Posts Tagged ‘David Shaw’

WSU slices and dices foundering Stanford, 42-16

October 11, 2016

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

There were a number of encouraging omens for the Stanford football team entering Saturday night’s home contest against Washington State, despite the fact that the Cardinal was coming off of a crushing 44-6 road loss to the University of Washington.

Item: Stanford was tied with Alabama, Boise State, Clemson and Louisiana State for having the fewest home losses since 2010 — four apiece. The team hadn’t dropped an October contest at Stanford Stadium since 2007.

Item: Under head coach David Shaw, Stanford had a perfect 5-0 record against Washington State.

Item: Stanford had beaten WSU eight straight times, going back to 2008.

Item: Under Shaw, the Cardinal had won 13 times and lost just once in games following a loss.

Item: On Saturday Stanford broke out its all-black uniforms, which debuted in 2010, for only the eighth time in history. The team was undefeated when wearing these dark-hued duds, including a 41-22 win over USC in the 2015 Pac-12 championship game.

However, as San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Tom Fitzgerald aptly observed before Saturday’s game, “past performance is no guarantee of future success.”

About 15 minutes after Fitzgerald’s tweet, I posted a tweet of my own that reflected my baseless yet increasing anxiety about the upcoming game:

Actually, my foreboding wasn’t entirely baseless. The Cardinal had been beaten, and beaten very badly, by the Washington Huskies in their previous game. In that contest, UW had played the kind of physical football that used to be a Stanford trademark. By contrast, Washington State had soundly defeated Oregon last week. The Cougars owned a two-game winning streak over the Ducks, which is something that even Stanford, the reigning conference champions, could not claim. And the Cardinal had injuries that would hold out several significant players.

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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.

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Cheeps and Chirps — belated July 2016 Republican National Convention edition!

August 11, 2016

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

Twitter feed, represent!

Sadly, this could be an evergreen tweet

 

• Reminder: The U.S. is still at war

 

• Comedy!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Oregon postscript, Big Game prologue: On Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner, David Shaw and Rose Bowl glory

November 17, 2015

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

Barring an extremely improbable sequence of events, Stanford will not play for a national championship. But a victory in the 118th Big Game this Saturday — or a single Oregon loss in its final two games against either USC or lowly Oregon State — would put the Cardinal in the conference title game.

A victory in that game would put Shaw’s club back in the Rose Bowl for the third time in four years. That would make Shaw the first Stanford coach to accomplish such a feat since Glenn “Pop” Warner led the Vow Boys to three consecutive Rose Bowls in 1934–36. (Warner also took the team, which was known as the Indians until the 1970s, to Pasadena in 1925, 1927 and 1928.)

So a beautiful, frightening dream — six more games! — is dead, but there is still plenty for Stanford to play for. And a streaky Cal team that would love nothing more than to leave another smudge on Stanford’s record is now standing in the Cardinal’s way.

Prepare yourselves, Cardinal Nation. I have a feeling that the 118th Big Game is going to be quite a wild ride.

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.

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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.

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Fright night: Stanford vs. Washington State and the second-half squeaker

November 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 3, 2015

I continue recapping Stanford’s 30-28 victory at Washington State on Saturday night. We pick up early in the third quarter, right after the hosts took a 15-3 lead on kicker Erik Powell’s fifth (!) field goal of the evening.

Coach David Shaw’s team hadn’t trailed an opponent since game 3 against USC; they hadn’t previously been losing by this large a margin to that point in 2015. Fans watching the game surely worried that the offense wouldn’t be able to respond, especially since both the passing and ground attacks had been feeble at best.

But Kevin Hogan and comrades responded in inspiring fashion, as the veteran quarterback connected with freshman speedster Bryce Love for a 14-yard gain on the offensive unit’s initial play in the second half. Two plays later, on third and 6 from the Washington State 41-yard line, Hogan faked a pitchout to Christian McCaffrey going left before bursting up the middle and sprinting for the goal line. Only a desperation diving try by cornerback Marcellus Pippins prevented a touchdown. The 39-yard run was the longest of Hogan’s career.

