Archive for the 'Sports' Category

Stanford tops UNC, 25-23, in Sun Bowl nail-biter

December 31, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 31, 2016

Stanford football closed out its 2016 season with a down-to-the-wire 25-23 victory over the University of North Carolina in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

Fittingly, the game played out like a revue of some of Stanford’s 2016 highlights and lowlights. Among the latter, the opening-series three-and-out struck a familiar chord, and the team’s inability to score a touchdown in five red-zone trips called to mind the Cardinal’s offensive futility of the for much of September and October.

Among the former were a few dynamic, if isolated, moments from the passing game as well as the elusive quickness that backup running back Bryce Love had flashed a few times throughout the season and the surprising toughness that he demonstrated when he got the start for an injured Christian McCaffrey in Stanford’s 17-10 win at Notre Dame.

In the end, the Stanford squad won the exact same way it had in the opening weeks of the season: Thanks to the contributions of a salty defense that stepped up when the offense faltered.

Speaking of McCaffrey, he was absent from this game, too, having declared his intention to enter the NFL draft after the Rice game and subsequently opted out of playing in the Sun Bowl. He had to feel good about that decision after not one but two Cardinal players sustained injuries that at least one former athlete blamed on the stadium’s artificial turf.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of Stanford football at the close of the regular season

November 30, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 30, 2016

Stanford’s season finale against Rice was only the second game of 2016, following the team’s 52-27 win at Oregon that largely coincided with my Scrabble tournament, which I didn’t get to watch on television as it took place. Because the game was carried on the Pac-12 Network, and because many TV carriers don’t have the channel, it can be hard to find places that show Pac-12 programming.

Dish does carry the Pac-12 Network nationally — but which bars are Dish subscribers? Ultimately, because I wasn’t in my home territory of Durham, I didn’t find one.

• The Bad 

Although Stanford concluded the regular season on a five-game gave winning streak, which pushed its record to 9-3 overall and 6-3 in the Pac-12, the team had another less savory string going on in November: Three straight games in which the team was penalized either seven or eight times.

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Cardinal easily overwhelms Rice, 41-17, in post-Thanksgiving workout

November 28, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 28, 2016

The Stanford football team outran and outmuscled Rice on Saturday, outrushing the visiting Owls by more than 200 yards in a 41-17 victory to complete its 2016 regular season schedule.

The 9-3 Cardinal used the same formula that had served it so well throughout the squad’s five-game winning streak: A lot of Christian McCaffrey, now fully healthy, nicely complemented by unremarkable but largely reliable and mistake-free quarterback play from Keller Chryst, a strong performance from an increasingly confident offensive line, contributions from the rest of the offensive and special-teams units, and a suffocating effort by the defense.

The fact that Stanford was playing another team with an at-best mediocre offense (see also: Arizona and Oregon State) and a lousy defense (see also: Arizona, Oregon State, Oregon and Cal) played a pretty important part, too.

The Cardinal banked 20 points in the first half, scoring on four of six possessions, including a one-play, nine-second possession that closed out the second quarter. The Owls, meanwhile, didn’t cross midfield until the second quarter and scored only a field goal before intermission, and that on their final drive of the half. What’s more, Stanford’s defense engineered four three-and-outs by the visiting offense.

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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…

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Giving them the Axe is better than giving the Axe away: Stanford runs past Cal, 45-31, in the 119th Big Game

November 22, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 22, 2016

The Stanford football team ran over Cal on a rainy Saturday in Berkeley, racking up 357 rushing yards and rolling to a seventh straight victory over their long-standing Bay Area rivals.

It was a credit to Cal’s prolific passing offense, and a discredit to Stanford’s normally staunch defense, that the ultimate outcome of the 119th Big Game was in doubt well into the second half. But it was a credit to Stanford’s once-anemic offense that the outcome was all but assured by the midway point of the final quarter.

Stanford opened the game with another anemic starting drive, gaining four yards on six plays. The Golden Bears, by contrast, would need just one play to take a 7-0 lead. Davis Webb threw a short slant pass that Chad Hansen, the Pac-12 conference’s leading receiver, was able to take 70 yards to the end zone.

