SJSU's season possibly hanging in balance vs. Utah State

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SJSU's season possibly hanging in balance vs. Utah State

SJSU faces a fork in the road in its season Saturday when it matches up against one of the Western Athletic Conferences best teams in Utah State. Not that a loss would necessarily force the Spartans onto a course without a bowl berth at the finish line, but a win sure would help their cause.Saturdays homecoming game at Spartan Stadium is the first game in WAC play for both SJSU (4-1) and Utah State (4-2) and has large implications on standings with Louisiana Tech (5-0) rounding out the three favorites to win conference title.Were excited but still taking our season week by week, said junior quarterback David Fales about Saturdays important matchup. Our goal since the beginning has been to win the WAC, so every game within the WAC in big.The Aggies are lead by two playmakers on offense senior running back Kerwynn Williams and sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton and a stifling defense that ranks second in the WAC in yards allowed and has given up just seven touchdowns the least in the conference.Williams leads all WAC players in all-purpose yardage with 137.5 yards per game and rushing averaging 89.5 yards and undoubtedly the most explosive player on this Utah State roster.The most dynamic Aggie, however, is Keeton, who can use both his arm and his feet to accumulate yardage for Utah State. Keeton is fifth in the conference throwing with 247.5 yards per game and is also tenth in average rushing per game with 38.2 yards.Utah State is scary, said SJSU head coach Mike MacIntyre. They have a lot of speed. Their quarterback makes a lot of things happen not only with his arm but also his feet. He can buy time in the pocket and make plays.While Keetons rounded play impresses MacIntyre and causes a deal of concern for the Spartan defense, MacIntyre said he is even more concerned with the whereabouts of Williams on the field at any time during the game.Keeton makes a lot of plays but you always have to know where No. 25 (Williams) is he scares me the most, MacIntyre said. He catches the ball, runs it and thats when they win is when hes making plays.A game of Wheres No. 25 has become a common part of practice for the Spartans over their two-week preparation for Utah State with a bye last Saturday.Before every play, our coaches have been having us point him out Theres No. 25, said sophomore defensive tackle Travis Raciti. We do it almost as a form of intimidation and also recollection to know where he is every play.It seems the modified game of Wheres Waldo has given the Spartans an extra boost of confidence.Hes explosive, but well contain him, Raciti said.Neither Keeton nor Williams did much damage against Brigham-Young University this past Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Cougars. BYUs third-ranked defense in the nation allowing just 8.8 points per game held Keeton to 202 yards passing and WIlliams to just 18 yards rushing.SJSU faces both Utah State and Louisiana Tech at home this season. Should the Spartan defeat the Aggies Saturday, it could set up a showdown for the conference title in the seasons final game against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 24.First things first, though, for the Spartans, who just want to take this game against Utah State before anything else. SJSU lost a heartbreaker against Utah State last season on a touchdown pass with 47 seconds remaining in the game.MacIntyre not only wants to win Saturday for standings purposes but to also avenge the teams loss last season and added that his team knows how impactful this weekends game is on this season.They know it they understand how good Utah State is, he said. They know theyve beat us in heartbreaking fashion. No one on this team has beat that team.
INJURY REPORT Starters junior linebacker Keith Smith and sophomore wide receiver Jabari Carr are expected to play Saturday after missing the Sept. 29 12-0 win over Navy.

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.