Stanford's standing improves in BCS chaos

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Stanford's standing improves in BCS chaos

BOX SCORE

David Shaw called Stanfords 27-23 win over Oregon State Shakespearean, and in doing so laughed and said, Just trying to hide my Stanford education.

RECAP: Stanford tops OSU 27-23

But to be fair, at the time he said that, he was (a) focused on his own teams harrowing escape over the Beavers, (b) the redemptive efforts of running back, Stepfan Taylor, tight end Zach Ertz and quarterback Kevin Hogan, and (c) unaware that Deshazor Everett had actually thrown the BCS picture in a much less lyrical direction.

Hogan is the first-time starter at quarterback who became a veteran in four easy steps. Ertz is the senior tight end who fumbled early and scored late to put the Cardinals on their heels and then back on their toes. Taylor is the top-five running back who got stripped in the second quarter and then left Oregon State naked at the end of the third.

And Everett is the Texas A&M cornerback who intercepted the last pass of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron to preserve the Aggiess stunning 29-24 upset of the top-ranked Crimson Tide, and turn the entire BCSRose Bowl picture into a delicious and messy soup.

RECAP: No. 15 Texas A&M stun No. 1 Bama

And therein lies the true beauty of Stanfords resurgence into a national player. What they do is not merely a matter of entertaining the locals and warming the hearts of the parents. Their games create ripples that touch other teams, and other teams create ripples that touch them.

In this case, the Cardinal beat Oregon State, which moves them further toward the BCS conversation, which for them means a Rose Bowl berth. And Alabamas loss enhances Oregons chances of playing in the BCS title game. And if Notre Dame wins out, that makes it easier for Stanford to go to the Rose Bowl, even if it loses in Eugene next week.

Got it? Of course you dont. Nobody does. Stepfan Taylor, the hyper-elite Stanford running back, didnt even know that if the Cardinal beat Oregon next week and UCLA in two weeks that it could host the Pac-12 title game. He thought his 154 total yards and two touchdowns -- including his electrifying 40-yard catchrunevadestraight-armevade some morerun some more touchdown at the end of the third quarter -- were his last stand at Stanford Stadium.

Shakespeare? Shakespeare never got drunk enough to write this synopsis.

Shaw didnt even try to sort out the national ramifications. He was exchanging pleasantries with former coach Ted Tollner, now working for the Holiday Bowl, while hoping all along not to have to talk to him again until next year at the earliest.

That was when he wasnt praising Hogan, the sophomore quarterback who has in no time flat earned enough confidence that Shaw said he changed about 40 percent of the plays at the line, which is a remarkable number, against Oregon State.

Hes earned our trust, Shaw said of Hogan. When you start a new guy at quarterback early in the week, we knew he could handle quite a bit, but we didnt know how much. But by the end of the week, we knew we could give him the ability to change protections, change runs to passes, passes to runs.

He changed the play call on the Ertz touchdown at the line, and improvised the flip to Taylor. He looked like he should have been honored as a senior on their final regular season home game.

But it was also a game that showed Stanford at its worst, turning the ball over four times and taking eight penalties. In some ways, they were lucky to win the game at all, and had OSU quarterback Cody Vaz not actually stripped himself with 8:34 to play, Stanford might not have had the chance to win the game on Hogans 13-yard pass to Ertz.

In other words, the Cardinal were lucky to overcome themselves and the Beavers to escape a fate they had set for themselves by blowing an early two-touchdown lead.

But luck works in all directions, as the Giants can attest, and Stanford didnt let their misfortunes trump their ability to take advantage of Oregon States misfortunes, and in the narrow window the squeeze through to become a national college football factor, thats as good as being out-and-out lucky.

So it goes. Stanford is in better position to make the Rose Bowl than they were a week ago, much better position. They benefit from their own work and Texas A&Ms, and actually can only be helped by the continued successes of Oregon and Notre Dame, whereas a week ago, they needed just the opposite.

So Billy Don Shakespeare may be able to explain Ertz and Hogan and Taylor and the Cardinal giving up 23 unanswered points in the middle of a game they otherwise won, 27-0. But Shakespeare ends up having less to do with the big picture than J.K. Rowling.

You know. Someone with a much bigger imagination, and the ability to make serious bank on it.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

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AP

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

It’s only February, but this week marks the beginning of the 2017 football season in the Bay Area. Spring practice has arrived.

Most schools now begin “spring” practice in the winter. In the Pac-12, for example, Oregon State began on February 17, Arizona on Feb. 18 and Colorado on Feb. 22. Stanford’s drills start this Tuesday, while Cal’s kick off on March 15.

Schools are limited to a total of 15 sessions, and safety concerns have led the NCAA to strongly recommend that only eight involve full-contact drills. Indeed, if you ask most head coaches what they hope to gain from spring ball, the first thing most of them say is, “I hope no one gets hurt.”

There’s more to it than that, of course. Typically, spring is the time teams look to fill spots lost to graduation, resolve competition for starting spots, move players to new positions, and evaluate redshirts and early-admit freshmen. It also can be a time to find a quarterback and install a new system, which is the case at Cal this spring.

In certain parts of the country, spring practice is a much bigger deal than it is here in the Bay Area. As longtime Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey used to say, “we only have two major sports at Texas—football and spring football.”

In the SEC and Big Ten, huge crowds are commonplace for the spring intra-squad game. Last year for example, Ohio State drew 100,129 fans to its spring game. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Penn State and Nebraska routinely draw 75,000 to 90,000. Cal and Stanford are thrilled if 3,000 fans show up.

Perhaps the most significant spring practice in the history of Bay Area football took place in 1968 at Stanford. Head coach John Ralston had been recruited from Utah State in 1963 to turn around a moribund program that had won 14 games in five years, low-lighted by an 0-10 record in 1960.

But Ralston’s run-oriented attack wasn’t producing the kind of results Athletic Director Chuck Taylor had hoped for when he hired him. Taylor, a member of Stanford’s 1941 Rose Bowl championship team that introduced the T-formation to college football, and coach of Stanford’s ‘52 Rose Bowl team that lived and died by the forward pass, made a not-so-gentle suggestion to Ralston after three middling seasons: throw the football.

So Ralston recruited a couple of local quarterbacks who could sling it—Jim Plunkett from San Jose’s James Lick High School and Don Bunce from Woodside—and announced that he would switch to a pro-style passing game for the ’68 season. Spring practice would serve as the test kitchen for Ralston’s new offense.

Back in those days I was a wet-behind-the-ears sports editor of the Stanford Daily. My timing was good, as I was fortunate enough to cover the ’68 spring practice and football season. In the spring game, Plunkett completed 22 of 39 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns to solidify his hold on the starting job.

That fall, Stanford opened with San Jose State and Plunkett made his debut by throwing for four touchdowns—including three bombs to quarterback-turned-wide receiver Gene Washington—in a 68-20 rout. No one who was in the stadium that day will ever forget it…it was the beginning of a new era in Stanford football and, in many ways, a new era in college football.

Two years later, Plunkett led Stanford to the conference title and an upset win over Ohio State’s team of the decade in the Rose Bowl. He also won the Heisman Trophy over Notre Dame’s Joe (don’t call me THEES-man) Theisman.

Bunce, the forgotten quarterback, backed up Plunkett for two years before red-shirting his senior year (1970) so he’d have the job to himself in 1971. All he did was win another Pac-8 championship and Rose Bowl.

This spring has the potential to be another important milestone for Stanford and Cal with a new coaching staff at one school and major holes to fill at both.

Cal: New coach Justin Wilcox and his team open spring ball on Wednesday, March 15. The Bears will have three open practices—Friday March 24 at 3:30, Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m., and the spring game on Saturday, April 22, also at 11. The Pac-12 network will televise the spring game and admission is free. Cal’s March 24 practice will be preceded by “Pro Day” (also open to the public) at 10 a.m., when selected graduating players will work out before NFL scouts and coaches.

In addition to installing a new system and introducing a new coaching staff, Wilcox must find a replacement for record-setting quarterback Davis Webb (a key attraction on Pro Day). Wide receiver Chad Hansen, last season’s breakthrough star, returns to make the new QB’s job easier.

Stanford: The Cardinal divides spring practice into two sessions—February 28-March 12 and April 3-15, separated by a three-week break for dead week, finals and spring break. Four practices will be open to the public—Saturday, March 4 at 10 a.m., Sunday, March 12 at 11:45, Saturday, April 8 (time tbd), and the spring game on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m., which also will be televised on Pac-12 network.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday, March 23 is open to the public at 11:15. The main attractions will be running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, both of whom are turning pro after their junior seasons. Unlike McCaffrey, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays.

Coach David Shaw has a quality replacement for McCaffrey in junior Bryce Love, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry during the season and broke two long plays in the bowl game. But he will have to replace Thomas, record-setting kicker Conrad Ukropina, and possibly quarterback Keller Chryst, who is rehabbing from knee surgery.

We’ll be back with a roundup after the conclusion of spring ball. In the meantime, let's hope both Cal and Stanford unearth a few nuggets and that no one gets injured.

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

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USATSI

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

BOX SCORE

MORAGA — Jock Landale scored 17 points and No. 20 Saint Mary's beat Santa Clara 70-56 on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference regular season finale for both teams.

Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson scored 13 points apiece and Dane Pineau added 10 points to help the Gaels (26-3, 15-3) complete a season sweep of the Broncos.

Saint Mary's will get a week off before playing in the WCC tournament as the No. 2 seed in Las Vegas next week.

The Gaels will go in at full strength after suffering a brief scare midway through the second half. Joe Rahon, the team's emotional leader and workhorse in the backcourt, limped off the court with an apparent knee injury and was taken into a tunnel to be examined. He returned to the court a few minutes later wearing tape around his right leg below the knee. He then later got his entire knee wrapped.

Saint Mary's led by as many as 20 in the second half despite coming out of halftime missing six of seven shots with two turnovers.

Landale, as he has much of the season, got the Gaels back on track with a short hook over Henrik Jadersten to start a 10-0 run. Landale later scored on consecutive trips down the floor to push Saint Mary's lead to 66-47.

Jared Brownridge and Matt Hauser scored 15 points apiece for Santa Clara. The Broncos (16-15, 10-8 WCC) lost for only the second time in the last five games.

The Gaels led nearly the entire way.

Saint Mary's came out strong from the perimeter, making five of seven shots beyond the arc in the first half. Naar had two of the 3s and was one of six Gaels players to score as part of an 11-2 run that pushed their lead to 41-29 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: Another tough night for the Broncos, who couldn't get much going despite Saint Mary's going through a pair of lulls on offense. Brownridge scored nine of his team's first 11 points, a pattern that played out much of the game. Jadersten gave Santa Clara an early lift with two 3s but picked up three fouls over a span of 1:41 minutes during the first half.

Saint Mary's: With four straight wins the Gaels have regained some of the momentum they lost after falling to No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 11 for the second time this season. A third showdown between the conference's two best teams appears likely.

UP NEXT

Santa Clara: The Broncos are the fourth seed for the WCC tournament and will have a bye in the first round.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels also receive a first-round bye and won't play until March 4.