Shaw and offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren turned next to — say it with me, Cardinal true believers! — fifth-year running back Remound Wright on goal to go from the 2. He was stifled on his first rush, but on second down, Wright went over the top for the touchdown. Suddenly, Stanford’s deficit was a much more manageable 15-10.

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Fright night: Stanford vs. Washington State and a hellish Halloween-evening half

November 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 3, 2015

On Oct. 24, Stanford hosted Washington and notched a relatively modest 31-14 win to close out a three-game home stand. One week later, the Cardinal took to the road and visited Pullman, Wash., — probably the remotest outpost in the Pac-12 Conference — for what proved to be an extremely frightening 30-28 tussle.

True, the Cardinal emerged the victor, but only after converting just four of 13 third-down tries, and only after surviving a second quarter in which the offense accumulated a paltry 25 yards, and only after enduring a first half that ended with Washington State taking a 12-3 lead… and only after the Cougars’ Erik Powell, who had booted five field goals, sliced a kick wide right as time expired — his sole misfire of the evening.

Incidentally, this marked the first time Stanford had won a football game on Oct. 31 since 1970, considerably before I was born.

On a Halloween night when the Stanford offensive unit spent much of its time mimicking its largely ineffective 2014 self, the defense mounted a decent imitation of the stellar crew that throttled the life out of opponents throughout last season. The Cougars were just 2-14 on third downs, and while they scored in all seven of their visits to the red zone, Wazzu managed just a pair of touchdowns while playing before a fired-up home crowd.

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Stanford sleds past Washington Huskies with uncharacteristically modest 31-14 victory

October 27, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 27, 2015

After a team has scored 40 or more points in four consecutive games and run for at least 312 yards in three straight games, it’s easy to look at Stanford’s 17-point victory last Saturday night and dismiss it as mundane.

Yes, the Cardinal came out on top, but the 31-14 win over the Washington Huskies, and the Cardinal’s 188 rushing yards, seemed just sort of…ho-hum. Quarterback Kevin Hogan had a fine outing, with 290 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but his completion rate — 70.8 percent on 17 of 24 throws — seemed, well, ordinary compared to his performance against Arizona on Oct. 3 (17-19 for 89.47 percent).

The offense converted 6 of 14 third-down tries, which was nice, but hardly as stellar as the 8 of 12 conversions the team managed on the road against USC. On the opposite side of the coin, the Cardinal defense only let the Huskies convert 4 of 11 third-down tries — nice, but not quite as good as the 4-13 suffocation that the unit imposed on Central Florida back in September.

Really, there were only a handful of aspects of the game that surpassed the quotidian. One of those was time of possession, in which Stanford amassed an astonishing total: 40 minutes and 5 seconds, slightly more than twice the duration that the Huskies had the ball (19 minutes, 55 seconds).

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No upset Bruin: Stanford dismantles UCLA, 56-35, on national television

October 17, 2015

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

“I want to just run a big picture of Christian McCaffrey instead of a recap tomorrow,” Do-Hyoung Park, a Stanford student and sportswriter, tweeted late in the third quarter of the Cardinal football team’s 56-20 demolition of the visiting UCLA Bruins.

And why not? The super sophomore was only his regular extraordinary self during Thursday night’s game, which was broadcast to a national audience by ESPN. His 25 rushes went for a school-record 243 yards, easily cruising past the mark of 223 yards that Toby Gerhart set on 38 carries against Oregon in 2009. McCaffrey also tied a school record with four touchdowns, which had been done eight times previously in Stanford history. (The feat has now been accomplished on five occasions since Jim Harbaugh became Stanford’s head coach in 2007.)

McCaffrey’s 96-yard kickoff return set up the first of Kevin Hogan’s three touchdown passes, giving the Cardinal an early 14-3 lead on the Bruins. Add in a four-yard catch and a second kickoff return, this one for 26 yards, and all this spectacular athlete did was run up 369 all-purpose yards, the highest single-game total by any college player so far this year. His per-game average of 253 all-phases yards surpasses that of the runner-up, San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, by 19 yards.

