SJSU piles on second-half points in route of UC Davis

540394.jpg

SJSU piles on second-half points in route of UC Davis

Dating back to the 2011 season, the last three games played by SJSU were all decided by three points. Saturdays win over UC Davis may have seemed similarly close in the first half, but by the end, it was clear this result was another story.The first 28 minutes of the game were controlled by UC Davis but every minute after belonged to the Spartans, who outscored UC Davis 45-6 from the 1:21 mark in the second quarter through the end of the game to bring a final score of 45-13, the largest win by SJSU since 2007. We got ourselves on our heels on defense, said SJSU head coach Mike MacIntyre about the first half of play.MacIntyre added that winning was the goal and that the lopsided score was not what the team was aiming for but is something he would like to continue to see from SJSU. It is important for us to win, and then it is important for us to put on more gas, he said. Put the pedal to the metal and keep going.We need to finish teams off. We didnt do that last year and I think thats the next phase. Thats what we have to be able to do.The Spartans were led offensively by senior running back DeLeon Eskridge, who ran for three touchdowns on 136 yards rushing and revived an SJSU offense that made mistakes and looked very flat in the first half. Eskridges first two appearances in the end zone happened late in the second quarter and in rapid succession. He scored two touchdowns within 28 seconds of game clock, the second coming with 1:21 left in the second quarter to give the Spartans a 14-7 halftime lead that seemed would never happen the way the majority of the first half transpired. They were phenomenal runs, I was very impressed, MacIntyre said.Eskridge said he gives all his thanks to the offensive line and echoed MacIntyres goal of finishing football games. In football, things go up and down, the team that finished is going to win.The majority of the first half belonged to a UC Davis team that moved the ball very effectively through the air. Quarterback Randy Wright, whose arm helped win the last meeting between the two teams in 2010, continued to shine against the Spartan defense two years later. On the second play of the game, Wright connected with sophomore wide receiver Alex Cannon on a 45-yard touchdown strike to take a seven-point lead after less than a minute of play. Wright finished with 194 yards on 14-of-23 passing 123 of those yards coming in the first half. We realized we needed to pick it up a lot more, said senior defensive end Travis Johnson. We got back into our rhythm and played from start to finish. Once we did that our defense started working together and we were able to stop them the rest of the game.SJSU failed to break into UC Davis territory on its first two drives until a muffed punt reception by Aggie wide receiver Anthony Soto allowed the Spartans to take over on the 33 yard line. Still, the SJSU offense could not capitalize but instead coughed up a turnover on a third-down fumble by junior quarterback Fales.The Spartans did not score until Eskridges first TD run, but once they did the scoring did not stop. SJSU scored on seven straight possessions that spanned from the end of the second quarter to the 2:02 mark when a fumble ended the streak. A 10-yard touchdown pass from junior backup quarterback Blake Jurich to Chandler Jones on the first possession of the second half brought the Spartan lead to 21-7. Another touchdown catch by Jones, this time thrown by Fales on SJSUs following possession made it 28-7. After Eskridges third rushing touchdown of the night, a 25-yard field goal by freshman Austin Lopez and a rushing touchdown by Jurich and the Spartans closed their scoring for the evening. Fales finished the win with 277 yards on 23-of-32 passing, helping the Spartan out-gain the Aggies on offense 510-252. The 510 yards is the most by SJSU since on loss to Louisiana Tech on Nov. 27, 2010. Defensively, no Spartan played better than senior defensive end Travis Johnson. Johnson tied a career-high with four sacks and collected six tackles for a loss.Hes a beast, MacIntyre said of Johnson. Thats why hes the best sacker in America, best in WAC history. He just has a motor I feel bad for those guys on the offensive line.Fales said he very much enjoyed the win and is loving the quality receivers SJSU has to offer.Those guys are good, he said. Its nice getting a win like this, being able to build your confidence and get our rhythm. We are still going week-to-week but tonight was a good win.

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

josh-jackson-kansas-ap.jpg

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.