Posts Tagged ‘Christian McCaffrey’

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cardinal routs wounded Wildcats with a 34-10 desert victory

November 2, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 2, 2016

A week after the Stanford football team suffered an ignominious 10-5 homecoming defeat at the hands of a rising Colorado program, the Cardinal got just what the doctor ordered: A date with Arizona.

The Wildcats have been decimated by injuries; they came in sporting a woeful 2-5 record, highlighted (if that’s the word) by victories over Grambling State and Hawaii. In the end, they provided minimal resistance to a distressed Stanford squad, which bumped its record up to 5-3 (3-3 in Pac-12 play) by notching a 34-10 road win.

Head coach David Shaw and his staff elected to start junior Keller Chryst at quarterback instead of senior Ryan Burns — understandable given the incumbent’s record of five touchdowns vs. seven interceptions and four lost fumbles. Whether because of that change or the dismal quality of the Wildcats defense, which entered the game allowing an average of 33 points and 475 yards over its first seven games, the Cardinal was able to roll to a 34-10 win.

The W was great, and it felt awfully novel after the Cardinal had dropped three straight conference games to Washington, Washington State and Colorado. But two things felt even more significant than that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 4-3 Stanford

October 24, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 24, 2016

I should have taken my own suggestion.

On Saturday, I contemplated going on a long walk prior to Stanford’s kickoff against Colorado. Instead, I took the lazy route and lounged about my house before walking one mile so I could take care of an errand right before kickoff. Later, as the second half was getting under way, I walked about three-quarters of a mile from a residential area where I parked my car to an establishment in Durham’s Brightleaf district.

So I did not embark upon anything close to a 58-minute, 3.7-mile walk — and perhaps as a consequence, my superstitious self tells my supposedly rational brain, the Stanford football team turned in a thoroughly inept 10-5 loss to Colorado. Blecch.

• The Bad

This offense, man. As I wrote yesterday, the five-point output — two of which, of course, were generated by a safety — was Stanford’s lowest scoring total in any game since Sept. 29, 2007, when No. 23 Arizona State pounded the Cardinal, 41-3.

Read the rest of this entry »

Buffaloes snatch a 10-5 win on the Farm from an inept, self-defeating Stanford offense

October 23, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 23, 2016

A punchless Stanford football team went down to defeat Saturday, dropping a 10-5 home decision to a resurgent Colorado.

It was only the Buffaloes’ third win in 21 games that the program has played in the state of California. Colorado moved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12, while the host Cardinal dropped to 4-3 and 2-3.

The Cardinal offense mounted 12 drives on Saturday afternoon, and most of them resulted in a display of futility. The team turned the ball over four times and punted five times, including a trio of three-and-outs. Only five Stanford possessions spanned five or more plays; only three advanced more than 28 yards.

Stanford has now scored four offensive touchdowns in its past five games. Of those, only two — second-half scores against UCLA and Notre Dame — had a material impact on the outcome of the contest.

Quarterback Ryan Burns turned in what I would deem a Burnsian performance, only more so: He made some nifty plays, mainly short- and mid-range throws that he zipped to Trenton Irwin, who finished with seven catches for 88 yards. But these were offset by missed opportunities and adverse plays.

Burns completed 16 of 29 passes for 170 yards (5.9 yards per attempt) with no touchdowns and three interceptions, two of which took place in the final period. He also was involved in two fumbles — one in the second quarter, which Stanford tackle Casey Tucker got back, and another in the fourth quarter, which Colorado linebacker Kenneth Olugbode recovered following a muffed center-QB exchange.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

October 21, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 21, 2016

After Stanford got embarrassed in Seattle in front of a national audience on a late-September Friday night, I took a lengthy walk around the Durham Bulls baseball stadium.

This past Saturday, prior to the Stanford football team’s encounter with Notre Dame, I took an even longer walk, wandering about a residential part of Cary, N.C. As this screen capture from my smartphone’s Fitbit app shows, I covered 3.7 miles in a shade less than an hour.

Oct. 15, 2016, walk.

As you know, Stanford came away with a thrilling 17-10 road win on Saturday. So maybe I need to take a hike before every Cardinal football team for the rest of this season…?

