Archive for the 'Sports' Category

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.

• The Ugly

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 Ugly.

• The Good

USC moved the ball relatively easily between the 20s against Stanford, and their offensive playmakers made plays: Aca’Cedric Ware carried 18 times for 59 yards with a long of 12, Stephen Carr had 10 rushes for 52 yards with a long of 14, and Vavae Malepeai had an 11-yard run despite getting the ball just three times for a total of 18 yards. In the aerial attack, Tyler Vaughns caught seven balls for 84 yards (long of 35), Michael Pittman Jr. was 3-65 (45-yard long) and Amon-Ra St. Brown was 2-39 with a 28-yard reception. Also, Carr, Malepeai and Tyler Petite each had a reception of at least eight yards.

But aside from a second-half field goal, the Trojans couldn’t convert their yardage into points. Moreover, Stanford defenders recorded four sacks for 30 yards, three of which came in the second half. Even better, the defense forced Trojans freshman J.T. Daniels to cough up the ball three times — once on a Joey Alfieri strip-sack that led to a Bobby Okereke recovery and twice in the fourth quarter, which saw safety Malik Antoine collect his first two collegiate interceptions on back-to-back snaps.

Stanford leads the conference in scoring defense at 6.5 points per game, which ranks third nationally. For the second week in a row, the collective defensive effort was worthy of being labeled The Good.

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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.

Obviously, Stanford regrouped and rallied for a convincing victory. However, SDSU is likely to be at best the fourth-strongest team on the Cardinal’s schedule, after Notre Dame, Washington and, of course, the upcoming opponent, USC. It won’t be as easy to recover from a slow start against those teams as it was in the opener against the Aztecs. Therefore, I dub the Cardinal’s sluggish early play this week’s The Bad.

• The Ugly

Bryce Love prospered last year even when Stanford’s quarterback play was mediocre or worse. He set Football Bowl Subdivision records by contributing a rush of 30 or more yards in 13 straight games and a rush of 50 or more yards in 11 consecutive contests. His per-rush average of 8.05 yards in 2017 is also an FBS record, and that number almost surely would have been higher had Love not injured his ankle against Oregon in the season’s seventh game.

It’s natural to be concerned after seeing the Aztecs contain Love, whose senior campaign began with an extremely modest 29 yards on 18 rushes and 18 yards on three receptions. But as was widely noted after the game, the defensive strategy that allowed SDSU to hold the Cardinal to 50 rushing yards came at a high price. Stanford’s receiving corps — more about this momentarily! — was largely free to roam the field, and San Diego State eventually paid a heavy price for the choices they made.

One game is not enough of a sample for us to be worried about Love and his fellow running backs, but I feel it fitting to deem the Cardinal ground attack to be this week’s The Ugly.

• The Good

Stanford enjoyed a number of strong defensive performances on Friday night. Cornerback Alameen Murphy and inside linebacker Sean Barton, both seniors, led the team with nine tackles apiece (five solo for Murphy, three for Barton). Fifth-year outside linebacker Joey Alfieri and sophomore cornerback Paulson Adebo each had eight tackles. Alfieri’s total included a solo sack, while Adebo, who was seeing his first collegiate action, deflected a pair of passes. Moreover, junior defensive end Jovan Swann nabbed 1.5 sacks and participated in another tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

Of course, everyone came away from the game talking about J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s performance, and rightly so: His six catches for 226 yards and three scores equaled his personal single-game scoring record and outstripped his previous high mark of 130 yards against Washington. The South Carolina native now owns the third-highest single-game receiving yardage total in school history, which spans 124 campaigns.

Naturally, the senior out of Inman, S.C., wouldn’t have done any of that without steady play under center. Quarterback K.J. Costello was arguably even more impressive than Arcega-Whiteside, especially once he settled down late in the second quarter. The junior passer tied his career high with four touchdowns and smashed his own single-game yardage mark (212 in the Alamo Bowl) with 332 yards. His efficiency rating of 193.8 trailed only the 220.9 he racked up in a 52-27 romp at Oregon.

I was tempted to honor what’s quickly been dubbed the K.J.-to-J.J. pipeline; truth be told, I thought that Costello’s second-half consistency gave him an edge.

