Stanford wary of speeding Ducks


Stanford wary of speeding Ducks

Steve Berman

Stanford students have a lot of reasons to feel great going into this weekend. First of all, they go to Stanford, where the autumns are temperate and everyone seems too busy changing the world to let a little thing like a football game with National Championship implications dominate their thoughts.

"This campus does a great job of keeping your perspective," Cardinal head coach David Shaw said.

"I talked to a doctor on campus who's working toward steps to curing cancer. Stanford vs. Oregon is not high on his list. He's going to be at the game, but he's got a lot of stuff to do between now and then."

Shaw was laughing as he said it, and he also knows that interest in what happens within the confines of Stanford Stadium has never been higher. For instance, Chris Fowler, ringmaster of the ESPN Gameday circus set to descend upon The Farm, was chatting with Shaw after practice yesterday in a t-shirt and shorts.
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Fowler had just completed a workout at one of the facilities on campus. Because when you're at Stanford, that's what you do.

Even though the Bay Area is decidedly more interested in its professional teams, and despite Stanford's smallish undergrad population compared to the rest of the Pac-12 (less than 7,000), there should be enough rowdy, tree-cheering students to keep Lee Corso company even though the festivities start at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

But even though they wouldn't admit it, those fans who populate No. 3 Stanford's rowdy student section -- and the doctors on campus who work on curing cancer during the week -- are just a little bit concerned. In order to experience the rarity of a perfect season, they need to exact revenge on the No. 6-ranked Oregon Ducks.

And whenever anyone around Palo Alto brings up the Ducks, one word's always close behind.


TOMPKINS: Oregon-Stanford promises a shootout

Last year in Eugene, the Cardinal jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter and looked like one of the most advanced college offenses ever. Then Oregon outscored Stanford 49-10 over the last three quarters. Outran was more like it.

So you can't blame Stanford fans for having nightmares starring LaMichael James and Darron Thomas rushing for hundreds of yards and countless touchdowns, perpetually just out of the reach of Cardinal defenders. After all, that's pretty much what happened last year.

That's not to say Stanford fans aren't confident. They're riding the nation's longest winning streak and have a distinct style that seems built for the long haul: brute force mixed with creativity, both of which the Cardinal feature in abundance.

They also have the nation's preeminent quarterback. That's where pressure really comes into the mix. Forget the national television sideshow, the inequities of the BCS process and everything else. Andrew Luck won't be playing quarterback for Stanford much longer, and Saturday provides the chance for Luck to do even more than simply keep the nation's longest active winning streak alive. It's also a chance to nail down the school's first Heisman Trophy since Jim Plunkett won the award over 40 years ago.

KILLION: Shaw succeeding in the shadows

Even though Stanford is by nature a running team, it's tough for many to shake the feeling that for the Cardinal to beat the Ducks they'll need an enshrine-him-in-Canton-immediately performance from Luck. Or that the game will be a 53-52 shootout, with Luck trading scoring blows with Oregon's band of track stars without WR Chris Owusu or TE Zach Ertz.

Many of the questions earlier this week directed at Shaw and Stanford's players were in regards to the surface of play. Will Stanford have an advantage on natural grass? Not at all says Stanford's head coach.

"They're fast everywhere. They can be playing on sand," Shaw said of Oregon. "We're all playing on the same surface. LaMichael James is fast. Kenjon Barner is fast. Darron Thomas is fast."

RELATED: Pac-12 game of the year

However, the prevailing wisdom in these parts is that while Stanford can put points on the board against anyone the Pac-12 -- or even the SEC -- has to offer, the road to victory requires a speed limit.

Steve Berman is the Bay Area Sports Guy and a contributor to Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @BASportsGuy

How Texas-made quarterback Davis Webb fell in love with Berkeley

How Texas-made quarterback Davis Webb fell in love with Berkeley

Texas is all Davis Webb knew for the first 21 years of his life. The 6-foot-5 NFL hopeful grew up in the Dallas area of Prosper, excelled at Prosper High School and became the second true freshman ever to start at quarterback for Texas Tech University — a five-hour drive from his hometown. Calling his transition West to Berkeley a whole new world is easily an understatement. 

"I knew it was going to be different, but I don’t think I knew how different it is compared to Dallas, Texas, or Lubbock, Texas," Webb told in an exclusive phone interview. "It’s a complete 180 from where I spent the first 21 years of my life. 

"But at the same time, I’m in love with Berkeley."

Webb's love for Berkeley began where you might expect — on the gridiron. As soon as he arrived on campus in late May, Webb hit the field to throw with his eventual leading receiver, Chad Hansen, and other new teammates as well.

"I created a bunch of new friendships and we competed and got after it hard that summer," Webb said. "I fell in love with Cal, I fell in love with my teammates and I fell in love with the university.”

After acclimating with his new teammates and feeling more comfortable in his new home, Webb soon indulged all the Bay Area has to offer. The new guy on campus frequented the press box atop Memorial Stadium and gaze out to the Golden Gate Bridge and the arresting view before it. He attended Oakland A’s games at the Coliseum, San Francisco Giants games at AT&T Park, and Cal basketball games at Haas Pavilion.

