Heisman Watch: Meet Robert Griffin III

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Heisman Watch: Meet Robert Griffin III

With four of the top seven teams in the country losing over the weekend, you better believe there was significant shakeup in both the BCS standings and Heisman Watch.

After his unbelievable performance against No. 5 Oklahoma, I couldn't resist the temptation anymore -- Robert Griffin III deserves to be in the top spot this week.

Can he legitimately win the award?

Rank Player, Position, School Recent Game Stats Season Stats Remaining Games 1 Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor 21-34, 479 yards, 4 TD, 72 rush yards in 45-38 win over No. 5 Oklahoma 245-336 (73), 3572 yards, 33 TD, 5 INT, 550 rush yards, 5 rush TD Texas Tech, No. 25 Texas 2 Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama 32 rush, 175 yards, 2 TD, rec. TD in 45-21 win over Georgia Southern 236 rush, 1380 yards (5.8 YPC), 322 rec. yards, 2 rec. TD At No. 24 Auburn 3 Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford 20-30, 257 yards, 2 TD, INT in 31-28 win over California 241-343, 2937 yards, 31 TD, 8 INT, 2 rush TD No. 22 Notre Dame 4 Case Keenum, QB, Houston 30-45, 318 yards, TD, rush TD in 37-7 win over SMU 309-421 (73), 4269 yards, 38 TD, 3 INT At Tulsa, Conf. USA title game (if beat Tulsa) 5 Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State 28-40, 366 yards, 4 TD, INT in 52-35 win at San Diego State 248-336 (74), 2915 yards, 35 TD, 6 INT Wyoming, New Mexico
On the bubble: Brandon WeedenQBOklahoma State, Montee BallRBWisconsin, Matt BarkleyQBUSC

Analysis:

1) Robert Griffin III: He burst onto the scene after throwing for 359 yards and five touchdowns in Baylor's upset victory over TCU back in Week 1, but fell off the radar as the Bears lost three of four games in October. After his jaw-dropping performance on Saturday, he can't be ignored anymore. For those of you who don't know his life story: Griffin III graduated high school a semester early and enrolled at Baylor for the 2008 Semester. He came in 1st place in the 400-meter hurdles at the Big 12 Championships and 3rd in the NCAA. He then started 11 games at QB as a true freshman, tore his ACL in the team's third game as a sophomore (redshirted), but bounced back the following year by combining for over 4100 yards and 30 touchdowns, while leading Baylor to its first bowl game since 1994. Now, he has Baylor at No. 18 in the BCS, and would be a lock to win the trophy if the Bears could play any defense.
2) Trent Richardson: When Richardson was a freshman, he backed up the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram. In 14 games, Ingram carried the ball 271 times to Richardson's 145 (not bad for a backup, huh?). In 2010, Ingram received 158 carries, and Richardson 112. Now that Richardson is the No. 1 back, he already has more touchdowns (22) in 11 games, than Ingram had in 14 games in 2009. If Ingram won the Heisman with those numbers, than Richardson should follow suit, right? Not necessarily. The competition is better this year than it was in 2009, when Stanford's Toby Gerhart came in second (on a team that was 8-4 entering the Heisman ceremony), and Texas' Colt McCoy came in third (3,869 total yards, 30 total touchdowns, 12 INT -- he probably wouldn't even be in the top 10 this year). Richardson needs a monster performance against Auburn, and less than stellar performances from the competition to have a chance.

3) Andrew Luck: After he led Stanford to a come-from-behind win over USC on October 29, Luck was considered a lock to take home the hardware. Then came Phil Simms' comment that 'Luck doesn't make big-time NFL throws," followed by Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian's declaration that he would take USC's Matt Barkley over Luck if he had the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In Stanford's last three games, Luck has completed 66 of his passes (72 first 8 games), averaged 240 passing yards per game (277 first 8 games) and thrown four interceptions (four in the first eight games combined). Are Simms and Sarkisian correct? Or could it be that the three games were played under wet and sloppy field conditions? Either way, Luck needs a 300-plus yard, four touchdowns, zero interceptions performance against Notre Dame on Saturday to regain the momentum he lost the past few weeks. If he delivers and Stanford wins, I think he will ultimately win.4) Case Keenum: Based on how he was playing in weeks prior, Keenum had a "down" game on Saturday with just one touchdown. However, he broke yet another NCAA record -- career completions. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell completed 1,403 passes from 2005-2008, but he now stands in second behind Keenum's 1,427. The sixth-year senior should have three more games to ensure nobody in the future can catch him, but the Cougars face a tough Tulsa team on the road this Saturday, with a birth in the Conference USA Championship Game on the line. A win and Houston will most likely face Southern Miss, and should they win that, an automatic birth in a BCS game. After coming this far, please don't fall short, Case.5) Kellen Moore: The southpaw from Prosser, Washington just won't go away. His efficiency is off the charts, but the loss to TCU derailed his chance of winning the trophy. He's a huge reason why Boise State has become one of the most successful programs in the country over the past five seasons, and he should be rewarded with a trip to New York City. I don't see Wyoming, or New Mexico preventing that from happening.

