Stanford-Oregon promises a shootout


Stanford-Oregon promises a shootout

So, how good are the Stanford Cardinal? We will probably find out this weekend but a quick glimpse gives me a one-word answer: Very.

Reading one draft gurus early first-round selections Thursday morning showed no less than four members of the Stanford Cardinal projected as first-round picks. Four! Thats more than No. 1 LSU and No. 4 Alabama. And thats really good for any football team.

Looking ahead to Saturdays game against Oregon, what might not be so good is the fact that all four projected first-rounders play on the offensive side of the football. And, going into this game, the Stanford defense is the unit that needs to step up.

Thats what makes Saturdays game so compelling.

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Both Stanford and Oregon can score -- thats a given. So the bottom line in this game comes down to who can stop the other guy from scoring.

Another interesting aspect to Saturday is that this is the game that could put a headlock on the Heisman Trophy for Andrew Luck. If he comes up big, puts up big numbers and keeps the ball out of the hands of the other guys, hes a shoo-in for the sports most coveted trophy.

But, this game doesnt play to that scenario and nobody would share that thought more than the quarterback. If Stanford is going to win this game against Oregon it has to run the football and limit the Ducks' offensive possessions.

I do believe this game is going to be a shootout, but it needs to be a controlled shootout for the Cardinal to win. Meaning, take time off the clock, move the football, have long drives, limit turnovers and get the best of field position. I know that sounds like coach-speak but if it turns into a track meet, the Cardinal lose.

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Honestly, I dont think this version of the Oregon Ducks is quite up to the team that went to the national championship game last year -- at least on the defensive side of the ball. Stanfords offense just wears people out. They pound an opponent until all thats left is some sort of gelatinous glob with a number on it, and by games end the Cardinal can pretty much do what it wants. But, Oregon presents a different sort of problem.

The Ducks are able to set tempo because they simply run more plays than anyone else. They play quick, they score quick, and they knock opponents back on their heels to the point that theyre trying to beat Oregon at the Oregons own game.

So let me get to the bottom line and go quietly off into the sunset to watch what should be a great game.

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Stanford has to have sustained drives. It has to set the tone of how fast the game is played. It must limit what coaches call Explosion plays, and it has been vulnerable to them this season. Defensively, Stanford has to be disciplined and make the right reads or Oregon will eat their lunch.

Id feel a lot better about this game if Shayne Skov hadnt gone down with a season-ending injury, but do I think the Cardinal can win. Yes.

Its the rhinoceros of Stanford against the rabbits of Oregon, and we all know how mean and strong a rhinoceros can be -- if he can find you.

And thats the hard part.
Barry Tompkins is a regular contributor to Chronicle Live and

Memory of the late Bob Murphy will live on the heads of those who heard him


Memory of the late Bob Murphy will live on the heads of those who heard him

Bob Murphy, who was the voice of Stanford athletics when such titles truly mattered in the Bay Area, died Tuesday after a long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 86.

Murphy was viscerally connected to the university in ways that were once in vogue across the nation but are now reserved only to the Midwest and Southeast. He was a walking ambassador for the school’s athletic history, a familiar face to the army of alums who linked to his voice and presence early and ultimately grew old with him, even when coaches and players and athletic directors came and went with unsettling frequency.

And while his time as the alternate face to Hoover Tower eventually faded, he was still Murph – to be honored and respected by all generations, even the ones who never heard him or saw him. If anyone below the age of 25 asked about him, he was spoken of with the reverence reserved for architectural structures or hundred-year-old trees. He belonged to the place, and the place belonged to him.

He mattered at Stanford, because Stanford is an insular community, watching the world outside with a palpable sense of “Thank God we’re safe in here.” He attended the school, he worked as its sports information director, and he was the radio voice who fought for Stanford when only a few people were listening. He had proven his devotion decades ago, until his devotion became part of the background noise and scenery.

And he didn’t even leave after he became ill, and then absent. Only the most successful coaches and athletes get to attain that omnipresent aura in college athletics, and in truth, Murphy reached more people in the community than any coach or player the school has ever had, simply by being at the place, and of the place, longer and more happily than anyone.

Sometime soon, we suspect, he will be remembered with a statue, either near the football stadium or near Maples Pavilion. He will be bronzed, wearing a polo shirt with the S-with-the-interlocking-tree and glasses wedged against the bridge of his nose. He will be seated, with a desk before him and microphone perched atop it, and there will be a plaque with a Wikipedia-ized list of his contributions.

But without the voice, it will be incomplete. That will have to be recreated inside the heads of those who heard it most often, and cared most what words it carried. It is there where Bob Murphy’s memory will thrive – as someone who defined Stanford in ways that no marketing campaign ever could.

David Shaw is quietly the second-best coach in the Bay Area


David Shaw is quietly the second-best coach in the Bay Area

Steve Kerr has been the standard by which all other coaches have been measured in these parts since he arrived in Oakland – rescued as it was from the nine hells of the New York Knickerbockers. He is indeed so good that he is still getting credit for the 50 wins he actually didn’t fully merit – the 39 that belong to Luke Walton and the 11 that are Mike Brown’s.

But this is not to slag Kerr’s record – which even if you eliminate the 55 games he hasn’t coached in his three years because of his back issue is still the best in NBA history – but to remind you that David Shaw still exists, he still is supervising the golden age of Stanford football, and he is just as unavailable to pro teams as he ever was.

Shaw, whose team opens its season on Saturday night in Australia against Rice, has been beneath the radar since the day he arrived, for no better reasons than (a) the Bay Area doesn’t hold much stock in college football and (b) he likes it that way. His excellence is indisputable, but he is also in the perfect place to do his job without any of the irritants that surround most college coaches – media, embittered alumni, NCAA investigators, the late night call from the cops about your outside linebacker overturning a minivan, that kind of thing.

He has worn down all attempts to question him on his next job because, while he could get one at the snap of a finger, he was not infected with the standard coach’s ambition to see and be seen. He has seen the sport’s many excesses and has decided to ward off the ones that directly touch him.

He still believes in the game’s virtues, and can probably be considered a fairly doctrinaire figure on most issues confronting the sport and its practitioners, but does not have to pretend that he is too focused on the job to be interested in mundane things like eclipses, political turmoil, social justice and all the other noxious things that happen outside the cocoon.

But be not fooled. He likes the cocoon that is Stanford, and he has the sense to understand that the chance of a better job existing is almost infinitesimal. He may someday want something more public and lucrative, but until money and fame get a long winning streak going at his house, he’ll sit quietly, the second-best coach in the Bay Area and the first-best at making you not remember that he is just that.