No. 6 Stanford hopes ground attack surprises Duke

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No. 6 Stanford hopes ground attack surprises Duke

Sept. 8, 2011
No. 6 STANFORD (1-0) vs.DUKE (0-1)

Saturday, Sept. 10 on 12:30 p.m.
STANFORD (AP) -- Stepfan Taylor's eyes light up every time he sees a safety dropping into coverage or a linebacker cheating back to play the pass.It happens almost every play.With Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck piling up yards passing, sixth-ranked Stanford's stout running game can be easy to overlook. Defenses rarely play the run, if ever, because most of the schemes revolve around stopping No. 12."People forget about the running game sometimes. Or a lot, actually," Taylor said, smiling. "With Andrew at quarterback, you've got to play the pass."At least that's what Stanford wants everybody to believe.While Luck has been toying with defenses in the air and at the line of scrimmage, the Cardinal have quietly put together one of the nation's best rushing attacks. All four tailbacks return from last season, and new coach David Shaw believes they could be scary good."We've got four guys who could start at most places," Shaw said. "We're as deep there as anybody in the nation."Stanford started off slow rushing in a season-opening 57-3 victory over San Jose State, especially in short-yardage situations. Taylor finished with 18 carries for 61 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the Cardinal had 141 yards rushing as a team.One of the biggest goals in Saturday's first road test at Duke is getting the running game back to where it was a year ago. That mark would be a tough hurdle to clear for anybody.Taylor ran for 1,137 yards last year and would have had far more if not for former coach Jim Harbaugh's insistence on spreading the ball around. Only five other Stanford players have reached 1,000 yards, most recently 2009 Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart (1,871), who eclipsed the milestone twice.The Cardinal also finished just 58 yards shy of breaking the school's rushing record (2,837) set in 2009. Anthony Wilkerson, Jeremy Stewart and Tyler Gaffney all split time as Taylor's backup last season. And Luck finished second on the team with 453 yards rushing."They're just physical," said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose team lost 23-21 at home to Richmond in its opener last Saturday. "They're going to line up in two and three tight end sets and do a lot of shifts and motion to try to create support problems for you."All four backs are similar in style but took opposite paths up the depth chart.Taylor and Wilkerson had to shore up their blocking as freshmen. Stewart was all speed and no finesse. And Gaffney was a natural talent but had to balance being a two-sport player, juggling baseball and football - he has a .327 batting average in two years in the outfield.The one thing they all have in common: each believes they're the fastest."I like to think I'd win the race," Wilkerson said, echoing his teammates.Even though Luck grabs most of the headlines, gaining yards on the ground is at the heart of the style that Harbaugh - and now Shaw, the former offensive coordinator - have always espoused. The running backs all wear T-shirts that read: "Focus and Finish."The motto has spread to become part of the team's slogan."Since I've been here, it's always been run first," said Luck, who was 17 of 26 for 171 yards and two touchdowns last weekend. "It's sort of engrained and indoctrinated in us when we get here."When Harbaugh was at the helm, the rotation at running back was rampant.Shaw signaled in the opener that Taylor would be more than just the starter in name, showing he might increase the running back's carries this season to allow him to find more of a rhythm. Shaw also wants to keep fresh legs on the field, and with four quality backs, it can be a tricky scenario plugging in the right player.That's all part of the challenge.About the only thing tougher for Shaw is selling everybody on the idea that Stanford - with Luck at quarterback - is a run-first team. He plans to give everybody a reminder this fall."All the offseason talk, everybody knows how good Andrew is," Shaw said. "Which is fine, but we're a running football team. Our offensive football starts and ends with us running the football."

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

SAN FRANCISCO — At some point over the last month, the Giants quietly stopped playing “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the late innings of games they trail. 

It’s unclear exactly when it started, or who made the decision. A number of team employees, surveyed over the past week, had noticed. But nobody knew the exact details. Perhaps the longtime staple of AT&T Park was shelved on July 9, when FanGraphs dropped the playoff odds to 0.00 percent for the first time in a lost season. Maybe it was during a bad loss before that or a bad loss after that. You can take your pick. This season has been filled with so many of them it’s hard to keep track. 

Friday’s stood out, in part because this was the kind of night where Journey briefly made sense. The Giants gave Jeff Samardzija a 4-0 lead in the first inning against a Padres team that spent the early innings kicking and throwing the ball all over the field and making mistakes on the bases. It was 5-1 after three innings. By the sixth, the Padres had tied it. By the seventh, they had the lead. By the eighth, it was a three-run lead. 

Before the bottom of the eighth, the in-stadium crew played Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” for a crowd of a few thousand. Last weekend, Huey Lewis was the fill-in for Journey. On Wednesday, a game the Giants actually came back to win, the scoreboard played a singalong game to “Happy Together” by The Turtles. 

On this night, the Giants actually would come back. Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth, tying the game and sending it into extras. The Giants had trailed by three with one out remaining, but the momentum provided by Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Gillaspie was just a blip. The Padres scored three in the 11th off George Kontos, who has pitched five times over the last eight days and was supposed to get a night to rest. 

Kontos was the last to give up runs in a 12-9 loss, but hardly the only one. Samardzija took blame after failing to get through five with a big early cushion. That put pressure on the tired bullpen, and the relievers blew it over and over again. The Padres scored runs in six consecutive innings at one point and had 20 hits. 

“We couldn’t stop them,” Bruce Bochy said, shaking his head. 

Nothing can apparently stop this skid. The Giants are 37-61 and six games behind the Padres. They are much closer to the No. 1 draft pick than they are to fourth place in their division. 

“Don’t Stop Believin’” survived the 2013 season. It survived 2015 and the second half of last year. Nothing can survive this season.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — A few hundred, maybe a few thousand, stayed to watch the Giants late Friday night. The Giants did not make it worth the effort. 

Conor Gillaspie’s two-out homer in the ninth sent the game to extras, but the Giants lost 12-9 in a game that lasted nearly five hours. The Giants had trailed by three with two outs and nobody on in the ninth. They tied it. Instead of carrying that momentum over, they suffered yet another demoralizing loss. 

They have dropped both games of this series and they trail the Padres -- who had 20 hits -- by six games in the race for fourth place. Those are facts. Here are five more, mostly from earlier, when a young man harbored dreams of leaving a ballpark before 1 a.m. … 

—- Hector Sanchez took Jeff Samardzija deep to lead off the fourth, and at this point it’s flat-out hilarious. Sanchez has seven homers this season and three have come against his former team. He hit two homers at AT&T Park in 296 plate appearances as a Giant, and the fourth-inning blast gave him three in 11 plate appearances as a Padre. He also doubled in a run and singled. It’s an all-time revenge tour. Just go along for the ride. 

—- There were a ton of scouts on hand to watch two starting pitchers who could move in the next 10 days, and they left disappointed. Trevor Cahill gave up six earned on seven hits and four walks and lasted just 3 2/3 innings. Jeff Samardzija gave up eight hits and five earned in 4 1/3 innings. 

—- I dunno man, it’s really hard getting to five of these every night. Sam Dyson was good again. 

—- Gillaspie's pinch-hit homer was the sixth of his career. He's a hero around these parts, but perhaps Bobby Evans should see if a team out there was watching Friday and remembers his October run. Gillaspie could help a contender. 

—- When MLB inevitably introduces a pitch clock and pitchers start complaining, this will be the game I tell them to sit down and try to watch start to finish.