Read the rest of this entry »

Escape from South Bend: Stanford does just enough to snatch a 17-10 road victory over Notre Dame

October 20, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 20, 2016

Going into Stanford’s home game against Washington State, I had a sense of foreboding. A similarly dire feeling once again took hold of me ahead of the Stanford football team’s visit to Notre Dame.

True, the Fighting Irish had an unimpressive 2-4 record, having face-planted their way to a 10-3 loss at North Carolina State in their previous outing. But that game had taken place in a Raleigh that was waterlogged thanks to the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew; otherwise, the Irish had scored at least 28 points in all of its games. Since the Cardinal defense had allowed 86 points in the past two games, Notre Dame seemed to have an excellent chance of racking up touchdown after touchdown.

By contrast, 3-2 Stanford hadn’t scored more than 27 points this season and was averaging just 19.4 points a game. Would the Irish defense, which had surrendered 33 or more points in four of its games, be the cure for the Cardinal offense?

I had trouble being optimistic, especially when I arrived at a Stanford alumni watch party and saw on the television that the Cardinal’s all-world back, Christian McCaffrey, was not wearing football gear.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

October 14, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 14, 2016

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with an acquaintance who was munching on some roughage — I believe it may have been celery. When a bit of food went down the wrong way, she started coughing and excused herself to walk around the corner to the water fountain. As the coughing persisted, a clerk came to me and asked if my acquaintance was OK. I said I thought she would be.

But as my acquaintance continued to cough, the clerk walked over to aid her. I also became alarmed and followed the clerk over. At my acquaintance’s insistence, the clerk thumped her on the back, thus restoring some natural order to her windpipe.

It was a minor incident, but afterward I found my nerves on edge and my eyes somewhat teary. Death had not made an impact on my life that day, but it had come far too close for comfort.

My acquaintance and I talked a bit about how it’s important to savor every moment, especially the good times, because you never know when your life is going to change permanently. And after the Stanford football team sustained its second ugly defeat in a row, I’ve tried to keep that lesson in mind. Don’t take the good times for granted, friends, because you’ll need them to buoy your faith during the bad times.

With that in mind, here’s my second edition of B-U-G — that’s bad, ugly and good — for Stanford football.

• The Bad

Last week, when the Cardinal fell to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 play following the 44-6 defeat at Washington, I categorized the North Division title chase as The Ugly. This week, now that the Cardinal has fallen to 3-2 and 2-2 following a rout at home by Washington State, the division standings have been downgraded.

I struggled after the UW loss to find a scenario in which Stanford might advance to the Pac-12 championship game — a situation that necessitated the Huskies sustaining at least two conference losses. Now that both Washington schools own wins over the Cardinal, the Cardinal can kiss its chances of repeating as conference champions goodbye. And unless the Cardinal pulls itself together and runs off seven straight wins, which is possible but certainly not likely given how badly the squad has played in the past two contests, the team’s chances of getting a berth in a prestigious bowl are probably shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bad-Ugly-Good: Stanford football stands at 3-1

October 8, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 8, 2016

At some point during or after the late-September slaughter in Seattle, a particular tweet came across my Twitter feed. In it, a college football reporter and USC fan praised Stanford’s head football coach but claimed that his team turns in one horrible showing per season:

I started wondering about that — specifically, is it true? My musings prompted me to write this post about the Bad, the Ugly and the Good, a.k.a. the B-U-G, for Stanford football.

• The Bad

David Shaw is in his sixth year seventh year at the helm of the Cardinal football team. Obviously the 44-6 slaughter in Seattle was this year’s stinker. But what about previous seasons?

I consulted the Stanford football media guide. The team lost only twice in 2015 en route to a 12-2 record. One of those defeats was a hard-fought 38-36 home loss to Oregon — much too close a game to call a stinker. No, the obvious stinker from last season was the season-opening 16-6 loss at Northwestern, in which a stultified Cardinal managed to convert just three of 15 third-down tries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Slaughter in Seattle: Washington overwhelms a hapless Stanford squad, 44-6, in front of ESPN’s Friday night lights

October 5, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 5, 2016

What is it about weeknight games in Seattle?

