Fiesta finale for Stanford, Luck

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Fiesta finale for Stanford, Luck

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Fiesta Bowl has just about everything you could ask for from a bowl game: two of the nation's best teams, most explosive offenses and underrated defenses, ready-for-the-NFL quarterbacks and this year's best case for changing the BCS.

OK, so maybe there's no national title on the line. LSU and Alabama get that honor under the current BCS format.

Still, when No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Stanford play Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, it figures to be one of those can't-miss shows, the kind that leaves fans asking "Did you see that?" the next day.

"This is about as good as it gets right here," Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. "I'm pretty sure everybody around the country will be watching."

Might as well start with the quarterbacks. They are, after all, two of the most intelligent, mature and prolific ones out there.

PREVIEW: No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State

Stanford's Andrew Luck has been projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft almost since his days at Stratford High in Houston. Last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, he made it two straight just misses after returning for a stellar senior season.

Prototypically sized, deceptively agile and mature beyond his years, Luck tore through Stanford's record book almost as often as he did opposing defenses and improved his NFL-ready resume by calling some of his own plays this season.

"There is a reason why he is going to be the first player picked in the draft, because he is very good at what he does and he's had a lot of success the last couple years," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.

Gundy's quarterback is no slouch.

Weeden won't challenge Luck for the No. 1 pick, but he certainly could give the big Cardinal a run in the Fiesta Bowl.

Agile and accurate with a big right arm, Weeden came seemingly out of nowhere to pile up yards and touchdowns as a junior and continued it this season, putting together one of the most impressive two-year runs in Oklahoma State history.

He forced people across the country to learn how to spell his last name - it ends with "en," not "on" -- with his prodigious numbers and throws.

Weeden isn't mature beyond his years like Luck, though. He's just mature; a 28-year-old former professional baseball player who's married and doesn't get caught up by trivialities that might slip up younger players.

"He is great. He has put up numbers. He has done it winning," Stanford co-defensive coordinator Derek Mason said. "Any time you can do that, you put yourself in an elite category of quarterbacks. That's what he is."

Led by their two quarterbacks, Oklahoma State and Stanford have the kind of offenses that turn defensive coordinators inside-out at night trying to figure ways of slowing them down.

The Cowboys have arguably the most dynamic player in college football in Justin Blackmon, only the second two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver.

Oklahoma State also has a big, powerful offensive line and good balance, with running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith combining for over 1,800 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns. The Cowboys were second nationally in scoring offense at nearly 50 points per game and third in total offense with 557 yards per game.

So many weapons, but stopping the Cowboys begins with stopping their best player.

"You start with Blackmon," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "He is the best receiver in the nation. He is great after the catch. He is a big, physical kid. He makes tough catches look easy. As soon as his feet hit the ground to jump up to make a catch, he is at full speed. He is a difference maker. He is a game changer."

Luck makes the difference across the field, but the ironic thing is that for all the attention he gets, the danger in Stanford's offense is its ability to run teams over.

Behind a moving wall of an offensive line, the Cardinal have one of the best ground games in the country, averaging 207 yards per game. Stepfan Taylor was the team's leading rusher, becoming the third player in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in consecutive season with 1,153 this season, and there are four others with the ability to churn out yards, including the deceptively agile Luck.

Stanford ran the ball 54 percent of the time this season and had 2,495 yards rushing, third-most in school history, setting up Luck and the passing game.

"They never get tackled for the loss. They continue to drive their feet and move the pile,"

Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "They are a very patient offense from the standpoint if they can make 2 or 3 yards, they will try to get 3 or 4 more on second down, and then they will hit you with a play-action pass when you are sucking it up to play the run too much."

The final bit of intrigue is the it-could-be-us argument from a pair of teams that finished 11-1 -- the same record as Alabama, which earned the No. 2 spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

The Cardinal's lone loss was Nov. 12 to Oregon, which won the Pac-12 and is playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl earlier Monday. Stanford wasn't close to Alabama in the final BCS rankings, but could make a case for a spot in the title game if the system was different.
Oklahoma State can make an argument either way.

The Cowboys' loss, to Iowa State on Nov. 18, wasn't a particularly good one, but there were extenuating circumstances: The team was still reeling from the death of Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna in a plane crash the day before.

The computers don't look at why a team lost, only who it lost to, so the Cowboys finished third in the BCS, an agonizingly close .0086 behind the Crimson Tide.

"The system is in place. It worked out. We came up little bit short," Weeden said. "If you looked back and you said before the year started we wanted to go to the national championship, you probably thought we were crazy. But our goal was to go to a BCS game."

The Cowboys got there -- and it could be a doozy.

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

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No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

BOX SCORE

MORAGA — Jock Landale scored 17 points and No. 20 Saint Mary's beat Santa Clara 70-56 on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference regular season finale for both teams.

Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson scored 13 points apiece and Dane Pineau added 10 points to help the Gaels (26-3, 15-3) complete a season sweep of the Broncos.

