work in a long postgame walk.

• The Bad

Stanford committed seven penalties for 50 yards against the Trojans, who were flagged just four times for 35 yards. This was a significant turnabout from the opener, which saw Stanford draw only three penalties for 20 yards, while the Aztecs committed a whopping 11 penalties for 125 yards. The decline in Cardinal precision and rules-following deserves the label of this week’s The Bad.

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Cardinal upends Trojans, 17-3, to open the conference season

September 14, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 14, 2018

The Stanford football team launched its Pac-12 conference season with a 17-3 victory over visiting USC Saturday evening.

The Cardinal offense scored on its first and last drives of the opening half and matched the Trojans’ only score, a third-quarter field goal. Meanwhile, the defense harassed USC quarterback J.T. Daniels and closed the door on the Trojans each time they entered the red zone.

Daniels, a freshman making his second collegiate start and first on the road, was attended to on the sidelines and briefly left the field during the first half. His replacement, redshirt sophomore Matt Fink, carried a single time for five yards and completed one of two passes for a mere three yards.

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

September 7, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 7, 2018

I started the 2018 Stanford football season the exact same place where I ended the 2017 campaign: At a particular joint near my childhood home.

For convenience’s sake, I’ve decided to dub this spot Ye Olde Pub/Club. The “Club” part is because the establishment seems to turn into a dance spot of sorts on Friday and Saturday nights — or at least, that’s what was happening on the evening of Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

That said, let’s get on with my assessment of Stanford’s first football game of the year!

• The Bad

Faithful Bad-Ugly-Good readers will be familiar with this lament: It’s hard to find fault with the Cardinal’s performance when they win by at least three touchdowns. Such is the happy problem I face once again!

There was some concern among Cardinal tweeters during the first half, when San Diego State took a 7-0 lead and Stanford’s club seemed lost in all phases of the game. As I wrote to a chagrined friend, the team’s start was disappointing, especially given SDSU’s 2017 victory.

It helped matters not at all that Stanford, in quarterback coach Tavita Pritchard’s first game as offensive coordinator, had to call a timeout right after receiving the opening kickoff. (Even worse, of course: That play resulted in an incomplete pass.) It was also a somewhat unsettling to see the Cardinal’s first drive — the only time the offense effectively moved the ball in the initial period — end without points when junior kicker Jet Toner sliced the ball wide left from 38 yards out.

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Aerial attack shines for Stanford in 31-10 season-opening victory over San Diego State

September 5, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 5, 2018

The Stanford football team gave off some mixed signals as it got its 2018 campaign under way Friday evening. After the Cardinal elected to receive the ball, junior quarterback K.J. Costello and friends trotted out to start their first official possession of the year at the home 25-yard line.

However, the team burned a timeout before taking a snap. This would have been an inauspicious omen under any circumstances, but it seemed especially so since the team is working with a new offensive coordinator in Tavita Pritchard, the former Cardinal passer and ninth-year Stanford assistant coach who added play-calling to his responsibilities this offseason after Mike Bloomgreen’s departure for Rice.

Nor was the team’s first offensive snap much more comforting, as San Diego State senior lineman Anthony Luke batted away Costello’s pass on first down. But then the team seemed to settle down, as potential all-world senior running back Bryce Love ran for two yards before a Costello connection with junior tight end Kaden Smith went for 13 yards and a fresh set of downs. Love then carried for seven and two yards and senior running back Cameron Scarlett rushed for five yards on third and 1.

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Aug. 25, 2018, mall Scrabble recap, part 3

September 2, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 2, 2018

I was riding a three-game winning streak going into the seventh round of Saturday’s tournament. The task ahead of me was a rematch against D—, who had narrowly beaten me in the final game of the early session.

Playing first, D— got off to a terrific start with JEWED! 48. (This verb conjugation is rightly considered offensive, as the exclamation point indicates in Scrabble notation.) Holding AAEEFOP, I was only able to retort with OAF/OE/AW/FE 24. D— added to his lead in turn 2 with JINGLED 32; my answer was PEA/PI/EN/AG 20.

My third move garnered a nice score: ZEALOT/FEZ/DE 54, which left me trailing 104-98. But that was the moment where it was all about to go off the rails.

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