Four years ago, an unbeaten Stanford football team traveled to Seattle for a nationally televised Thursday night game against the University of Washington and turned in a dreadful performance, losing 17-3.

Like that 2012 team, the 2016 Stanford Cardinal was 3-0 going into its contest with the Huskies. In both cases, those records included a stirring home win against USC. Like that 2012 team, the 2016 Cardinal was coming off a prestigious postseason appearance the year before: The Fiesta Bowl in the former case, the Rose Bowl in this case. And like that team, the 2016 Cardinal was trying to replace a record-setting quarterback. In 2012, the departed signal-caller was Andrew Luck, who was succeeded first by Josh Nunes and eventually by Kevin Hogan; this year, Hogan is gone, with neither Ryan Burns nor Keller Chryst having asserted a firm claim to the position.

Oh, one more thing…

Like that 2012 team, the 2016 Stanford turned in a dreadful performance — only this was much much worse than what ESPN viewers saw four years ago. On Friday night, Washington (5-0, 2-0 in the Pac-12) systematically dismantled Stanford, 44-6, with the Huskies dominating virtually every aspect of play.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stanford moves to 3-0 with two unlikely last-minute touchdowns against the Bruins

September 28, 2016

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

Late on Saturday night, matters were looking dire for the No. 7 Stanford football team.

The squad, playing in its first road game of the season, was trailing UCLA 13-9 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, having mustered just a trio of Conrad Ukropina field goals in more than three and a half quarters of play. After Ryan Burns scrambled for two yards on third down with three yards to go, head coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren had to decide whether or not to go for it on fourth and 1 at the team’s own 39-yard line.

The seconds ticked away; then the Cardinal used its first timeout, with 4:51 remaining in the game. Then Stanford punted, and fans of the team had to hope against hope that the Cardinal defense could stand fast against Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen and his potent attack.

Read the rest of this entry »

So USC came to town last Saturday night…

September 24, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 24, 2016

Given USC’s haughty college football legacy and Stanford’s modest one, Cardinal football fans have found themselves both surprised and gratified to be looking down on the Trojans in recent seasons. Last September, the Cardinal went to Los Angeles and upset the Trojans, 41-31. In December, the teams met again in the Pac-12 championship game, and after a tense third quarter, the Cardinal exploded to claim a 41-22 victory.

But as the disclaimers on the financial-management firm advertisements and prospectuses invariably state, past performance is no guarantee of future results. So when USC came to the Bay Area last Saturday for a game at Stanford Stadium, I was by no means confident in the outcome.

That held true early in the first quarter, when the Cardinal went three and out and Justin Davis opened USC’s initial possession by rushing for 30 yards on the first four plays. But immediately afterward, the Stanford defense asserted itself, holding Davis to a one-yard reception, stopping rusher Ronald Jones II behind the line of scrimmage and then tackling Jones short of the first-down marker on third and 20, which had been set up in part by a USC false start on second and 9.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stanford summary: Cardinal beat Kansas State, 26-13, in the 2016 season opener

September 17, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 17, 2016

I enjoyed watching Stanford football’s season opener against Kansas State 15 days ago, on Sept. 2, but I got sidetracked by mumblety-stuff and so haven’t gotten around to blogging about the game until now, minutes until USC and Stanford kick off on the Farm in a nationally televised primetime Pac-12 conference game. So, a few hasty thoughts…

• Christian McCaffrey looked, well, like the Christian McCaffrey whom Stanford fans were pleased — and spoiled — to see game in and game out over the course of a record-setting 2015 season. Final line: 126 yards on 22 carries (average: 5.7 ypc), 40 yards on seven catches, 44 yards on two punt returns and a kickoff return, amounting to 210 total all-purpose yards. McCaffrey’s 35-yard run gave the Cardinal a 17-0 lead nearly halfway through the second quarter, and his 41-yard run with just over two minutes remaining in the game provided the final points in the Cardinal’s 26-13 victory after the offense started the second half by losing generated a lost fumble and punting four straight times punts in the second half.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Cardinal rules, 45-16, in a Rose Bowl romp

January 2, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 2, 2016

One of the greatest seasons in Stanford football history ended on Jan. 1, 2016, with a resounding victory in the most hallowed of all college football venues — the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The Cardinal demolished the Big Ten’s runner-up, the Iowa Hawkeyes, with a 45-16 steamrolling of the type that most Pac-12 teams came to know well in 2015. During the game, Christian McCaffrey set several Rose Bowl records and made a significant fraction of Hawkeyes defenders and Heisman Trophy voters look foolish.