Incidentally, McCaffrey has now rushed for at least 100 yards in the past four games. Not so incidentally, the Cardinal has rushed for 300 or more yards in the past four games and scored at least 40 points during each of those outings.

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Cardinal flirts with perfection in 55-17 stomping of Arizona

October 8, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 8, 2015

In recapping Stanford’s 42-24 road win over Oregon State, I wrote that I thought the Cardinal offense “has yet to play at peak efficiency. If and when that time comes, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is — they’d better watch out.”

The University of Arizona football squad came to town on Saturday night, and they got steamrolled. The Cardinal scored 13 points in the first quarter, 14 points in the second quarter and 21 points (!!!) in the third quarter en route to a 55-17 walloping of the Wildcats.

This was the first time that the team had scored 40 or more points in three consecutive games since quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Jim Harbaugh were helming the squad that went on to win the Orange Bowl. With 325 yards vs. the Beavers and 314 yards against the Wildcats, the Cardinal has recorded 300 or more rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1981.

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Stanford runs over the Beavers in Corvallis

October 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 3, 2015

Oregon State is one of the bottom dwellers in the Pac-12 conference. And yet, Stanford’s 42-24 thrashing of the Beavers in Corvallis was a powerful statement.

That’s because the Cardinal offense announced that its power-rushing game is back in full effect after the team ran for 325 yards and four touchdowns. That’s tied for the 10th-most Stanford rushing yards ever, with four of the top performances (446 vs. Washington, 2011; 344 vs. Washington State, 2008; 325 yards at USC, 2009; and the OSU game) having come since former head coach Jim Harbaugh arrived on the Farm in 2007.

What’s more, the prolific production against OSU came on a night when Stanford starting quarterback Kevin Hogan’s status was questionable. Hogan ended up playing the entire game but his mobility appeared to be limited thanks to an ankle that was twisted during the USC game; Hogan only carried the ball one time against the Beavers, for 2 yards.

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Triumph over the Trojans: Stanford powers to a 41-31 road win in Los Angeles

September 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 21, 2015

When I met a friend and fellow Stanford alumnus at a Durham restaurant shortly before the kickoff of the Cardinal football team’s game at USC Saturday night, he asked me how I felt about the contest.

Jim was clearly worried, and I couldn’t lie: I was, too. “I’m skeptical,” I said*.

Then, not wanting to be too much of a negative nelly, I changed tacks.

“But you know, if the team could do it in 2007…” I said.

In 2007, Jim Harbaugh was a first-year coach at Stanford in his initial head-coaching job in the major college ranks. USC, the second-ranked team in the nation, was coached by Pete Carroll, who today is coming off of back-to-back Super Bowl appearances with the Seattle Seahawks and back then was fresh from piloting the Trojans to a loss in the national championship. Despite being 41-point underdogs, despite starting a quarterback with three college passes to his name, despite the Trojans not having lost a home game in six years, Stanford knocked off USC in a game that some hail as the greatest upset ever.

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Five victories and still going strong: Stanford keeps rivalry streak intact with 38-17 triumph over Cal in the 117th Big Game

November 24, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 24, 2014

Big Game’s luster has dwindled somewhat in recent years. Stanford walloped Cal in their 2013 meeting, 63-13; the 50-point thrashing was the largest point differential in Big Game history. It was the Cardinal’s fourth consecutive Big Game triumph; only one of those contests, Stanford’s 31-28 win in 2011, was closer than 18 points. In each of those four years, the Cardinal went on to enjoy 11 or 12 total victories.

If the 2014 matchup wasn’t quite as glamorous as it has been in past year, there were circumstances that added an element of intrigue to Saturday’s contest. The teams entered the 117th Big Game on much more even footing than of late; both sported 5-5 overall records.

But in most other ways, the teams were mirror images of one another. A 5-5 win-loss tally represented a come-up for Cal, which won only a single game in 2013; for Stanford, which finished last year 11-3 with a Rose Bowl berth, that record was a definite let-down. Cal has a prolific offense and a terrible defense; going into Saturday, Stanford’s scoring defense was ranked seventh nationally (16.5 points per game), but its offense was relatively anemic.

On Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Stanford took a 17-point lead into the locker room at halftime — yet the game could easily have gone differently.

The visitors in white jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a short Remound Wright touchdown run and Jordan Williamson’s 24-yard field goal. But on its second possession, Cal drove the length of the field and seemed poised to score.

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Cardinal calamity: Ducks dive-bomb stultified Stanford, 45-16, in Eugene showdown

November 4, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 4, 2014

Remember the glory years, Stanford football fans.

Remember 2009, when Toby Gerhart was leveling opposing defenders seemingly at will, and a dubious penalty (against Wake Forest) and a questionable coaching decision (against Cal, natch) may have been all that separated Stanford from a 10-2 regular-season record and the school’s second Heisman.

Remember 2010, when Andrew Luck came into his own as arguably the finest college quarterback of his generation, and certainly the best in Stanford history, when the Cardinal went 12-1, scoring at least 31 points in every game but one, and cruised to a 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

Remember 2011, when Luck returned and Stanford graduate David Shaw replaced Jim Harbaugh as coach, when the Cardinal went 11-2, scoring at least 28 points in every game, and a case of freshman kicker nerves and a questionable coaching decision (by Shaw, alas) may have been all that separated Stanford from a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.

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Where does the Stanford football team go from here?

October 22, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct.22, 2014

There’s no doubt about it: Saturday’s 26-10 loss at Arizona State was a demoralizing defeat for Stanford football. The team hadn’t lost a game by more than four points since a 53-30 blowout home loss to the Oregon Ducks on Nov. 12, 2011.

That matchup was a battle of top 10 teams — Oregon was ranked third, and Stanford, which was led by all-world quarterback Andrew Luck, was sixth. How far the Farm gridders have fallen since then. Entering the ASU game, Stanford was ranked 25th. After the loss in the desert, voters rightly dropped the Cardinal (now 4-3 overall, 2-2 in conference) out of the Top 25.

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Cardinal chronicle: ASU clobbers Stanford, 26-10, in demoralizing desert defeat

October 21, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 21, 2014

Let’s not mince words. The Stanford team’s 26-10 loss at Arizona State on Saturday night was a full-fledged disaster. Any sense of panic that Cardinal fans had after the demoralizing loss at Notre Dame is now running rampant.

There was, of course, a game sandwiched between those road losses — a 34-17 home victory over Washington State. But the pass-oriented Cougars boast one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12 conference, and everyone knew that Arizona State would pose a much stiffer test.

The game seemed to be going wrong from Stanford’s very first possession. Quarterback Kevin Hogan sandwiched two incomplete passes around a run for no gain by Remound Wright. The Cardinal punted without gaining a first down for the first of what would turn out to be four times.

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Stanford setback: Golden domers crush Cardinal hopes in the Indiana rain

October 7, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 7, 2014

It’s hard to lose in more agonizing fashion than the Stanford football team did on Saturday.

The Cardinal traveled to South Bend, Ind., with a great deal at stake. If Stanford’s team was to make the inaugural college football playoffs, it would essentially need to win out its schedule. The squad also had a chance to avenge the 20-13 overtime loss that it suffered in its last trip to Notre Dame, in 2012 — a controversial affair in which Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor appeared to score what would have been the game-tying touchdown on a play that was whistled dead by the officials.

Stanford’s 2014 edition has had a bifurcated identity. The defense is the Cardinal’s Dr. Jekyll: Entering the weekend, it led the nation in scoring defense (6.5 points per game), total defense (198 yards per game) and passing defense (74 ypg). The team had permitted just four plays of 20 yards or longer this season, second fewest in the land.

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Roses redux! Stanford bedevils ASU for a 38-14 win and a second straight Pac-12 crown

December 9, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 9, 2013

I’ll freely admit it. I was nervous going into Saturday night’s Pac-12 championship game. Yes, Stanford had already beaten Arizona State — embarrassed them, really, by a 42-28 score — earlier this year.