However, I think the best thing Stanford showed in its debut was the collective effort by the defense. San Diego State managed just 263 yards of offense, including 150 on the ground, while converting only four of 13 third downs. On a night where several aspects of the team shined, defensive coordinator Lance Anderson’s unit earned the right to be labeled The Good.

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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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 9-5 Stanford

January 6, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 6, 2018

When time came to view the Alamo Bowl, I returned to the joint near my childhood home where I watched Stanford squeak past Oregon State in a perilous Thursday-night road game in October and where I saw the Cardinal claim a 30-22 home upset over Washington in November.

• The Bad 

Stanford’s defense never sacked Kenny Hill and had trouble pressuring him at all. The Horned Frogs passer racked up 401 combined yards passing, running and receiving and had a hand in all four of TCU’s offensive touchdowns. But the real issue here was what happened in the second half of the Alamo Bowl — that is, crunch time.

Stanford led 21-10 at halftime and trailed slightly in offensive yardage, 155-167. The Cardinal offense scored 16 more points and upped its yardage to 199 in the second half.

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Frogs nip Cardinal, 39-37, in entertaining Alamo Bowl clash

December 31, 2017

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

Stanford’s 2017 football season came to a disappointing conclusion Thursday night with a 39-37 loss to Texas Christian University in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The Cardinal finished 9-5, only the second time in head coach David Shaw’s seven seasons that the team failed to reach double-digit wins. The Horned Frogs moved to 11-3, a record that includes two losses to playoff contender Oklahoma.

Scoring opened after TCU quarterback Kenny Hill made an ill-advised throw while on the move. Junior free safety Frank Buncom read his intentions and raced in from the right side to intercept the ball, which he returned 37 yards to the Frogs 23-yard line.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 9-4 Stanford

December 6, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 6, 2017

I had a good time watching the Pac-12 football championship game. I just wish the outcome had been different…

• The Bad 

Stanford’s strongest defensive group is probably its secondary. Going into last week’s game, the Cardinal ranked fifth in the league in passing defense, allowing 220 yards per game and 15 touchdown receptions. As noted last week, Stanford has intercepted 16 passes, which ranked 10th in the nation.

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Cardinal falls short, 31-28, in its rematch with USC in the conference championship game

December 5, 2017

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

A mistake-prone Cardinal lost 31-28 to USC in the Pac-12 football championship game Friday night.

The result gave the South Division its first league title in the seven years since the Pac-10 added Colorado and Utah. The Trojans, who finished the regular season 11-2, won their first conference crown since 2008; they will play Big 10 champion Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas. Stanford, which fell to 3-1 in conference title bouts and 9-4 on the season, will face Texas Christian University in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

USC received the opening kickoff and reached the Stanford 43-yard line before a pair of incomplete Sam Darnold passes forced them to punt. The Cardinal, dressed in all-white uniforms with brand-new helmets featuring a chrome Stanford logo, gained five yards on a pair of Bryce Love runs and an incomplete K.J. Costello pass attempt before giving the ball back.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 9-3 Stanford

November 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 29, 2017

After Stanford was thoroughly routed in Seattle last fall, I took a meandering walk around the Durham Bulls baseball stadium. I covered more than two miles over the course of nearly 40 minutes. I was rather perturbed, and I needed to calm myself down.

After Stanford took down Notre Dame to close out the regular season with a resounding 38-20 victory, I rambled around a similar area, this time going nearly 2.6 miles in about 41 minutes.

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Fourth-quarter turnovers doom Irish in Stanford’s regular-season finale

November 28, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 28, 2017

Stanford scored three touchdowns in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to take control of a game against visiting Notre Dame on Saturday evening.

The Cardinal football team pounced on a pair of Fighting Irish turnovers to convert a 20-17 deficit at the start of the final period into a 38-20 lead with a little more than 10 minutes left in the contest. Stanford went on to win by that score.

The Irish opened scoring late in the first quarter on a short throw from quarterback Brandon Wimbush. His target was receiver Kevin Stepherson, who began the play in a cluster of three men split wide right of the formation. Stepherson worked his way inside on a shallow route, feinted a move to the outside that wrong-footed strong safety Justin Reid and inside linebacker Kevin Palma, and caught the pigskin around the 30-yard line as Reid dove in a futile attempt to knock the ball away. No other defender was remotely close, and Stepherson went the distance for an 83-yard touchdown without having to put the pedal to the metal.

