Stanford starts slow, puts Cougars away

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Stanford starts slow, puts Cougars away

BOX SCORE

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Andrew Luck threw two third-quarter touchdown passes to Levine Toilolo as No. 7 Stanford beat Washington State 44-14 Saturday to extend the nation's longest winning streak to a school record 14 consecutive games.Stanford (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12) struggled against the Cougars defense before blowing the game open in the second half. Luck, among the leading Heisman Trophy candidates, finished with four touchdown passes, all in the second half.Washington State (3-3, 1-2) hoped to get a boost from the return of quarterback Jeff Tuel. But they had little success against a Stanford defense that is allowing just 10 points per game.Luck completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards with one interception.Tuel, who fractured his collarbone on his first series of the season, finally was cleared to play and started the game in place of reserve Marshall Lobbestael. He completed 17 of 30 passes for 145 yards.The Cougars generated just 257 yards of total offense in the game, to 475 for Stanford.Leading 10-7 after the half, Stanford drove 85 yards on its first possession of the second half, with a 62-yard pass play from Luck to Coby Fleener covering most of the distance. Luck fired a 10-yard touchdown pass to Toilolo for a 17-7 lead.After punting on its next series, Stanford scored on a 62-yard drive late in the third when Luck hit Toilolo for a 26-yard scoring pass and a 24-7 lead. Luck also fired an 8-yard scoring pass to Stepfan Taylor and a 28-yard touchdown pass to Fleener in the fourth.Lobbestael scored on a short run for Washington State.In the first half, Jordan Williamson kicked a 23-yard field goal with 1:34 left in the first quarter to give Stanford a 3-0 lead. The Cardinal have not been scored on in the first quarter all season.Washington State's Jared Karstetter caught a pass from Tuel but fumbled after he was hit at midfield. The ball was scooped up by Stanford's Michael Thomas, who ran down to the Cougars' 20. On 4th-and-goal from the 1, Jeremy Stewart bulled over to give Stanford a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter.Stepfan Taylor fumbled on a run and Chester Su'a recovered for Washington State on Stanford's 40. Aided by two pass interference calls on plays to Karstetter, the Cougars drove to Stanford's 2. Carl Winston ran up the middle to cut Stanford's lead to 10-7 at the half. It was the fewest points either team has scored at the break this season.Luck had just 89 passing yards in the first half, on 10-of-16 passing, and the Cardinal had just 165 yards of offense. Washington State was held to 94 yards of offense in the first halfThe Cardinal lead the Pac-12 in rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense and sacks per game. They have allowed just six points in the third quarter all season.

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla signs, but who will close for the A's?

Santiago Casilla says he’s returning to his baseball home, which requires only a trip across the Bay Bridge.

The A’s finalized a two-year $11 million contract with the former Giants closer Friday, adding him to a bullpen that has no shortage of late-inning relief options for manager Bob Melvin.

“There’s an old saying that it’s always good to return home, and I’m very happy to get this new opportunity with the Athletics,” Casilla said on a media conference call, via interpreter Manolo Hernandez Douen.

It’s “new” in that the 36-year-old Casilla spent the past seven seasons wearing black and orange. But his major league career is rooted in Oakland. The A’s signed him out of the Dominican Republic as an amateur free agent back in 2000, and he spent his first six seasons with Oakland, the first two of those pitching under the name Jairo Garcia.

He’s since won three World Series rings with the Giants, including notching four saves during the 2014 postseason. His final season with San Francisco ended on a sour note last year, however, as he was demoted from the closer’s role during a rough September.

What role will he find in 2017?

Casilla, who reportedly can earn up to $3 million in incentives based on games finished, joins three other relievers in the A’s ‘pen who have legitimate big league closer’s experience — John Axford, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Doolittle was the closer entering last spring but shoulder problems derailed him for a second consecutive season. Madson handled the ninth for most of 2016 and notched 30 saves, but general manager David Forst made it clear Friday that the Opening Night closer has yet to be determined.

“We had a number of different guys save games last year,” Forst said. “… Santiago saved almost 80 games the last couple years. He’s got a lot of experience. As we talked to him and his representatives, he made it clear he’s willing to do anything. It’s great for Bob to have a number of options. It’ll sort itself out in spring training as to who the guy is to start the season.”

Doolittle, Axford, Ryan Dull and Zach Neal combined for 12 saves last season. But even though the A’s are fully stocked with ninth-inning options, it’s fair to question whether any of them is a clear-cut answer for the closer’s role as spring training nears.

Madson’s seven blown saves tied for second most in the American League. Doolittle hasn’t pitched a full season since 2014. Axford issued 4.11 walks per nine innings last year, and Dull’s biggest strength is his ability escape jams when entering mid-inning.

Casilla went 2-5 with a 3.57 ERA and 31 saves last season, striking out a career-best 10.1 per nine innings, but there was some turbulence. He was displeased with Giants manager Bruce Bochy last May after being pulled from a game. Then he struggled mightily in September and lost the closer’s role. Bochy didn’t call on him at all as the bullpen coughed up a ninth-inning lead to the Cubs in Game 4 of the NL Division Series that ended the Giants’ season. That decision had Casilla in tears after the game.

Asked Friday if he harbored any hard feelings toward the Giants, Casilla replied: “It’s a new year, a new team. I have left this in the past.”

Forst pointed to Casilla’s sustained velocity — his fastball averaged 93.6 miles per hour last season — and his expanded repertoire over his career as reasons why the A’s went after him.

“His numbers were really good — 65 strikeouts, 19 walks,” Forst said. “As we got through the offseason I think we thought he was being overlooked a little bit just because of the narrative surrounding his departure with the Giants. I wasn’t around and I don’t know what went on, but it seems like a few blown saves marred what otherwise was a fantastic season for him.”

In other news, the A’s signed veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training. Forst noted De Aza’s ability to play all three outfield spots and his speed as traits that caught the A’s attention.

Report: 49ers increase offer to Bradley to become D-coordinator

Report: 49ers increase offer to Bradley to become D-coordinator

The 49ers reportedly continue to pursue Gus Bradley to serve as defensive coordinator on presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff.

The 49ers have increased their offer to Bradley, Mike Siliver of the NFL Network reported on Friday. Bradley wanted to work with Tom Cable, according to the report.

Cable interviewed with the 49ers on Sunday but removed his name from consideration on Tuesday after he and Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner sensed their 49ers’ interest in them intended to receive a commitment from Shanahan, sources told CSNBayArea.com.

Bradley served as defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks from 2009 to ’12. In Bradley’s final season on Pete Carroll’s staff, Seattle ranked first in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in total yards.

Bradley became head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013. His teams went 14-48 before he was fired with two games remaining in the season.

The 49ers this week inquired with the Chicago Bears about the possibility of bringing back Vic Fangio to the organization to serve as defensive coordinator. The 49es were informed, according to a source, that the Bears would not let Fangio out of his contract. Fangio was the defensive coordinator for all four seasons with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh.