Last Saturday in San Antonio, the San Jose State University football team captureda decisive 52-24 victory over UTSA while assuming the role of the favored teamand battling a large crowd at the Alamo Dome. This Saturday, the team will faceanother longhorn opponent in Texas State for the first timein school history and like a week ago, the Spartans are the favorite towin.I dont know if the kids knowif theyre favored or not, thats all done by bookies, head coach Mike MacIntyre said. All wecare about is what we do on the football field. We are excited about playing Texas State.Whether the team or coachesrealize the team is favored or not, the notion of being the better team on thefield is something the Spartans will have to recognize not only this weekendagainst the Bobcats but over the next three weeks with games against Idaho and New Mexico Stateto follow.I hope thats something theyrenot thinking about, MacIntyre said about the idea of the team resting on itslaurels while playing a somewhat inferior opponent. If they are, thats notwhere we want to be.Games like the one against UTSA,the 45-13 trampling of UC Davis or even the 40-20 win over Colorado Stateon Sept. 15 are giving the Spartans the opportunity to keep their feet on theiropponents throats while maintaining the large lead.Weve been very fortunate thisyear to have a couple games in hand and our kids have Put on more steam tomake sure we kept it in hand, he said. Thats something we try to talk about,try to work on, try to enforce because in the past we didnt always do that.This Saturday at Spartan Stadiumwill most likely shake out as another opportunity for SJSU to jump out to anearly lead and pin their opponents to the ground while continuing to amasspoints on the scoreboard. The Bobcats are an FCS team playing their first roadgame within the Western Athletic Conference theres no surprise SJSU is thefavorite to win.MacIntyre, though, gives creditto the Texas State offense that ranks fifth in theconference in yards per game, adding that the SJSU will need to be in good formto stop the Bobcats.Their option offense is veryformidable and can make a lot of things happen, he said. Our defense is goingto have to be very sharp and on top of its game to be able to slow them down.Offensively, Texas Stateis led by quarterback Shaun Rutherford, who ranks fifth in the conference andtwelfth nationally in pass efficiency with a rating of 161.7. SJSU, however,counters and one-ups the Bobcats with its own prolific quarter back in DavidFales, who leads the conference and is tenth in the nation in the samestatistical category with a 166.4 passer rating.MacIntyre had nothing but praisefor Fales, who was sacked 13 times in SJSUs 49-27 loss to Utah State,for not allowing the hits to get to his head even though he was not sacked oncelast week against UTSA.When asked if Fales mindsetbehind center changed after being sacked so many times two weeks ago, MacIntyreresponded: Not one bit.Its interesting because youdthink he might (change his mindset) but it didnt change him whatsoever,MacIntyre said. He never batted an eye in the game, not one time. Never showedany disgust or even think about it, he just went back into the game. I thinkthats a credit to his toughness and how humble a leader he is. Hes not an ego guyat all and he just wants to do whatever he can to win. The kids the reallyrespect him and I think that really helped the offensive line because he trustand believes in them.MacIntyre is concerned that Texas Statespass rush may be able to get to Fales on Saturday despite ranking last in theconference in sacks.Offensively, we have to containtheir pass rush, he said. They do a good job of getting to the quarterback.Along with its star quarterbackto counter Texas States,the Spartans have the best pass defense in the WAC to help stop Rutherford. SJSUs 40th-ranked pass defense in the nationis allowing just 211.1 passing yards per game.MacIntyre is confident that theSJSU passing game can once again take over the game if the running gamestruggles. SJSU averages 100 yards rushing per game, compared to Texas States162. The Spartans gained just 91 yards on 32 rush attempts and were outgained onthe ground by UTSA.Of course wed like to run theball better and hopefully we can but theyre good on defense so if they stopthe run well throw the football, he said.Expect the running backs to takea back seat to both teams passing attacks Saturday. The ball is sure to beaired out quite a bit and look for Fales to outperform his counterpart.
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.”
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.
Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.