The Cardinal's unsung hero


The Cardinal's unsung hero

Steve Berman

Ask a college football fan about Stanford, and if they even mention the defense you might hear names like Chase Thomas or the injured Shayne Skov. In the likelier event that the offense receives the focus, you'd probably hear names like Stepfan Taylor, Coby Fleener and, of course, Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck. But if one takes a closer look at the 2011 Cardinal offense, a group that puts up nearly 50 points per game, it'd be a drastic mistake to overlook Stanford's offensive line. While the entire group is as big, strong and effective as any unit in college football, the line's leader is undoubtedly Jonathan "Moose" Martin.Stanford's left tackle might not be as well known among casual fans, but NFL scouts know all about Moose. According to Walter Football's 2012 NFL Mock Draft, Martin is currently slated to be chosen at No. 12 overall. Scott Wright's Draft Countdown has Martin going off the board at No. 10. FF Toolbox has Martin as a top-5 selection.With all the hype surrounding the supremely talented Luck, one could argue that Martin might be the safest bet on Stanford's entire roster to be an NFL starter for 10 years.After Martin made first team All-Pac-10 last year, he was a first team Playboy preseason All-America pick before the 2011 season. To say he's lived up to that billing would be an understatement. The 6-6, 304-pound Martin has protected Luck's blind side and opened up holes for Taylor and the rest of Stanford's deep running back corps to such a degree that he was recently named one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award, annually given to the nation's top lineman or linebacker. Thanks to Martin and the rest of Stanford's huge, powerful offensive line, Luck has completed over 70 of his passes this season and has only been sacked four times in nine games. Martin like most offensive linemen prefers run blocking to pass protection, and Cardinal runners average 5.7 yards per carry, 7th in the nation (Oregon leads the country at 7.0 yards per rush, incidentally). Beyond statistics, Martin is the leader of a group that sets the tone for Stanford. The Cardinal, unlike most that spread the field and live outside the hash marks, mixes complicated schemes (Stanford by all accounts makes their offensive players memorize more plays than any other team in the country) with old-school physicality.Martin, who originally committed to UCLA before the chance to play on The Farm changed his mind, is ranked so highly among potential pro prospects in large part due to his athleticism. His long arms and flexibility, paired with outstanding technique and intelligence (several members of Martin's family have attended Harvard) have made him invaluable to Luck and Stanford coach David Shaw.When Shaw moved up from offensive coordinator after Jim Harbaugh left to coach the San Francisco 49ers, it appeared Stanford would have a great chance at a successful season, especially with Luck returning. However, Martin was one of only two returning offensive linemen along with right guard David DeCastro, who in his own right is projected to be taken low in the first round or in the early second round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The way that Martin and DeCastro have anchored Stanford's o-line and integrated new starters David Yankey, Sam Schwartzstein and Cameron Fleming has been invaluable to the No. 4 team in the BCS standings.Many believe Luck's chances to clinch the Heisman Trophy ride largely on how he does in Saturday's much-anticipated matchup against Oregon. If that indeed comes to pass, a large reason why will surely be the way Martin protects Luck's blindside when he drops back to do so.

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

College football roundup: Numbers tell it all at halfway mark


College football roundup: Numbers tell it all at halfway mark

Football is a game of numbers. Halfway through the 2016 season, there are some pretty startling and interesting numbers at play in college football.

Number of non-offensive touchdowns scored by No. 1 ranked Alabama so far this season. If you’re facing the Nick Saban-led juggernaut, your challenge is to keep both the Tide’s offense and defense out of the end zone. 

Number of teams in the Associated Press preseason top 13 that have lost at least two games already: No. 3 Oklahoma (2 losses), No. 4 Florida State (2), No. 5 LSU (2), No. 8 Stanford (2), No. 9 Tennessee (2), No. 10 Notre Dame (5), No. 11 Ole Miss (3), No. 12 Michigan State (4), and No. 13 TCU (2). So much for the accuracy of preseason polls.

Number of folks on the college playoff selection committee who are hoping that undefeated Baylor loses a few games. That’s the entire committee. No one in college football wants to see Baylor participating in the playoffs after the sexual assault epidemic that was revealed during the off-season. 

Retirement age of Utah’s Joe Williams. The senior running back retired from football after the second game of the season due to injuries. Fortunately for the Utes, Williams “un-retired” this week and returned to the team in time to rush for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State.

