Sans Skov, Stanford out to stop UCLA


Sans Skov, Stanford out to stop UCLA

STANFORD (AP) -- Stanford leads the nation in rushing defense, but maintaining that level of play could be difficult without star linebacker Shayne Skov.

The sixth-ranked Cardinal will be back in action Saturday night for the first time since losing Skov as they host UCLA in search of their 12th straight victory.

Skov is out for the season with a knee injury suffered in the second quarter of a 37-10 victory at Arizona on Sept. 17. Wildcats receiver Juron Criner was tackled and knocked into Skov's leg on the play.

The junior led Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) with 84 tackles last season to go with 7 12 sacks and was considered a potential high NFL draft pick.

"He's the emotional leader of the defense. You can't replace that," safety Michael Thomas said.

The loss of Skov is the first major challenge in front of first-year coach David Shaw, whose defense has allowed an average of 36.0 rushing yards through three games.

"It's a big loss for our football team, but we have great leadership on defense from players such as Michael Thomas, Delano Howell and Chase Thomas," Shaw said. "We've also recruited very well recently and now it is time for guys to step up."

Stanford should be tested Saturday since UCLA (2-2, 1-0) ranks second in the conference with 214.0 yards per game on the ground. The Bruins are the only school with two rushers in the Pac-12's top 10, with Johnathan Franklin averaging 75.8 yards and Derrick Coleman 74.8.

Any defensive shortcomings can be partially alleviated by Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck and an offense that has produced an average of 481.3 yards. Luck has eight touchdowns, one interception and 786 yards passing.

The Cardinal lost five straight meetings to the Bruins before Luck guided them to victories in his first two seasons. He has not needed to throw for big yardage in either contest, completing 11 of 24 passes for 151 yards and two scores in last year's 35-0 rout.

Despite that lopsided score, Franklin rushed for 73 yards on 11 carries for UCLA and has a 5.2 career yards-per-carry average in two games against the Cardinal.

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said that Luck is "unquestionably the best quarterback in the country."

Neuheisel was encouraged by his team's 27-19 road win at Oregon State in its Pac-12 opener last Saturday. Coleman rushed for 100 yards, and three other Bruins scored touchdowns on the ground.

"I know there are people who will say it wasn't this and wasn't that, but ultimately when you come away with a victory, you just feel like more is possible," Neuheisel added. "Our guys are energized. They're looking forward to this week of practice. There will be a bounce in their step. It doesn't mean any extra points on Saturday, but you can feel good things are on the horizon."

Neuheisel worked alongside Shaw in 2005 with the Baltimore Ravens, and recruited against Shaw's father, Willie, from 1989-91 while Neuheisel was a young UCLA assistant and Willie Shaw was Stanford's defensive coordinator.

"I battled his father years ago when I first broke into this business, and now I'm battling his son," Neuheisel said. "David has earned this opportunity, and I'm certainly pulling for him ... but not this week."

The Bruins have split their last eight games against top 10 opponents, including a stunning upset of then-No. 7 Texas on the road last year.

A hidden matchup to watch in this game could take place in special teams. Stanford's Drew Terrell is third in the Pac-12 in punt return average at 15.7 yards, while UCLA is yielding a conference-worst 19.2 yards per punt return.

Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'


Casspi thanks Kings after trade to Pelicans: 'Definitely isn't easy'

The Kings traded Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the forward to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

I want to thank the Sacramento Kings organization for the opportunity to play basketball in front of the great fans of Sacramento. My wife and I felt in Sacramento like being home and this is something we both will cherish for ever. This definitely isn't easy for me and my family to leave, and you all know how much I love our city, organization and fans but the time has come. I want to wish nothing but success to my Kings. I will definitely will follow and cheer from afar. 
Always a big part of my heart, 
Omri #18

Casspi, 28, averaged 5.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 18 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

A's spring training Day 7: Rosales readies himself everywhere

MESA, Ariz. — Adam Rosales has a real simple plan for which infield position he chooses to try to get work at.

“Wherever there’s less guys, I go over there,” he explained with a smile.

The sun came out and the A’s finally got on the field for their first full-squad workout Monday after being rained out Sunday. That meant Rosales, back for his second go-round as an Athletic, got his first chance to prepare for what figures to be a super-utility role, which is how he’s carved out a nine-year major league career.

All indications are that he’ll be the primary backup infielder, capable of spelling Jed Lowrie at second base, Marcus Semien at shortstop, Trevor Plouffe at third and even fill in at first base or left field in a pinch.

Though Rosales, who spent 2010-12 with Oakland and re-signed in January on a one-year $1.25 million deal, is well-versed in preparing himself all over the diamond, one position in particular is one that he says is most difficult to master in limited time.

“Shortstop,” he offered without hesitation. “There’s a lot more going on there, a lot less room for error. At shortstop, especially with a guy like Mike Trout running, you’ve got to be in good rhythm, good timing, get rid of the ball and make an accurate throw.”

Depending on how the A’s prioritize their 25-man roster, Rosales could very well be the only backup infielder. That means fellow infielders Joey Wendle and Chad Pinder would start in the minors if the A’s were to keep a fifth outfielder or third catcher. But because the A’s have some players who can fill in at multiple spots, there’s numerous ways they can choose to configure the roster when it comes time to pare it down.

Rosales, 33, said walking back into the A’s clubhouse for the first time made him “feel like I’m back home.” So much of the support staff — equipment guys, clubhouse guys — are the same as when he was here before. He was also happy to see former infield mate Mark Ellis walk through the door Sunday. He says Ellis, a teammate from 2010-11, instilled in him the importance of being a great defender. Ellis is working as a part-time spring instructor.

“He told me, the No. 1 reason he was in the big leagues was because of this,” Rosales said, holding up his glove. “I was such a young player then. I’d always work with him, how to turn double plays. Just to have him around is awesome.”

NOTEWORTHY: Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman were among the pitchers who faced hitters for the first time this season. Bruce Maxwell caught Gray, his first time behind the plate with Gray other than the one inning Gray threw in an abbreviated start at Anaheim toward the end of last season. Maxwell said Gray’s changeup in particular looked good.

Manager Bob Melvin has been very impressed early on with Graveman’s command. Graveman said he’s trying to improve his changeup, in an effort to induce weak contact from righties and get them on the their front foot, which could then make him more effective on the inside corner.

CAMP BATTLE: There could be a good fight for the seventh and final spot in the bullpen, and it would seem being left-handed could give someone an edge. Sean Doolittle is the only lefty currently projected among the A’s top six relievers. Melvin had good things to say about Daniel Coulombe, a lefty who made 35 appearances in relief last year and also saw a bit of time with Oakland in 2015. Coulombe posted a 4.53 ERA last season but struck out 54 in 47 2/3 innings.