Cal powers past Southern Utah

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Cal powers past Southern Utah

BERKELEY (AP) -- California cornerback Marc Anthony scored on a 61-yard interception return in the fourth quarter and the Golden Bears shook off another sluggish start at home to beat Southern Utah 50-31 on Saturday.Keenan Allen had two touchdowns, one on a 69-yard punt return, to help the Bears notch their first victory at newly renovated Memorial Stadium.A week after losing the home-opener to Nevada, Cal (1-1) had 518 yards of offense but couldn't shake Southern Utah, an FCS school playing its first season in the Big Sky Conference, until the fourth quarter when the Bears forced two turnovers and scored 30 points.Anthony, who tipped a Hail Mary pass the Thunderbirds converted into a touchdown just before halftime, made the biggest play after Southern Utah receiver Henna Brown appeared to run the wrong route on the first play of the fourth quarter.Quarterback Brad Sorensen threw a short pass intended for Brown, who kept running while Anthony turned to make the interception. Anthony then worked his way downfield into the end zone to help give Cal a 34-17 lead.The Bears piled on quickly after that.Defensive end Aaron Tipoti recovered a fumble on Southern Utah's next possession, and Vincenzo D'Amato's third field goal made it 37-17.Allen, who caught a 19-yard touchdown from quarterback Zach Maynard on the first play of the fourth quarter, made it 44-17 with a long punt return. Allen fumbled the ball but recovered it then broke free down the right sideline on his way into the end zone.Things will get significantly more challenging for the Bears now. They go on the road to face No. 14 Ohio State next Saturday then take a trip to second-ranked Southern California the following week.Maynard, making his first start of the season after being benched for the first three series in the loss to Nevada, completed 17 of 23 attempts for 229 yards and the touchdown to Allen.C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele both added short touchdown runs, and Daniel Lasco scored on a 77-yard run in the fourth quarter.Two big mistakes by the Bears defense - and an outstanding one-handed catch by the Thunderbirds' Cameron Morgan - kept the game from being a total blowout before halftime.Sorensen's Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expired fell incomplete, but Cal defensive back Steve Williams was called for pass interference, giving the Thunderbirds an extra play. Sorensen then heaved another long pass that Morgan pulled in for a 37-yard touchdown. Anthony tipped the ball in the air but Morgan alertly grabbed it with his left hand as he was falling out of the back of the end zone for the score.That was one of the few things that went right for Southern Utah.Sorensen, a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award, passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns to become the school's career leader, though most of it came in the second half after Cal built a substantial lead.It was a much better finish for the Bears, who fell behind early for the second consecutive week.They committed turnovers inside their own territory on consecutive drives in the first quarter and had 10 penalties for 96 yards before halftime.This time, Cal overcame its mistakes.Maynard was intercepted by Southern Utah defensive end James Crowser while attempting a screen pass in the first quarter, then freshman wide receiver Chris Harper fumbled away the Bears next possession following a short completion.Southern Utah (0-2) had its own issues on offense and couldn't take advantage of the good field position.The Thunderbirds took a 3-0 lead on Colton Cook's 40-yard field goal then spent the rest of the afternoon playing from behind.Cal scored on four consecutive possessions in the second quarter to go in front.Anderson's 7-yard touchdown run capped a 94-yard drive for the Bears, Sofele scored on a 12-yard run and D'Amato added a pair of field goals to give Cal a 20-3 lead.Southern Utah stayed close and pulled within 20-17 midway through the third quarter on Sorensen's 5-yard touchdown pass to Brown, but the Thunderbirds couldn't slow Cal down in the fourth.Sofele finished with 104 yards on 19 carries.NOTES: The Bears are 6-0 against FCS teams. ... Southern Utah won the coin toss but deferred. ... Cal played without starting right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, who injured his knee late in the loss to Nevada.

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

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AP

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

Last week both Stanford and Cal held “Pro Day,” an annual showcase where each school’s departing players audition for NFL scouts. 

