No Luck is bad luck


No Luck is bad luck

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Scott Reiss will be in New York for comprehensive coverage of the awarding of the Heisman Trophy. Follow all the news on SportsNet Central.This Heisman vote is a sham.And before you go accusing the Stanford guy of being a homer, let me state for the record: Robert Griffin III is a deserving Heisman candidate. Hes an electrifying player who has had an incredible season. But if RG3 wins, it will be for two reasons: one good, one ridiculous.The good is obvious: 4,000 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Nine more touchdowns rushing. The ridiculous (and the sham part): The Big 12 had no championship game.Stay with me here. If the Big 12 had a title game, as it did in previous years, Baylor -- which was in the South Division with Oklahoma State -- would not have played in that game. Which means the Bears would have finished their season a week ago. Like Stanford. Like Alabama. And Griffins performance against Texas -- though quite nice -- simply would have been considered a draw with Lucks four-TD effort against Notre Dame and Richardsons 200-plus yards against Auburn.
But because RG3 got to show off his stuff against a mediocre Texas team on Championship Saturday, he got the closing argument. Last change. Final at bat. Pick your metaphor. And again, his team was simply playing a regular-season game.There are two Heisman tracking polls which are considered to be most accurate in predicting the ultimate winner. Prior to Saturday, one had Richardson over Luck by a hair, with Griffin third; the other had Luck over Griffin and Richardson by more than a hair. Yet RG3 was able to completely turn the tide (no pun intended) on the national stage.This is the same phenomenon that occurred in 2009, when Stanford's Toby Gerhart lost out to Alabama's Mark Ingram. Alabama played on the final Saturday, Ingram went for 100-plus yards and three scores, and the tide turned (OK, this time I meant it). Gerhart, by the way, rushed for 200-plus and three scores the week before against Notre Dame. But how can voters be expected to think back that far?Gerharts numbers -- at the same position -- were superior to Ingrams in every way -- by a lot. And dont give me the but Ingram played in the SEC baloney. There were statistical algorithms which accounted for the tougher competition, and Toby still had superior numbers. The result? Ingram by 28 points, the closest vote in Heisman history. You dont think the recency effect (and the fact that Stanford didnt promote its guy at all -- but thats another gripe) might have accounted for that slimmest of margins? Without question it sunk Gerhart, and it might well sink his former teammate.The only silver lining here -- if youre a disgruntled Stanford fan who cringes at the thought of another Alabama running back beating out a Cardinal for the award -- is that this time around, the 'Bama guy is in the same boat. Wisconsin's Montee Ball went nuts in the Big Ten Championship game and surely convinced a bevvy of voters (and rightly so, I would add) that he is, in fact, the best running back in America. The numbers certainly support it (Ball 1,759 yards, 6.4 yardscarry, 32 rushing TDs Richardson 1,583-6.0-20 not even close!), and the recency effect clinches it.The difference between Ball and Griffin is simple: Montee was (unjustly) barely on the grid prior to Saturday; Griffin was already a legit contender. By the way, lest anyone dare try to use my logic against me and argue that, by way of the Ball-Richardson theory, Griffin is more deserving than Luck because his numbers are better, slow your roll (did I really just type that?). The better stats argument is fine for running backs. Quarterbacks need to be evaluated on a completely different level, as there are so many intangibles that come into play. Fortunately, I dont need to make the Luck intangibles argument. David Shaw did a fine job of that last week.So when the announcement is made in Manhattan this coming Saturday, let nothing surprise you. Luck could still win. Richardson could still win. Or Baylor might indeed have its first ever Heisman recipient. And if the latter happens, at least youll know why.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset


Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset


BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.


A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find


From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”