A dead-ball personal foul following the touchdown and a short kickoff set Stanford up at the Cal 45-yard line. But the visitors would knot the score in only two plays and 28 seconds.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 7-3 Stanford

November 16, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 16, 2016

I didn’t have the opportunity to do much walking on Saturday due to my participation in a Scrabble tournament. In fact, because of this event, I was unable to watch a single minute of Saturday’s Stanford-Oregon football game — the first time that’s been the case this season.

I did get to listen to a few minutes of the football clash, both between Scrabble games and after the tournament ended; I also checked the score on my phone at a few points late in the tournament, when the game was in its first half.

I’ll probably recap my Scrabble tournament over the next week or two; suffice to say that it was a pretty enjoyable afternoon, all in all.

• The Bad 

Look. You know it and I know it. When a team wins, 52-27, there simply aren’t that many negatives to be found. Stanford did a lot of things well on Saturday in Eugene.

But looking at the box score, one thing jumped out at me: Penalties.

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Cardinal cruises at Oregon, 52-27

November 15, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 15, 2016

Should you happen to flip through the recent records of what is now the Pac-12 Conference, you’ll notice something interesting:

Although the league had 10 teams from 1978 through 2011, and now contains an even dozen universities in the American West, ownership of the football title has been somewhat streaky. The University of Spoiled — sorry, the University of Southern California — had a six-year run atop the conference spanning 2003 through 2008. Since then, however, the championship has belonged to one of two teams: either Stanford University or the University of Oregon.

The Ducks won the Pac-12 three years running, from 2009 through 2011, before yielding to the Cardinal the next two years. Oregon reclaimed its crown in 2014 but was shouldered aside by Stanford last year. Over this period, encounters between Stanford and Oregon were generally expected to have important implications for the state of conference — and in some years, for all of college football.

It became evident in early October that another team would be this year’s league champion. Stanford’s chances of winning the Northern Division were severely damaged by the blowout loss to Washington and essentially eliminated in the following week’s nearly-as-ugly blowout loss to Washington State. By that point, the Ducks were mired in what eventually became a five-game conference losing streak.

And so it was that on Saturday in Eugene, the 6-3 Cardinal was hosted by a 3-6 Ducks team that had managed to win but a single conference game. A clash of the titans this was not.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 6-3 Stanford

November 11, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 11, 2016

This time, I took my own suggestion.

On Saturday, I wound up strolling around Cary, N.C., to get in my exercise for the day prior to the Stanford football game against Oregon State. I ended up covering more than three and a half miles over four different stretches, and (as you know) the Cardinal ended up beating the Beavers, 26-15.

Nov. 5, 2016, walk in Cary, N.C.

Nov. 5, 2016, walk in Cary, N.C.

Since I took a long walk, also in Cary, before the Notre Dame game, which Stanford won, and since I didn’t do any walking — or actually I did, but not very much — before the Colorado game, which Stanford lost, I may have inadvertently established a new Stanford football pregame tradition (or is that superstition?) for myself.

And yes, it definitely felt great to (a) get a win and (b) go over .500 in conference play.

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Stanford trims Beavers, 26-15, on the strength of a fabulous rushing performance

November 10, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 10, 2016

Stanford’s feature backs ran wild over Oregon State in a 26-15 home win Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinal’s new first-string quarterback, Keller Chryst, has led the team to wins in both of his starts. But the squad still has plenty of rough edges, and Chryst’s effort as a passer left some things to be desired. The Cardinal converted just four of 15 third downs and Chryst completed 10 of 17 throws for just 60 yards. Those kinds of performances are unlikely to cut it against Stanford’s last two Pac-12 opponents, Oregon and Cal, both of which are about as porous as OSU on defense but more more potent on offense.

The Cardinal began the game on an ignominious note, as Chryst and center Jesse Burkett lost the ball on the third snap of the game. Oregon State recovered at the Cardinal 33-line but came away without points when Garrett Owens missed a 26-yard kick.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 5-3 Stanford

November 4, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 4, 2016

Well, it sure felt nice to get a win, didn’t it?

Especially in Pac-12 conference play…

• The Bad

For the last two weeks running, I’ve labeled Stanford’s offensive line The Ugly because the unit’s middling-to-above-average success at opening holes for the ball carriers has been counterbalanced by its difficulties protecting the quarterback. Notre Dame, which is 108th out of 128 Division I-A teams with 11 sacks in eight games, got to Stanford’s passer three times. Colorado had an equal number of sacks in the Cardinal’s worst offensive outing of possibly the last decade.

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