Stanford suffers heartbreaking loss to Ok. State in OT, 41-38

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Stanford suffers heartbreaking loss to Ok. State in OT, 41-38

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. (APCSN) -- Brandon Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns to Justin Blackmon in their final collegiate game, leading No. 3 Oklahoma State to a 41-38 overtime win against Andrew Luck and No. 4 Stanford in a wildly entertaining Fiesta Bowl on Monday night.The most anticipated postseason game outside of the BCS championship, the Fiesta Bowl was an impressive offensive show, two of the nation's best teams trading big plays and scores.Oklahoma State (12-1) came up with the last one on Quinn Sharp's 22-yard field goal in overtime to win its first BCS bowl game, earning the right to stake claim at being No. 1 in The Associated Press poll should Alabama beat LSU in the BCS title game."Our team rallied. Every time we got down, they just found a way to come back," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, who dedicated the victory to the four people who died in the Nov. 17 plane crash that killed Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna.The Cowboys, who never led until the final play, were fortunate to get a chance in overtime.After getting the ball back with 2:35 left in the fourth quarter and the score tied, Luck drove the Cardinal within field goal range in the closing seconds. Stanford couldn't finish it off, though. Redshirt freshman Jordan Williamson hooked a 35-yard field goal wide left as time expired, then missed from 43 yards in overtime.Williamson was sobbing in front of his locker after the game and didn't speak with reporters."In the end, we lost, and I'm as much to blame as anyone," Luck said.Luck hit 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns in his final game before heading to the NFL. Stepfan Taylor ran for 177 yards and a pair of scores, and the Cardinal (11-2) had 590 yards - nearly 200 more than Oklahoma State - but couldn't pull out their second straight BCS bowl victory."Our kids played hard," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "They just didn't finish the game."Usually balanced, Oklahoma State had just 15 yards rushing on 13 carries, but Weeden made up for it, completing 29 of 42 passes and the three scores to Blackmon, who had eight catches for 186 yards.After the game, Blackmon said he will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft. He is expected to be selected high in the first round.Weeden threw what he thought was the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime, a 25-yarder to Colton Chelf. But the celebration was put on hold after officials put the ball just inside the 1-yard line after a video review.Oklahoma State didn't go for the touchdown, instead setting up the field goal attempt by Sharp, who sent the Cowboys rushing onto the field after his kick went through the uprights."I think coast to coast, people have a lot of respect for Oklahoma State football," Gundy said. "What a great job by our players to battle back all night."The Fiesta Bowl needed a pick-me-up game after the year it had.Last year's game was a dud on pretty much all accounts. Connecticut had trouble filling its allotment of tickets and keeping up with Oklahoma - a 44-10 rout - leading to a big dip in the ratings.Not long after that, the bowl got tangled in controversy, nearly losing its BCS status following financial improprieties that were uncovered and led to the firing of executive director John Junker.This matchup figured to be the ticket to match the golden jackets worn by Fiesta Bowl officials.Oklahoma State has an electrifying offense - second in scoring, third in total yards - run by the 28-year-old Weeden and featuring Blackmon, the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner.The Cowboys also came in with a chip on their shoulder, believing they should have gotten a shot at the BCS title game instead of it being a rematch of the field-goal-kicking Game of the Century earlier this season between Alabama and LSU.Finishing a tantalizingly close .0086 behind the Crimson Tide in the BCS standings, Oklahoma State had plenty to prove, with booster T. Boone Pickens saying the Cowboys should get first-place votes in The Associated Press poll with a Fiesta win and a loss by LSU in the title game.Across the field was Stanford, another one-loss team that could have a legitimate beef with the BCS system.The Cardinal lost to eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon and crushed nearly everyone else with an offense that was top-15 in scoring and yardage. Stanford also has Luck, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up and all-but-certain No. 1 overall NFL pick, complemented by a powerful running game that's as good as any anywhere.The Fiesta Bowl had a pretty good lead-in, too: Oregon's wild, 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.Stanford was the only team to live up to the billing in the early going.Manhandling Oklahoma State's defense up front, the Cardinal had 225 yards by early in the second quarter and led 14-0 after Luck hit Ty Montgomery on a 53-yard touchdown pass and Jeremy Stewart ran for a 24-yard score.Oklahoma State's offense was stranded in the desert early: Weeden threw an interception on his first pass, the Cowboys had 27 yards while failing to score in the opening quarter for the first time this season and Blackmon was nowhere to be found.That changed in the second - and quickly.Blackmon caught his first pass by splitting the middle of Stanford's defense for a 43-yard touchdown catch, then showed off his power on the next, brushing off a defender like a jacket over his shoulder before racing for a 67-yard touchdown that tied it 14-all.Two big catches, 110 yards and the offensive show was on.Stanford answered with an 80-yard drive in eight plays, capped by Taylor's 4-yard touchdown run. The Cardinal left too much time, though, and the Cowboys raced down the field for Weeden's first career rushing touchdown, an ugly-but-effective 2-yarder that made it 21-all at halftime.Stanford opened the second half with a yard-churning drive for a 6-yard touchdown pass from Luck to Zach Ertz to put the Cardinal up 28-21.Oklahoma State had a great opportunity after recovering Geoff Meinken's fumble at Stanford's 4-yard line, but had to settle for a field goal. After a Stanford field goal, Weeden found Blackmon for a third time, on a 17-yard crossing pass that tied the game at 31.Taylor put Stanford up 38-31 with 4 12 minutes left, ducking behind Stanford's massive offensive line for a 1-yard touchdown. Oklahoma State answered quickly, moving 67 yards in less than two minutes to tie it on Joseph Randle's 4-yard touchdown run.Luck seemingly had the Cardinal in position after moving 63 yards, but Williamson couldn't come through, sending the game to overtime, where the Cowboys celebrated by mobbing each other in front of the OSU student section - and then again on the field after the replay and Sharp's kick.
Coby Fleener, who led Stanford with 10 touchdowns during the regular season, left the game in the 3rd quarter with an ankle injury.

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.