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

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AP

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

It’s only February, but this week marks the beginning of the 2017 football season in the Bay Area. Spring practice has arrived.

Most schools now begin “spring” practice in the winter. In the Pac-12, for example, Oregon State began on February 17, Arizona on Feb. 18 and Colorado on Feb. 22. Stanford’s drills start this Tuesday, while Cal’s kick off on March 15.

Schools are limited to a total of 15 sessions, and safety concerns have led the NCAA to strongly recommend that only eight involve full-contact drills. Indeed, if you ask most head coaches what they hope to gain from spring ball, the first thing most of them say is, “I hope no one gets hurt.”

There’s more to it than that, of course. Typically, spring is the time teams look to fill spots lost to graduation, resolve competition for starting spots, move players to new positions, and evaluate redshirts and early-admit freshmen. It also can be a time to find a quarterback and install a new system, which is the case at Cal this spring.

In certain parts of the country, spring practice is a much bigger deal than it is here in the Bay Area. As longtime Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey used to say, “we only have two major sports at Texas—football and spring football.”

In the SEC and Big Ten, huge crowds are commonplace for the spring intra-squad game. Last year for example, Ohio State drew 100,129 fans to its spring game. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Penn State and Nebraska routinely draw 75,000 to 90,000. Cal and Stanford are thrilled if 3,000 fans show up.

Perhaps the most significant spring practice in the history of Bay Area football took place in 1968 at Stanford. Head coach John Ralston had been recruited from Utah State in 1963 to turn around a moribund program that had won 14 games in five years, low-lighted by an 0-10 record in 1960.

But Ralston’s run-oriented attack wasn’t producing the kind of results Athletic Director Chuck Taylor had hoped for when he hired him. Taylor, a member of Stanford’s 1941 Rose Bowl championship team that introduced the T-formation to college football, and coach of Stanford’s ‘52 Rose Bowl team that lived and died by the forward pass, made a not-so-gentle suggestion to Ralston after three middling seasons: throw the football.

So Ralston recruited a couple of local quarterbacks who could sling it—Jim Plunkett from San Jose’s James Lick High School and Don Bunce from Woodside—and announced that he would switch to a pro-style passing game for the ’68 season. Spring practice would serve as the test kitchen for Ralston’s new offense.

Back in those days I was a wet-behind-the-ears sports editor of the Stanford Daily. My timing was good, as I was fortunate enough to cover the ’68 spring practice and football season. In the spring game, Plunkett completed 22 of 39 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns to solidify his hold on the starting job.

That fall, Stanford opened with San Jose State and Plunkett made his debut by throwing for four touchdowns—including three bombs to quarterback-turned-wide receiver Gene Washington—in a 68-20 rout. No one who was in the stadium that day will ever forget it…it was the beginning of a new era in Stanford football and, in many ways, a new era in college football.

Two years later, Plunkett led Stanford to the conference title and an upset win over Ohio State’s team of the decade in the Rose Bowl. He also won the Heisman Trophy over Notre Dame’s Joe (don’t call me THEES-man) Theisman.

Bunce, the forgotten quarterback, backed up Plunkett for two years before red-shirting his senior year (1970) so he’d have the job to himself in 1971. All he did was win another Pac-8 championship and Rose Bowl.

This spring has the potential to be another important milestone for Stanford and Cal with a new coaching staff at one school and major holes to fill at both.

Cal: New coach Justin Wilcox and his team open spring ball on Wednesday, March 15. The Bears will have three open practices—Friday March 24 at 3:30, Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m., and the spring game on Saturday, April 22, also at 11. The Pac-12 network will televise the spring game and admission is free. Cal’s March 24 practice will be preceded by “Pro Day” (also open to the public) at 10 a.m., when selected graduating players will work out before NFL scouts and coaches.

In addition to installing a new system and introducing a new coaching staff, Wilcox must find a replacement for record-setting quarterback Davis Webb (a key attraction on Pro Day). Wide receiver Chad Hansen, last season’s breakthrough star, returns to make the new QB’s job easier.

Stanford: The Cardinal divides spring practice into two sessions—February 28-March 12 and April 3-15, separated by a three-week break for dead week, finals and spring break. Four practices will be open to the public—Saturday, March 4 at 10 a.m., Sunday, March 12 at 11:45, Saturday, April 8 (time tbd), and the spring game on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m., which also will be televised on Pac-12 network.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday, March 23 is open to the public at 11:15. The main attractions will be running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, both of whom are turning pro after their junior seasons. Unlike McCaffrey, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays.

Coach David Shaw has a quality replacement for McCaffrey in junior Bryce Love, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry during the season and broke two long plays in the bowl game. But he will have to replace Thomas, record-setting kicker Conrad Ukropina, and possibly quarterback Keller Chryst, who is rehabbing from knee surgery.

We’ll be back with a roundup after the conclusion of spring ball. In the meantime, let's hope both Cal and Stanford unearth a few nuggets and that no one gets injured.

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

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USATSI

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.