It's time to question 'icing' the kicker


It's time to question 'icing' the kicker

"Im a man! Im 40! Ice Me!" Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State head coach

Ted Griggs

OK, Mike Gundy didnt actually say the last part of that quote -- but I wish he had.

Gundy, Oklahoma States head coach, gained national attention and became at Internet sensation in 2007 when he defended former starting quarterback Bobby Reid at a press conference after a critical column in The Oklahoman.

One of the things Gundy said about Reid was "Here's all that kid did: He goes to class! He's respectful to the media! He's respectful to the public! And he's a good kid. And he's not a professional athlete and he doesn't deserve to be kicked when he's down."

The same could be said about Stanfords placekicker, Jordan Williamson.

The redshirt freshman missed a 35-yard field goal as time expired that would have won yesterdays Fiesta Bowl for Stanford.

RELATED: Stanford suffers heartbreaking loss in Fiesta Bowl

As the 19-year old Williamson lined up for that kick, Gundy did what 99.9 percent of all college football head coaches would have done. He called a timeout to ice the kicker.

Icing the kicker is ploy to make him think a little longer about the stakes, to psych him out, to potentially give him what golfers call the yips. Is this really something a grown man getting paid hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of dollars should do to a 19-year old college student?

When I saw pictures of Oklahoma State fans and Gundy celebrating after Williamsons missed kick juxtaposed to shots of Williamsons tears (from which the ABCESPN cameras wisely and thankfully cut away), I instantly remembered Gundys 2007 speech where he went on to say, "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40! I'm not a kid. Write something about me, or our coaches. Don't write about a kid that does everything right, that's heart's broke ...

This isnt sour grapes, Oklahoma State won and Stanford lost, fair and square. There are scores of plays that go into a win or a loss. And to be fair, no one will ever know if Gundys timeout caused Williamson to miss the kick. Moreover, Gundy seems to be a very good man. He humbly gave Stanford credit after the Fiesta Bowl and dedicated the victory to the memory of the four members of the OSU athletic department who died in a plane crash this fall.

Gundy seems to have perspective. I just wish he -- and every college coach -- had more. Stanfords David Shaw also calls time outs to ice the kickers. He did it early in the season against lowly Duke and again before the Cowboys Quinn Sharp made a chip shot 22-yarder to win the game in overtime.

In fact, in the 2006 Orange Bowl, the two coaches who have won the most games in Division I college football history -- Florida States Bobby Bowden and Penn States Joe Paterno -- each successfully iced the other teams kickers. The Nittany Lions kicker missed an overtime field goal and Seminoles kicker missed not one, but two possible game-winners. The game ended with the two legends hugging and laughing about the missed kicks. Watching that, my stomach turned at the thought of two septuagenarian coaches playing head games with college kids, inducing failures that would perhaps haunt those players until they reached their 70s.

Of course, Bowden later had 12 of his 389 victories erased from the record due a minor scandal and Paterno is now embroiled in a major one. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

Admittedly, theres probably no way to make a rule against icing the kicker. Coaches can claim they are taking the time out to set their defense for a possible block. I just wish all college coaches would let a kid make a kick or not without employing the head games. After all, it is just a game and coaches should have enough class to remember that kids real job is to go class.

This isnt the pros where at least failing kickers like Buffalos Scott Norwood (who infamously missed a game-winner at the end of Super Bowl XXV) get paid. Jordan Williamson is a 19-year old student. Yes, hes getting a scholarship at one of the most prestigious (and expensive) universities in the world, but few would want to trade places with him when Stanford resumes classes in a few weeks.

The brief shots of his anguished face at the end of the game left me with two thoughts: First, Im glad Williamson has those few weeks to put this behind him. And second, as for icing a college student-athlete -- no matter who does it -- Gundys final words as he stormed out of that 2007 press conference to applause are perhaps the most appropriate of all.

It makes me want to puke, he said as he slammed the door.

Ted Griggs is the vice president and general manager of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days


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


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


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.

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.

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