Saint Mary's will get a week off before playing in the WCC tournament as the No. 2 seed in Las Vegas next week.

The Gaels will go in at full strength after suffering a brief scare midway through the second half. Joe Rahon, the team's emotional leader and workhorse in the backcourt, limped off the court with an apparent knee injury and was taken into a tunnel to be examined. He returned to the court a few minutes later wearing tape around his right leg below the knee. He then later got his entire knee wrapped.

Saint Mary's led by as many as 20 in the second half despite coming out of halftime missing six of seven shots with two turnovers.

Landale, as he has much of the season, got the Gaels back on track with a short hook over Henrik Jadersten to start a 10-0 run. Landale later scored on consecutive trips down the floor to push Saint Mary's lead to 66-47.

Jared Brownridge and Matt Hauser scored 15 points apiece for Santa Clara. The Broncos (16-15, 10-8 WCC) lost for only the second time in the last five games.

The Gaels led nearly the entire way.

Saint Mary's came out strong from the perimeter, making five of seven shots beyond the arc in the first half. Naar had two of the 3s and was one of six Gaels players to score as part of an 11-2 run that pushed their lead to 41-29 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: Another tough night for the Broncos, who couldn't get much going despite Saint Mary's going through a pair of lulls on offense. Brownridge scored nine of his team's first 11 points, a pattern that played out much of the game. Jadersten gave Santa Clara an early lift with two 3s but picked up three fouls over a span of 1:41 minutes during the first half.

Saint Mary's: With four straight wins the Gaels have regained some of the momentum they lost after falling to No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 11 for the second time this season. A third showdown between the conference's two best teams appears likely.

UP NEXT

Santa Clara: The Broncos are the fourth seed for the WCC tournament and will have a bye in the first round.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels also receive a first-round bye and won't play until March 4.

Stanford falls short, can't complete upset against Oregon

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Stanford falls short, can't complete upset against Oregon

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Oregon survived its Bay Area trip by the slimmest of margins.

Jordan Bell scored on a putback with 14 seconds left to give the sixth-ranked Ducks their second straight nail-biting victory in a rare Bay Area sweep as Oregon beat Stanford 75-73 on Saturday.

"It stresses Coach out," guard Dylan Ennis said. "It shows us that we can just get gritty, get down and get the win. ... Hopefully if we're down like that again we can fight back and do the same thing."

Bell's game-winner followed Dillon Brooks' last-second, tiebreaking 3-pointer three nights earlier at California to give Oregon (26-4, 15-2 Pac-12) its second sweep of its conference Bay Area rivals since 1976. The other came two years ago.

Tyler Dorsey scored 15 points to lead Oregon, while Brooks added 14.

"It's been a tough road trip for us, two close games," coach Dana Altman said. "That's life on the road. We found a way."

Reid Travis had 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for the Cardinal (14-14, 6-10), but committed a turnover on the final possession to end any comeback hopes on senior day that honored Christian Sanders, Marcus Allen and Grant Verhoeven.

"There's a little extra when you see guys like Christian, Marcus and Grant shedding tears when they're getting called up," Travis said. "It's the last time they get to compete on this court. ... Just looking at that, there's no choice but to be motivated."

Stanford trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half but battled back to tie the game five times in the second half. But it took until that fifth equalizer for the Cardinal to take their first lead since being up 9-8 early in the first half.

Travis' jumper in the lane made it 71-69 with less than 3 minutes left but the lead was short-lived as Brooks hit a jumper at the other end to tie it.

The game was tied at 73 when the Ducks managed four offensive rebounds on one possession before finally converting on Bell's shot with 14 seconds left. It capped a wild sequence that started when Ennis shot an airball on a 3-pointer. Payton Pritchard caught the ball in the air and shot it to the rim before the shot clock expired. Bell was there to put back the second miss for the game-winner.

"It was going so fast I don't even know what happened," Altman said.

Travis lost the ball in the paint at the other end to seal the victory for Oregon.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks capped a 7-1 February with just their second road sweep of the conference season as they peaking at the right time of year. Their only loss in that span came on a late 3-pointer by Lonzo Ball in an 82-79 loss at UCLA. Oregon has one more road game left to finish the regular season at last-place Oregon State, and remains in contention for a Pac-12 title and a top two seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford: The Cardinal were unable to follow up home wins against California and Oregon State when faced by tougher competition from the Ducks. That has been an issue all season for Stanford, which fell to 0-8 against ranked opponents.

THEY SAID IT

"Something hit my elbow. It might have been the wind, but I don't shoot airballs on game-winners." - Ennis.

POUND THE BOARDS

Oregon had just eight rebounds for the entire first half before getting the four offensive boards on the final possession of the game. The Ducks were outrebounded 37-25 for the game but were outscored by only four points on second-chance opportunities.

CEREMONIAL DAY

Stanford also held a halftime ceremony for former coach Mike Montgomery, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this past November. Montgomery is the winningest coach in school history with 393 of his 677 wins coming for the Cardinal.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Stanford: Visits Colorado on Thursday.