But that game had been played under very different circumstances: In the friendly confines of Stanford Stadium, where the Cardinal went 7-0 this year, vs. 3-2 in away games, and near the beginning of the year, when the Sun Devils were still gelling as a team, and before Stanford’s tendencies and flaws had become glaringly obvious.

But now ASU was the host, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, where the Pac-12 South Division champions had matched Stanford with a 7-0 home record. And obviously, the prize at stake last weekend, a conference title and a berth in the 100th Rose Bowl, was much dearer than a chance to go 3-0, which was in the offing when the teams met in September.

So yes, I was nervous when the game kicked off. And no — although I thought Stanford might win a close game, I never expected that what happened would happen.

It started off like a shootout. On the second snap of the game, Tyler Gaffney ran around left end and went for a 67-yard touchdown. The host Sun Devils took less than two minutes to respond, with D.J. Foster rushing for a 51-yard touchdown of his own.

What followed was more or less classic Stanford football, 2013 style. Kevin Hogan found Jordan Pratt for a 35-yard completion. A few snaps later, the quarterback rushed for 12 yards and a first down at the ASU 12-yard line. Next up: Gaffney for five yards, a three-yard ASU offsides penalty, Gaffney for three yards, and, on first and goal from the Sun Devils’ 1-yard line, Gaffney with the touchdown. Score: Stanford 14, ASU 7.

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On dealing with disappointment: Comparing and contrasting the 2012 Fiesta Bowl and the 2013 Iron Bowl

December 4, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 4, 2013

If you’re a Stanford football fan, then you remember the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012. It was perhaps the most painful loss out of the handful of defeats that the Cardinal has suffered in recent years.

The final game for all-world quarterback Andrew Luck was a shootout. Twenty-four points were scored in the fourth quarter, starting with a 30-yard field goal by the Cardinal’s Jordan Williamson. Oklahoma State — which threw for 399 yards that night, but rushed for only 13 — answered with a 17-yard pass from Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon. That balanced the scoreboard at 31-up.

Stanford retook the lead on a short Stepfan Taylor touchdown run, but Joseph Randle’s 4-yard scoring run retied matters at 38-38.

Stanford fans had to be pretty confident at that point. Only 2:35 remained in the game, and the best signal caller in school history was under center. Surely Luck and company would march down the field and clinch the game by scoring as time expired.

That’s…not quite what happened. The team advanced 63 yards, to the Cowboys’ 17-yard line. On third down and two yards to go, with only three seconds remaining, coach David Shaw turned to Williamson, a redshirt freshman who was one for two on field goal tries to that point in the game.

Up went Williamson’s 35-yard try as the clock ran out. It missed. That brought on overtime, with the Cardinal offense going first.

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Stanford hangs on: With a 27-20 nailbiter of a victory over Notre Dame, the Cardinal moves to 10-2 on the year

December 2, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 2, 2013

Stanford hung on to defeat Notre Dame Saturday night by a 27-20 margin. And considering the discrepancy in offensive yards — the host Cardinal won the day, 419 yards to 263 — the “hung on” is entirely applicable. 

The game seemed to fit a template that has become very familiar in 2013. The Cardinal defense combined for one sack and four other tackles-for-loss. For the 21st time in that many games, Stanford’s opponent was held under 30 points; for the sixth straight game, the opponent did not exceed 20 points. This was the fifth consecutive game, and the ninth time this season, in which the opposing squad rushed for fewer than 100 yards (Notre Dame had 64, on Saturday evening).

Tyler Gaffney was monstrously good; he rushed 33 times for 189 yards and a touchdown, marking his eight time exceeding the century mark this year. Ty Montgomery had three catches for 46 yards, all of which went for first downs, and four kickoff returns for 127 yards, with a long of 51. Jordan Williamson hit both of his field goals (from 27 and 28 yards) and all three extra points. A seemingly healthy Devon Cajuste grabbed three balls for 75 yards, including a lovely 16-yard end zone reception on the run in which he extended himself to catch a Kevin Hogan ball that was slightly long. 

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