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

November 24, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 24, 2017

For the third year running, I watched Big Game at a joint event held by area Stanford and Cal alumni groups. For the second straight year, the watch party was at a sports bar in (the same) recently developed commercial center in an area that some five to 10 years ago was probably forest and/or farmland.

During the event, I won a replica of the Golden Spike, which was used to complete the first transcontinental railroad in 1869.

• The Bad 

Tip of the Stanford ballcap to ace San Jose Mercury News sportswriter Jon Wilner for suggesting this item in a Wednesday post: Stanford has allowed opponents to rush for 1,889 yards in 11 games. That ranks sixth in the Pac-12 and 69th nationally out of 129 teams.

(Mind you, that number has come down slightly since Big Game, in which Cal ran for 155 yards.)

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Grinding to glory: A gritty Love and efficient Costello lead the Cardinal to a narrow Big Game victory

November 21, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 21, 2017

A valiant effort from an injured Bryce Love and an efficient performance by K.J. Costello led Stanford’s football team to a 17-14 victory over Cal in the 120th Big Game on Saturday evening. The win was the eighth straight for the Cardinal over its traditional archrival, the longest streak by either team since they first met on the gridiron in San Francisco back in the spring of 1892.

Stanford moved to 8-3 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12, while the Golden Bears dropped to 5-6 and 2-6. But the game was a close thing, despite the disparities in the team’s records.

Both offenses were 6 of 12 on third down, and both generated 5.9 yards per offensive play. While the host squad outgained the Bears on the ground, 193 yards to 155, the dueling quarterbacks were nearly even: Cal’s Ross Bowers threw for 182 yards, while Costello topped him by three yards. (Incidentally, both players are sophomores, and both wear No. 3.)

The Cardinal took a 3-0 lead on Jet Toner’s 42-yard field goal on the first series of the game, which was enabled by a 33-yard throw from Costello to junior wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. The Bears answered with a 44-yarder by Matt Anderson on their first possession.

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

November 16, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 16, 2017

Being somewhat superstitious, and definitely a creature of habit, when Stanford hosted the Washington Huskies last Friday night, I went to watch the game at the same venue where I saw the Cardinal’s tenuous 15-14 road win over Oregon State in October. This is also the same place where I watched Stanford’s bruising 30-28 win at WSU in 2015 and the team’s amazing 26-20 home upset of second-ranked Oregon in 2013, so I guess it’s got a good pedigree.

• The Bad 

It really isn’t easy to find things to criticize in an upset of a top-10 team. But fine, since you asked…

As noted yesterday, after Washington narrowed the score to 30-22 late in the fourth quarter, the Cardinal had an opportunity to put the game away with just a field goal. Instead, the offense faltered following Bryce Love’s final rush of the game, which went for 35 yards and benefited from a 15-yard facemask penalty on the defense.

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Hobbled Love and inspired defense carry Cardinal to a 30-22 upset victory over Washington

November 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 15, 2017

Tailback Bryce Love ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns Friday evening to lead the Stanford football team to a 30-22 victory over Washington.

The Cardinal moved to 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the Pac-12 while handing the 8-2 Huskies only their second loss, both in conference road games. The upset kept Stanford alive in the conference’s North Division championship race but likely ended the league’s hopes of earning one of the four berths in the College Football Playoff.

Love’s performance came on a weekend when other Heisman Trophy front-runners faltered: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley managed 80 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns in a home win over 4-6 Rutgers, while Notre Dame’s Josh Adams compiled just 40 yards in a 41-8 road loss at Miami. More impressively, Love recorded his yardage against the nation’s leader in total defense (240.9 yards per game). The Huskies defense, which had allowed only three rushing touchdowns through its first nine game, was also second in the nation in scoring defense (11.1 ppg) and sixth in rushing defense (91.1 ypg).

The most striking thing about Love’s evening, however, may have been that he enjoyed his stellar performance while still suffering from the tweaked ankle that he injured against Oregon.

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

November 10, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 10, 2017

Gosh… Last weekend’s outing in Pullman sure was wretched for Stanford fans, wasn’t it?

