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.

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.