To those unfamiliar with Pro Days, these events typically feature lots of men with stopwatches, a few TV news crews, and a group of players running 40-yard dashes, cone drills and 20-yard shuttles. The objective is to give NFL teams an opportunity to evaluate prospects up close and personal.

Since 1982, the top 300 or so prospects in the country have been invited each year to the NFL Scouting Combine, a centralized evaluation for all pro teams. Subsequent Pro Days held by individual schools provide a stage for players who weren’t invited to the combine. They also offer participants a chance to improve their combine performance or give interested teams another look.

At Cal’s Pro Day on Friday, Khalfani Muhammad turned a lot of heads with a 4.35 40-yard dash, faster than any running back recorded at the combine earlier this month. In fact, Muhammad’s time would have tied for fourth best overall. Wide receiver Chad Hansen also impressed with a 4.45 in the driving rain. Quarterback Davis Webb, who had some accuracy issues at the combine, had a good outing despite throwing a wet ball for much of the day. His predecessor, Jared Goff, was the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday attracted a lot of attention because of the presence of two projected first round draft picks — running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Over 40 NFL representatives were on hand, including 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Carolina Panthers head man Ron Rivera. Several sportswriters and local TV anchors covered the proceedings, which were also streamed live on ESPN3.

It was a far cry from the pre-Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw days, when Stanford had few pro prospects and Pro Days drew sparse turnouts. However, 31 Stanford players have been drafted in the last seven years, including four in the first round and six in the second. McCaffrey and Solomon will boost those numbers.

McCaffrey has been the Cardinal’s marquee player for the past two seasons. He set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and then rushed for 1,639 yards in ’16. Thomas had 25 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in the last two seasons and was named the Pac-12’s defensive lineman of the year last fall.

Surprisingly, most pundits now believe Thomas will go higher than McCaffrey in the draft. McCaffrey is currently projected to go middle or late first round. Thomas is expected to go in the top five. In fact, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper now has Thomas being taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft by that team down the road in Santa Clara.

NFL teams are split as to whether McCaffrey can be an every down back. Some see him as more of a complimentary, third-down type. At the combine, he excelled in the 40-yard dash (4.48), vertical jump (37.5”), cone drill (6.57) and both 20 and 60-yard shuttles (4.22 and 11.03), but did only 10 reps in the bench press. His overall rating at the combine was 5.99 (out of a possible 8.0). At Pro Day on Thursday, he put on a brilliant display in a number of receiving drills, showing off the versatility that many teams crave.

Thomas was one of the top performers at the combine, registering a 4.69 40, 30 reps in the bench press, a 126” broad jump, 6.95 cone drill and 4.28 shuttle. His overall rating was 6.85. On Pro Day, he did a number of position specific drills.

Unlike McCaffrey, who elected to skip the Cardinal’s post-season game, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays. The NFL’s post-combine analysis noted: “Thomas' bowl performance against North Carolina opened a lot of eyes, as he was all over the field in the Cardinal's win in a way that isn't even reflected in an impressive stat line (seven tackles, two for loss, sack).”

According to one NFL observer at Pro Day, “In the bowl game, Thomas went from the second round to maybe the second pick in the draft.”

Stanford coach David Shaw, understandably, is a huge fan of both players. He chafes at the suggestion McCaffrey can’t be an every down back.

“People may not want to talk about it, but race is a component in that discussion,” he told me at Pro Day. “Some teams want to put Christian in a box. ‘He’s a white running back, another Danny Woodhead.’ Well, he’s not. If you look at the film, what he did at the combine, and here today, he’s more of a Reggie Bush or a Ladainian Tomlinson. He’s a difference maker.”

Shaw also marveled at Thomas’s rise up the draft boards since his Sun Bowl performance.

“That’s the beauty of bowl games,” Shaw said. “What might seem meaningless to one guy can make 10 million dollars for another.”

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

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USATSI

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

BOX SCORE

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014.

Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice.

Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket.

The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer.

Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game.

Smith finished with 15 points.

Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons.

After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration.

THE BIG PICTURE:
Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds.

Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards.

UP NEXT:
Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.