“I love that place,” Webb said. “I love the [Berkeley] strip, I love my teammates, I love the Bay Area. I love the weather, obviously. The food was great and there’s beautiful women everywhere.”

Coming from one of the most conservative areas in the country, Webb quickly immersed himself in Berkeley's liberal landscape.

“It was a great experience and it was different," he said, "but I was prepared for it and my teammates helped me along the way.”

He made it an easy transition, but it wasn't one Webb ever expected to make. He broke Big 12 records as a true freshman at Texas Tech and ended his first season with an upset win over No. 15 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, earning MVP honors. His efforts on the field even helped force 2016 Heisman runner up Baker Mayfield to transfer to Oklahoma. But a torn left labrum and a subsequent ankle injury limited him to eight games as a sophomore and he eventually lost his starting job to Patrick Mahomes II (another top prospect in the 2017 draft). In Webb's junior year, head coach Kliff Kingsbury went with Mahomes, spurring Webb's transfer.

Webb initially signed financial aid papers in January 2016 to enroll in the University of Colorado, but when Cal hired Jake Spavital -- who Webb calls the best offensive coordinator in the country -- he maintained an open mind. 

And there was one specific attribute that cemented Cal as the gunslinger's final decision.  

"It’s 'QB U.' It really is," Webb professed. "It’s kinda 'Silent QB U,'" he added, rattling off a list of the school's first-round draft picks.

The decision to join Cal in 2016 put Webb at the helm of former head coach Sonny Dykes' Air Raid Offense.

“Everybody wants to hate on the Air Raid system, but it’s a fun game and without the Air Raid system I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Webb said.

At Texas Tech, Webb experienced the highs and lows of a college athlete on the biggest stage. After losing his job, a sour taste could have followed him to Cal. But Webb took the same approach he always has — to lead on and off the field. Webb was named a captain after just eight weeks at Cal, a goal he made coming to the school after wearing the "C" for Texas Tech.

Academically, Webb maintained just under a 4.0 GPA in Cal’s graduate public health school. Webb is taking a break from his studies to pursue an NFL career, but he understands Cal's academic prestige, and, with one third of his graduate degree complete, Webb vows to finish what he started.

“To get a Cal degree is something not many people can say and I want that degree, and I’m gonna get it” Webb said. “It’s just a matter of needing a little break right now and focusing on my football abilities. Having that public health degree, being the No. 1 public institution in the country isn’t something I take lightly.”

With most of Cal’s games coming on Saturdays, Webb knocked out as much schoolwork as possible on Sundays and Mondays and then it was all football for him, either in the facilities or on the field from 7:30 a.m. to nearly 11 p.m. every day.

“It was a great day. It was a great three months that I had there and I’m never gonna forget it,” Webb said.

Four years of college at two different schools put Webb on a long, winding road toward the draft. Through it all, Webb moves on from collegiate sports bleeding just under 10,000 yards and 83 touchdowns of Red Raider and Golden Bear blood. 

“I got everything I wanted out of Cal and then some,” says Webb. “I’m gonna call Cal my home for the rest of my life. Cal and Texas Tech are always gonna have a place in my heart. I’m just thankful Cal gave me an opportunity. I’m gonna go back there and get my degree and be around Cal as much as I can for the rest of my life.”

Three months on campus is all it took for the Texas-made quarterback to fall in love with Berkeley. With unfinished business in the classroom, he will be back in the Bay Area — perhaps for the long haul in the place he can already call home.


Check out Part 1 of our interview with Davis Webb as he looks at the NFL Combine and how he's preparing to separate himself from the other quarterbacks in the 2017 draft class.

Landale leads with double-double in Saint Mary's dominant win


Landale leads with double-double in Saint Mary's dominant win


MALIBU -- Jock Landale had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 20 Saint Mary's to a 78-49 victory over Pepperdine on Thursday night.

The Gaels (25-3, 15-2 West Coast) continued to roll in winning 10 of their last 11 games. Their only loss in that stretch was to No. 1 Gonzaga.

Lamond Murray Jr. had 17 points for Pepperdine (9-20, 5-12), which lost its third consecutive game.

A power outage caused the lights to go out with 18:41 left in the second half. Pepperdine official Roger Horne said power surges throughout campus caused the 15-minute delay. Players stayed loose by shooting in the dark.

The delay didn't slow down Saint Mary's, which led 41-21 before the lights went out. Landale, the junior center from Australia, had an empathic dunk for the first basket after play resumed and the Gaels cruised from there.


Saint Mary's did what it needed to do in recording another road victory. The Gaels and Landale continued to flex their usual muscles as they dominated in the paint and outrebounded the Waves 47-29.

Pepperdine has weathered the storm of an injury-plagued season and played with its 10th lineup of the season. Chris Reyes (heel) was ruled out for the season on Thursday, but the Waves still suited up nine players.


Saint Mary's returns home to play its regular-season finale against Santa Clara on Saturday, the final tuneup before the WCC Tournament. The Gaels won the last matchup, 72-59.

Pepperdine plays its last home game on Saturday against San Francisco. It's the final game at Firestone Fieldhouse for guard Jeremy Major, who is scheduled to make his 122nd career start, which would become most in school history.