The night before the Rose Bowl, Heisman winner Derrick Henry finished Alabama’s 38-0 embarrassment of the Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans with 20 rushes for 75 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and one catch for minus-two yards.

McCaffrey outdid Henry with his first touch of the game. On the 102nd Rose Bowl’s initial play from scrimmage, Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan threw McCaffrey a short pass in the flat that the super sophomore took to the house for a 75-yard touchdown reception. McCaffrey went on to amass 172 yards on 18 carries (9.6 yards per cary) and 105 yards receiving on four catches.

McCaffrey also got two opportunities on special teams — a 28-yard kickoff return and a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown that put the Cardinal ahead, 28-0, early in the second quarter. Add it all up and the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up finished the day with 368 all-purpose yards. Not only was that good for a Rose Bowl record, it made for the fourth-highest total of any bowl game in the history of college football.

Read the rest of this entry »

2015 Pac-12 football championship recap: Two teams played; the better team prevailed.

December 9, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 9, 2015

In every good action movie, there’s a part, often around the halfway or two-thirds mark, where the hero is given cause to think that she or he might be overmatched.

During Saturday night’s Pac-12 championship game between the USC and Stanford football teams, that part came, on cue, in a sequence that began in the second period and lasted until late in the third quarter.

The Cardinal entered the second period with a 3-0 lead and would add to it immediately. Everybody’s All-Everything, Christian McCaffrey, lined up on the left flank. On the first snap of the quarter, quarterback Kevin Hogan pitched right to Barry Sanders, who was lined up at tailback. As McCaffrey raced around the formation, Hogan — who was completely ignored by outside linebacker Scott Felix — stepped to his right and made his way past the line of scrimmage. Sanders made a short lateral to McCaffrey, who set his feet and lobbed a soft throw to an unguarded Hogan on the right side. The 11-yard touchdown was McCaffrey’s second scoring pass of the year.

The Cardinal defense forced a Trojans punt after just three plays, and McCaffrey went back to work right away with a 50-yard run on the first play of the new series, bringing the ball to the USC 15-yard line. Stanford would end up having third and goal at the 1-yard line, but Remound Wright was stuffed by Anthony Sarao. After a delay-of-game penalty, the Cardinal called in Conrad Ukropina to kick his second field goal of the night.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fantastic finishes for Hogan, Cajuste, Ukropina and co. send Irish hopes tumbling: Stanford beats Notre Dame, 38-36

December 2, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 2, 2015

After Conrad Ukropina’s 45-yard kick sailed through the uprights as time expired to give the Stanford football team a dramatic 38-36 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday night, I tweeted about it. Then I raised my hands triumph and ran around the sports bar where I’d been watching the game.

I’d heard a small group of fans cheering on Stanford. I headed their way to exchange high-fives and fist bumps with the men at the table. I lay on the floor and stared at the ceiling, pretending to clutch at my chest. As I tweeted, “I didn’t actually have chest pains — thank goodness. It was just, you know, cardiac Cardinal.”

Saturday night’s finish made for one of the most dramatic in Stanford history. What’s more, it came in a matchup of top-10 teams: The hosts were ranked ninth by the College Football Playoff selection committee, the visitors sixth.

I know what happened in the game, but I have a confession: I still don’t understand exactly why the outcome came to be. Suffice to say that it was an amazing game.

Read the rest of this entry »

History made, division title secured: Stanford beats Cal, 35-22, for its sixth straight Big Game win

November 24, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 23, 2015

Football is a team sport, so let’s begin with the group accomplishments that we saw in Saturday night’s 118th football clash between Stanford and Cal.

