Potent Stanford offense rolls over Washington

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Potent Stanford offense rolls over Washington

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Stepfan Taylor knew it would take quite a performance for his fellow running backs to ever overshadow Andrew Luck. Maybe even one for the record books.With a wild first half that might have been satisfying enough for most teams, Taylor turned to teammate Tyler Gaffney in the locker room and issued a challenge."I told Gaffney," Taylor said, "let's try to get 500 out here."Almost.Taylor, Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson powered seventh-ranked Stanford to a school-record 446 yards rushing to blow past No. 22 Washington 65-21 on Saturday night in the Cardinal's most impressive victory all season.The running backs gave the Heisman Trophy hopeful some rest as Stanford (7-0, 5-0 Pac-12) extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games. Taylor ran for 138 yards, Gaffney 117 yards and Wilkerson 93 yards to break the previous team mark of 439 in a victory over Oregon State in 1981."We were very aware of it when we broke it," Luck said. "What a testament to the o-line, to the coaches, to the tight ends, to the receivers. It was a total team effort on the ground, and most of all to the backs making it happen."Facing the first ranked opponent of the season, Stanford pounded the Huskies (5-2, 3-1) in a critical Pac-12 North matchup.Chris Polk ran for scores from 46 and 61 yards in the first half to keep Washington close early. He finished with 144 yards rushing as the Cardinal's defense clamped down.Luck threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns and completed 16 of 21 passes but took a back seat - for once - to a running game that has quietly been among the nation's best the last few years. No matter what happens next week at Southern California, the victory almost guarantees that the Nov. 12 matchup against Oregon at Stanford Stadium will decide the North's representative in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.Not a bad time for the Cardinal to fly south to the Coliseum."They are a good football team for a reason and why they do what they do and have been on a run they're on," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. "They wear you out and they wear you down."With three running backs leading the way, Washington couldn't stop any of them.Taylor and Gaffney each ran for a touchdown and Wilkerson had two, including a 38-yard scamper with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter that snapped the record set back when John Elway was the Cardinal's quarterback.Stanford coach David Shaw practically apologized for the late score, admitting he just hoped to run out the clock with the backups in the game."You can't tell a runner not to run," Shaw said.A week after a poor first-half showing at Washington State, Stanford started with a 76-yard drive on six plays capped by Jeremy Stewart's 2-yard TD run. Jordan Williamson kicked the first of his three field goals from 39 yards to put the Cardinal ahead 10-0.Polk broke two tackles up the sideline on 41-yard touchdown run for his first score. Then he sprinted untouched through the middle for 61 yards to bring the Huskies within 17-14 early in the second quarter.Just when it seemed the Cardinal might finally be tested, they ran away from yet another opponent.Taylor ripped through a seem on Stanford's next play from scrimmage, running 70 yards for a touchdown without receiving so much as a hand swipe. Luck followed by connecting with Drew Terrell from 5 yards out for his second touchdown pass to give the Cardinal a 31-14 lead."They left a guy open. I just missed him. It was kind of just unfortunate," Price said of the interception. "It's embarrassing anytime you lose like this."In a half where the offenses ran wild, the biggest play might have come on defense.Michael Thomas broke the game open when he stepped in front of a receiver over the middle and picked off a pass from Price. He raced 62 yards down the sideline, stepping over the diving quarterback to put Stanford ahead 38-14 at the break.The Huskies, who were shutout 41-0 by Stanford last year in Seattle, had entered the Top 25 for the first time in two seasons this week behind Price, who entered game tied with Boise State's Kellen Moore for second in the country with 21 touchdown passes. Price's 2-yard TD pass to Evan Hudson that came early in the third quarter came with the game already a blowout.Stanford still led 48-21 after the score, which was Hudson's first career reception. While Price was sacked only twice, he was under constant pressure. The sophomore finished with 247 yards passing.Gaffney, anchoring the wildcat formation, had runs of 14 and 34 yards before capping off Stanford's first drive of the second half with a 4-yard TD. Taylor and Gaffney became the 10th running back duo in school history to rush for 100-yard running games."I think that will be something special down the road for guys to look back on," Luck said. "Hopefully it's broken next week."

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.