Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Northwestern leaves flat Cardinal in purple daze after 16-6 season-opening defeat

September 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 7, 2015

Contrary to what the record books would have you believe, the Stanford Cardinal didn’t field a single football team in 2014.

On paper, last year’s club had an 8-5 record. But those victories and losses were really the product of two teams. There was the vigorous, buoyant Dr. Jekyll that ran up no fewer than 31 points apiece in seven games over Davis, Army, Washington State, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA and Maryland — all victories. And then there was the sickly, anemic Mr. Hyde that mustered no more than 17 points per outing in five games against USC, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and Utah — all losses. (The Cardinal also squeaked out a 20-13 road win against Washington in a game that the Huskies arguably squandered by attempting a questionable fake punt near midfield.)

2014’s brightest moments were unquestionably the resounding Big Game win, the Cardinal’s fifth straight against its closest rival; the surprising thumping of UCLA, a top-10 team, at the Rose Bowl; and the 45-21 domination of Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl. The year’s worst moments were… Well, it’s hard to choose whether rock bottom was the 13-10 home loss to USC, the 17-14 loss to the Fighting Irish, or weak road efforts against Arizona State and Oregon. For my money, though, the year’s worst outing was a 20-17 home (!) loss in double overtime (!!) to Utah (!!!).

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Postscript: Two meetings, three vignettes

March 13, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 13, 2014

On Sunday, I posted about two encounters I had at Stanford football practices. Today, I offer three codas to those two meetings.

Vignette the First: Stanford hosted Northwestern in 1992, beating the Wildcats of Evanston, Ill., by a 35-24 score. The Cardinal finished that season with a 10-3 record, including a dominating 24-3 victory over Penn State. (This was the first and last time that Joe Paterno, the now-disgraced dean of East Coast football, coached against Bill Walsh, the still-revered figure credited with popularizing what some call the West Coast offense.)

But 1992 was the last time Walsh would post a winning record. The team devolved to a very disappointing 4-7 record; that included a loss in the Big Game against traditional rival cal (lowercase c intentional).

Still, Stanford started the 1994 season with high hopes. The team opened in Illinois on Sept. 10 with a game at Northwestern. This turned out to be a wild and woolly affair. It ended in crushing disappointment — not with a Stanford loss, but in a 41-41 tie. The Cardinal was in position to win, but kicker Eric Abrams (whom I’d tried to interview mid-practice a few years ago) badly missed on a fairly close 23-yard field goal try with three seconds to play.

Abrams, who is left-footed, told reporters that he was bothered by the ball being placed on the left hashmark; he would have preferred to kick from the right. “Before I kicked the ball I knew there was a problem. I didn’t do a good job of adjusting,” Abrams said.

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Practice imperfect: Two anecdotes

March 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 9, 2014

Despite my becoming a passionate football fan in college, and my having a few stints, strictly part-time, as a sports reporter, I’ve attended football practices only on rare occasions.

My knowledge of the sport is strictly that of the layman — someone who has never played the game or studied it seriously. Practice drills likely wouldn’t provide me with much insight into the quality of a football team, its members or its plays.

I distinctly remember attending two Stanford football practices, however, in that long-ago time when I was a student and would-be sports reporter.

What I believe was the second such occasion was on a cloudy, damp autumn or fall afternoon, presumably definitely in 1992, when I somehow had reason to interview record-setting Cardinal kicker Eric Abrams for a student radio or newspaper story that is now long forgotten. (Update: It was definitely 1992, when Abrams was a freshman.)

There’s no question why this episode sticks in my mind: Because I made a gaffe and embarrassed myself.

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Success redefined: Comparing David Shaw to past Stanford football coaches

October 3, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 3, 2013

Stanford football fans are living in an unprecedented era of success. And as I blogged just the other day, the squad is poised to have yet another outstanding season.

I’ve enjoyed (and endured) a number of Cardinal campaigns, and nothing but nothing compares to the run the team has experienced since the start of the 2010 season. Stanford is 39-5 over that stretch, with a 2-1 record in Bowl Championship Series postseason games.

I’ve become interested lately in the accomplishments of current head coach David Shaw, a 1994 Stanford grad who took the job when Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers after the 2010 season. Yes, Harbaugh obviously laid the foundation for Shaw; without Harbaugh, Shaw would not have enjoyed as much success as he’s had.

But don’t slight Shaw. The first-time head coach has won 27 of his first 31 games, which makes for a winning percentage of .871. That’s a mark only three Stanford coaches have exceeded.

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