The Cardinal won, 35-22, thereby extending the team’s Big Game win streak to six and insuring that the Stanford Axe would remain in its rightful place on the Farm for at least another year. The seniors became the 13th class to graduate without ever having lost the Axe to the archrivals from across the San Francisco Bay. The squad scored at least 30 points in 10 straight games for the first time in four years. And head coach David Shaw’s team swept its in-state rivals — the Golden Bears, USC and UCLA — for the first time since 2012. (The Trojans had beaten Stanford each of the past two seasons.)

Perhaps more importantly, Stanford moved to 9-2 on the season and clinched the Pac-12 Northern Division title with an 8-1 conference record. Regardless of the outcome of the regular season finale against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Stanford will play for a Rose Bowl berth on Dec. 5 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, a short drive from campus.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ducks by a nose: Oregon nabs 38-36 road victory over Stanford in a game where small things made a huge difference

November 17, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 17, 2015

When thinking about a football game, and especially the reasons why it turned out the way it did, it’s tempting to focus on big things.

For example, in contemplating Stanford’s heartbreaking 38-36 home loss to Oregon Saturday night, the mind is naturally drawn to things like Royce Freeman’s 49-yard rush on the Ducks’ second play of the game, which set up a touchdown; or Charles Nelson’s 75-yard rush on the Ducks’ second possession, a one-play drive that put the Ducks up by 14-10; or Darren Carrington’s 47-yard touchdown reception that gave the visitors a one-point advantage, 21-20; or Vernon Adams Jr.’s 33-yard pass to Evans Baylis on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, which instantly put the host team back on its heels; or Taj Griffin’s 49-yard touchdown reception from Adams at the close of the third quarter, which gave the visitors a 35-23 lead.

But I would posit that the outcome came down to three much less flashy or dramatic plays — one in the third quarter, two in the fourth quarter.

In the first of these, a Stanford special-teamer failed to execute a difficult but nonetheless relatively routine play successfully. In the second of the decisive trio of plays, Stanford’s center and quarterback failed to conduct a successful exchange, perhaps the single most fundamental action in the sport of football. And in the final such play, an Oregon defensive back managed to deflect a Cardinal pass — not by a lot, but by just enough to secure the outcome of the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Boulder surmounted: Stanford clobbers Colorado on the road, 42-10

November 14, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 14, 2015

Once the carnage in Boulder ended Saturday, with the Cardinal football team earning a 42-10 victory in its final road contest of the regular season, the postgame scene played out much as it normally does. After the coaches and their teams shook hands, and after the Stanford players congratulated one another, they gathered in front of the visitors section and sang the university’s alma mater.

What happened next, however, was rather…unusual.

A few Stanford fans high up in the stands began a chant. “Six more games!” they cried. “Six more games!”

I furrowed my brow: The only games left in the regular season are Oregon tonight, Cal in the Big Game on Nov. 21 and Notre Dame on the 28th. A visit to the Pac-12 championship game, which is not yet guaranteed, would bring the total to four games. But college football teams play only one postseason game…

…usually. That’s when it hit me: These fans were cheering for Stanford to make the College Football Playoff, win its semifinal game and advance to the national championship game. Four plus two equals…

I laughed. Then I joined in with the handful of people yelling “Six more games!” And then I tweeted about it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Survive and advance: Taking stock of Stanford’s Halloween night road win

November 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 4, 2015

Stanford’s 30-28 road victory at Washington State on Halloween night was extremely dramatic, so much so that I did two write-ups — one for the first half and the very beginning of the second, while the remainder of the game is recapped here. It was so dramatic, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook some of its larger significance.

Let’s start with the most important result: Stanford is now 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the Pac-12, which puts the Cardinal atop the conference’s Northern Division. Tied for second-place are Oregon and Washington State, which are both 3-2 in league and 5-3 in toto.

The path to the league title game is clear for Stanford: The Northern crown will be secured with the combination of one Cardinal win and one loss by the Ducks. (Even if Washington State won its next four games, all in the Pac-12, and Stanford only won once more in league, the tiebreaker would go to Stanford because of its head-to-head victory over the Cougars. In that scenario, both teams would finish 7-2 in circuit play.)

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: