NCAA

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

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

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From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

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USASTI

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

LOS ANGELES  — Steven Mitchell and Deontay Burnett caught two touchdown passes apiece from Sam Darnold, and No. 6 Southern California extended its winning streak to 11 games with a bruising 42-24 victory over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night.

Darnold went 21 of 26 with 316 yards passing for the Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who snapped their three-game losing streak in this California private-school rivalry. USC racked up 623 total yards and won the first Pac-12 game of the new season by beating the hard-nosed Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) at their own physical game.

Ronald Jones II rushed for 116 yards and scored a touchdown in his ninth consecutive game as USC excelled at Stanford's traditional strengths, running the ball for 307 yards and controlling both lines of scrimmage. Turnovers and penalties by the Trojans kept it fairly close, but freshman Stephen Carr added 119 yards rushing, and Jones cartwheeled into the end zone with a clinching 23-yard TD run with 4:15 to play.

Keller Chryst passed for 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Bryce Love had a 75-yard TD run among his 160 yards rushing for the Cardinal, who hadn't played since their season-opening win over Rice in Australia last month.

After a scoreless third quarter, USC made a 90-yard scoring drive capped by Mitchell's second TD on a feathery 11-yard TD pass by Darnold with 9:42 to play. Stanford stayed close with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside's TD catch with 6:41 to play, but Jones' incredible second TD run capped a smooth 75-yard drive in USC's 11th consecutive win at the Coliseum.

Stanford had won eight of its last 11 meetings with USC in a dominant stretch that began with its historic 2007 upset victory at the Coliseum.

After USC scored 49 points in its season opener, Darnold's offense again was in fine form from the start. USC scored four touchdowns on five lengthy drives in the first half, with Darnold hitting Burnett for two of his three TD passes.

USC moved 74 yards on two plays late in the half to take a 28-17 lead on Burnett's leaping 25-yard TD grab.

THE TAKEAWAY

Stanford: That 62-point performance in the season opener Down Under was impossible to replicate against a top Pac-12 defense, and the Cardinal's offense will know it must add versatility to the attack. Stanford's defense also had big problems at the line of scrimmage, and that isn't a problem with which the Cardinal have much experience.

USC: This talent-laden offense has appeared to have the makings of a juggernaut so far. Darnold returned to 2016 form with a smooth, poised performance against a vaunted conference opponent, while the Trojans' receivers appear to be much more reliable than coach Clay Helton feared. USC's defense also stepped up after halftime and shut down one of the Pac-12's best.

UP NEXT

Stanford: The Cardinal's three-game stretch away from home to open the season concludes at San Diego State.

USC: The Trojans welcome Texas to the Coliseum for a meeting of two powerhouse programs.