I happened to be in Colorado for an event involving family (and religion!), and I happened to have Saturday afternoon free to watch the Cardinal game. I walked to a craft brewery that shares a parking lot with the hotel where I was staying, ordered a cider — my go-to alcoholic beverage — and planted myself in front of a television screen that happened to be displaying Fox’s broadcast from Washington State.

Unfortunately, it was only doing so because the earlier game on Fox, Penn State at Michigan State, was in a weather delay. When that contest resumed, Stanford-WSU was bumped to the Fox Business Channel. I had to consult with the bartenders to locate the new channel number, which they were kind enough to put on the monitor I was watching.

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Luke Falk and WSU handle struggling Stanford offense, 24-21, on a snowy Saturday

November 9, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 9, 2017

An offensively challenged Stanford lost at Washington State on Saturday, falling 24-21 to the Cougars in the Cardinal’s first snow game since 1936.

The defeat left the Cardinal with a 6-3 overall record and a 5-2 mark in the Pac-12 Conference. All of Stanford’s losses have come in true road games, in which the team has averaged 20 points. The squad, which scores 47 points per game in the friendly confines of Stanford Stadium, will finish the regular season with a trio of home contests.

In Pullman last weekend, the Cardinal mustered just 198 yards from scrimmage, converted only three of 12 third downs, and held the ball for less than 27 minutes. Stanford obviously won’t get anywhere close to its nominal home scoring quantity if it continues to perform like that.

The Cardinal, which started sophomore K.J. Costello at quarterback in lieu of faltering senior Keller Chryst, twice scored on 52-yard plays. The first of those came at the start of a Cardinal possession, 45 seconds into the second quarter of a scoreless game. Superstar junior running back Bryce Love took a handoff, sprinted through a gaping hole on the left side of the line and broke out of a tackle attempt by safety Jalen Thompson to sprint for a 52-yard touchdown.

But the Cardinal defense immediately gave back the points, as senior Cougars passer Luke Falk orchestrated a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive that included just two runs. The touchdown came on a 12-yard reception by wideout Tavares Martin Jr.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 6-2 Stanford

November 3, 2017

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

In the runup to Stanford’s Thursday-night game against Oregon State, my Twitter feed was seemingly full of articles profiling Bryce Love and praising the Cardinal offensive line. Moreover, veteran San Jose Mercury News college sports writer Jon Wilner wrote, in assessing the Beavers shortly before the game:

If Bryce Love doesn’t play, or is limited, and if Stanford’s passing game sputters, and if the defense is wobbly, and if the sense of urgency is lacking … the Cardinal will only win by three touchdowns.

In other words, the universe was seemingly setting Stanford up for a major jinx in its road tilt against the worst team in the conference.

Interestingly, I viewed this contest in the same establishment near the New York-New Jersey line where, almost exactly two years previously, I’d watched Stanford stage a nationally televised come-from-behind weeknight win in the Pacific Northwest — the Cardinal’s harrowing 30-28 victory at Washington State on Friday, Oct. 31.

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

October 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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 »

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

October 19, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 4-2 Stanford

October 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
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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Third-string quarterback jump-starts Cardinal offense in an unexpected walloping of UCLA

October 2, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.woripress.com
Oct. 2, 2017

Author’s note: This post was delayed because I was significantly slowed down by a cold the previous week. More (and arguably more timely) stuff to come shortly! MEM

The Stanford football team’s first possessions against UCLA on Sept. 23 were hardly promising. On the first drive of the game, quarterback Keller Chryst helped the squad gain 35 yards and score a field goal. But on the offense’s next play from scrimmage, a five-yard bootleg, Chryst sustained a hard hit to the head; the starter left the game and did not return. Fifth-year senior Ryan Burns came in under center, after which Stanford gained 18 yards and punted.

Sophomore K.J. Costello then took over, but his initial drive was a three-and-out. The squad settled for a field goal on the second drive Costello led, even though it had begun at the UCLA 18-yard line after third-year strong safety Justin Reid intercepted Bruins passer Josh Rosen. Costello and Burns then combined on the Cardinal’s next drive, with the team trailing 13-6, but this too was a three-and-out.

Bruins fans, who haven’t seen their football squad beat Stanford since 2008, likely smelled blood in the water at this point. The scent surely intensified when, three plays into the UCLA possession, Rosen threw to Caleb Wilson for 31 yards, setting up goal to go from the Cardinal 10-yard line.

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