Length of a potential game-winning field goal by North Carolina State kicker Kyle Bambard at the end of regulation against No. 3 Clemson on Saturday. The kick, which missed wide right by a couple of feet, would’ve given the unranked Wolfpack a 20-17 win over the unbeaten Tigers. Instead, Clemson won 24-17 in overtime. The 33-yarder was one of three missed field goals by Bambard.

Number of field goals usually-reliable Stanford kicker Conrad Ukropina has clanked off the left goal post upright in the past two weeks. Hitting the same upright three straight times would be hard to do from point blank range. Ukropina has done it from 49, 44 and 45 yards.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning’s astronomical pass efficiency rating through six games. That number would easily break the all-time NCAA record of 191.78 set by Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson (yes, that Russell Wilson) in 2011. 

Number of surprise co-leaders in the Pac-12 Conference. As noted last week, Washington and Washington State have emerged as the best teams in the Pac-12 North and lead the division with 3-0 records in conference play. The balance of power has also shifted in the South, a division traditionally dominated by the LA or Arizona schools. The co-leaders after seven weeks are Utah and Colorado, both at 3-1 in league action. Former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre has done a fabulous job in Boulder. His Buffaloes take on Stanford in Palo Alto this weekend in a critical matchup for both teams.

Stanford’s highest scoring total in a game so far this year. The Cardinal beat USC 27-9 back on Sept. 17. Last year Stanford averaged just under 38 points per game. Inconsistent offensive line and quarterback play have been the culprits.

Number of points Michigan rolled up against Rutgers last week. After a bye week, the Wolverines figure to hit the half-century mark in their homecoming game vs. Illinois this Saturday. Coach Jim Harbaugh spent his off weekend scouting recruits and checked out Antioch High School star Najee Harris on Friday night.

Realistic candidates for the Heisman Trophy at the halfway point of the season. In order, my Heisman list looks like this: 1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB; 2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB; 3. Jake Browning, Washington QB; 4. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan DB/LB/RB/ WR/KR; 5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB. 

Jackson appeared a little more mortal this week against Duke, throwing for “only” 181 yards and rushing for 144, but he is still the clear favorite with 30 touchdowns (15 each passing and running) in six games. Barrett led Ohio State to a thrilling win over No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime, while Browning and Peppers had byes. Some experts have downgraded Watson because Clemson has struggled against a few unranked opponents, but Watson has been stellar. Saturday he completed 39 of 52 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns; he also rushed for a score. 

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey ran for over 200 yards again Saturday against Fresno State and is on track to rush for over 2,000 yards this year, but his level of competition in the Mt. West Conference will prevent him from grabbing the trophy.

New AP Top 25: 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Michigan, 4. Clemson, 5. Washington, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Louisville, 8. Nebraska, 9. Baylor, 10. Wisconsin, 11. Houston, 12. West Virginia, 13. Florida State, 14. Boise State, 15. Florida, 16. Oklahoma, 17. Arkansas, 18. Tennessee, 19. Utah, 20. Western Michigan, 21. Auburn, 22, North Carolina, 23. Ole Miss, 24. Navy, 25. LSU. Still only two teams in the top 25 from the Pac-12, compared with eight from the SEC, but the Big Ten is the strongest conference so far this year with four teams in the top 10.

Gary Cavalli is a 40-year veteran of the Bay Area sports scene and was Executive Director of the Foster Farms Bowl and Sports Information Director/Associate Athletic Director at Stanford

Ex-Stanford star suffers facial fracture during Knicks practice


Ex-Stanford star suffers facial fracture during Knicks practice

After spending a year overseas, Chasson Randle is back home trying to make the Knicks' roster.

But his effort took a serious hit during practice on Friday.

Following an incident Friday, the team disagnosed the former Stanford star with a facial contusion.

But the news was far grimmer on Sunday. A CT scan confirmed a left orbital fracture, the team announced. Randle will be re-evaluated Monday.

Randle signed with the Knicks on August 4 after spending last season with CEZ Nymburk in the Czech Republic.

The 23-year-old appeared in three games for New York's entry in the Orlando summer league, averaging 18.3 points, 5.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 29.7 minutes.

At Stanford, Randle scored a school-record 2,375 points, averaging 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He was the most valuable player in the 2015 National Invitation Tournament after leading the Cardinal to the championship at Madison Square Garden.

During his senior season in Palo Alto, Randle was named All-Pac-12 First Team and was an AP Honorable Mention All-America.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.