No. 19 Stanford sluggish in 24-17 win over Cougars

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No. 19 Stanford sluggish in 24-17 win over Cougars

BOX SCORE
STANFORD -- Ed Reynolds returned an interception for a touchdown and No. 19 Stanford sacked Jeff Tuel 10 times to overcome a sloppy offensive effort in a 24-17 victory over Washington State on Saturday.Reynolds stepped in front of Tuel's pass for the safety's fourth interception - and second returned for a score - this season early in the fourth quarter. He ran 25 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Cardinal a two-touchdown lead and highlight another dominant defense effort that held the Cougars (2-6, 0-5 Pac-12) to minus-16 yards rushing.Stanford (6-2, 4-1) still produced little separation on the scoreboard due to an ineffective offense.Josh Nunes completed 7 of 15 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown and Ryan Hewitt ran for a short score. A week after running for a career-high 189 yards against rival California, Stepfan Taylor was held to 58 yards on 21 carries.If not for its defense, Stanford's Pac-12 North Division hopes might be dashed.Tuel led a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kristoff Williams with 6:29 to play to bring Washington State within a touchdown. Stanford managed two first downs before punting the ball back to Washington State.Marquess Wilson made a leaping 42-yard catch to give the Cougars the ball at the Stanford 23. And on fourth-and-21, Bobby Ratliffe caught a 25-yard pass from Tuel at the Stanford 9.Then Usua Amanam pressured Tuel as the quarterback threw the ball into the ground for a 15-yard intentional grounding penalty and an automatic 10-second runoff. With Washington State looking for one final heave to the end zone, Henry Anderson planted Tuel into the ground for a final sack as time expired.Tuel threw for 401 yards and two touchdowns. He completed 43 of 60 passes - mostly short outs that Stanford allowed - but needed one more.Then again, both teams had few offensive highlights in this one.Tuel hit Dominique Williams for a 43-yard completion, then went to him again when he floated a 3-yard TD pass to the corner of the end zone that put the Cougars ahead 7-3 midway through the second quarter.The rare lead for Washington State this season didn't last long.Just 47 seconds later, Nunes found Jamal-Rashad Patterson on a broken play with the cornerback blitzing and no safety help over the top. Patterson caught the short pass and sprinted down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown that put Stanford back in front 10-7 on its longest play of the season.Gabe Marks caught seven passes for 52 yards for Washington State before getting sandwiched by two defenders in the second quarter and limping off the field. The Cougars patiently dinked-and-dunked the ball down field to set up Andrew Furney's tying 24-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.The momentum never carried over.Stanford took advantage of a pass interference call on Anthony Carpenter that extended the opening drive of the third quarter. Hewitt bulldozed through the line for a 1-yard TD run - the fullback's first of the season - on third down to give the Cardinal a 17-10 lead, the only drive all game they looked in rhythm.Reynolds intercepted Tuel's pass and returned it for a score to put Stanford ahead 24-10 with 10:43 remaining. With the offense struggling to control the clock, Washington State made one final charge until the Cardinal defense again flexed its muscles.

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.