STANFORD (AP) -- David Shaw has never been one to show too much emotion, keeping his cool no matter the circumstances. He heaps praise on players but isn't afraid to call out poor performances, either.Late Friday night was different.Following No. 21 Stanford's season-opening 20-17 victory over San Jose State, the second-year coach had little patience trying to explain one of the most frustrating games of his tenure. At one point, a reporter asked him if this season might be more fun without No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, considering the room for growth his young team could make."Fun?" Shaw asked. "For whom?"Certainly not for the coach.The post-Luck era got off to a disappointing debut, with former backup Josh Nunes throwing for 125 yards and a touchdown, and struggling to move the offense in the running game before getting bailed out by Jordan Williamson's rejuvenated right foot.Williamson kicked a career-long 46-yard field goal and the go-ahead score from 20 yards to save Stanford from what would've been a stunning start to this season."It was real close," senior running back Stepfan Taylor said. "But close will get you beat in a heartbeat."Almost did.Williamson, who missed three field goals - including a potential game-winner in regulation - in a 41-38 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, might have been the only one with a reason to hold his head down following that fantastic effort from both sides.Now he might be the only Stanford player who should hold his head high after a shaky start this season.Nunes finished 16 for 26 with no interceptions in place of Luck, but the offense stalled when it counted most - and it almost cost the Cardinal (1-0) dearly against the Spartans (0-1)."We were close to doing a lot of really good things tonight," Nunes said. "But close doesn't always win football games."It usually loses them.The David Fales-Blake Jurich quarterback combo gave Stanford fits until De'Leon Eskridge fumbled in Spartans territory late in the third quarter. That set up Williamson's tiebreaking kick, giving the redshirt sophomore a small stroke of redemption after months of public silence and tissues and tears back home."That shows the kind of person he is," said Taylor, who ran for 116 yards and a touchdown. "That's a lot of pressure, and missing them in the Fiesta Bowl you know all the pressure is going to be on him. He's cold blooded."So was San Jose State's passing game.Fales threw for 216 yards with one touchdown and an interception that landed in the hands of Ed Reynolds with 71 seconds remaining to seal Stanford's victory. Jurich ran for 32 yards and a score.The fight Stanford showed so many times behind Luck dissolved.With the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist now with the Indianapolis Colts, the Cardinal converted only 2 of 13 third downs (although it was 2 for 3 on fourth downs) and allowed the Spartans to move methodically at times down field. San Jose State outgained Stanford 288 to 280 in total yards.Stanford beat San Jose State 57-3 last year and has won five straight meetings."Since we got our butts kicked here last year, we could have won every game since," third-year San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre said. "So we're making progress. We're getting bigger, stronger and faster. We're making strides. But in no way, shape or form is this a moral victory. We're a better football team, but we have to finish it off."Taylor ran for 38 yards almost untouched until a defender tackled him on the game's first drive. Remound Wright converted a fourth-and-1 from the 10-yard line, and Taylor dived over the pile for a 1-yard TD on fourth down to give Stanford a 7-0 lead.Nunes quickly led Stanford down field again and tossed a perfect ball in the corner on a stop-and-go route by Drew Terrell for an 11-yard score and his first career touchdown pass.The first-game hiccups eventually surfaced, though, and bubbling later than expected until they almost completely popped Stanford's season.Game-clock management became an issue on Stanford's final drive of the first half, tossing a short pass over the middle to tight end Zach Ertz, then throwing incomplete and running on third down to settle for a field goal. Williamson, who tore a groin muscle last October and was never the same when he returned, made his career-high 46-yarder as time expired to extend Stanford's lead to 17-3."I feel like I finally put everything from the past in the past and now I can focus on the future," a smiling Williamson said. "It was a tremendous feeling."All the same problems that plagued the Cardinal defense in losses last year to Oregon and Oklahoma State - no cornerback coverage, poor open-field tackling and quarterback pressure when it counts - looked even worse with two new starting safeties.Jurich ran for a short touchdown on San Jose State's first possession of the third quarter and Fales floated a 21-yard touchdown pass to Noel Grigsby to tie the score at 17-all late in the third quarter.Fales, who transferred from Monterey Peninsula Community College in the spring, redshirted at Nevada in 2009 but quickly had San Jose State in position for the season's first shocking upset.One mistake ended all that.Reynolds stripped Eskridge on a pitch play, and Usua Amanam recovered the fumble at San Jose State's 38-yard line. Stanford's offense stalled again, and Williamson made his second field goal.San Jose State stuffed Taylor on fourth-and-1 with fewer than 7 minutes to play, sending MacIntyre jumping and high-fiving all over the sideline and on the field. Fales and the offense failed to even get a first down on the next two possessions and Reynolds stepped in front of his final pass to close out San Jose State's rally.
His throwing motion was awkward and unorthodox, to say the least. He was listed, rather generously, at 6’3, 218 pounds, a far cry from his predecessor Andrew Luck’s imposing 6’4, 240. He displayed few bursts of speed, instead twisting, turning, dodging and weaving his way to pick up yardage.
Yet Kevin Hogan was a playmaker, a leader, and—as is becoming more obvious with each passing day—the man whose absence may be the real cause of Stanford’s offensive dysfunction thus far in 2016.
Stanford went into the season ranked as the nation’s No. 8 team and was picked to win the Pac-12 championship. After averaging 38 points per game last year, the Cardinal was expected to be an offensive juggernaut with Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey leading the charge.
Instead, Stanford has struggled mightily on offense, averaging only 17 points per game. The Cardinal has just seven touchdowns in its past five games, and three of them were scored by the defense. With a 4-3 record, Stanford has dropped out of the Top 25 and, realistically, out of contention for the Pac-12 North Division title.
Why? There are other contributing factors, to be sure, but the main reason is that Kevin Hogan is no longer calling the signals.
Hogan led Stanford to three Pac-12 championships and an overall record of 36-10 in three and a-half years as the starting quarterback. Under his direction, the Cardinal won two Rose Bowls and one Foster Farms Bowl.
During his career, Hogan threw for over 9,000 yards and 75 touchdowns. He rushed for another 1,200-plus yards and 15 scores. He threw more than 1,100 passes and had only 29 intercepted. How many times, when Stanford faced a critical third and 11, did Hogan scramble for 11 and a-half yards to get the first down? Or find his second or third receiver to pick up the necessary yardage?
Christian McCaffrey deserves all the credit he gets. He should’ve won the Heisman Trophy last year. But Kevin Hogan took tremendous pressure off McCaffrey. He prevented opposing defenses from keying too much on McCaffrey because, if they did, Hogan could pick them apart with his passing or keep the ball himself. I was a late convert to appreciating Kevin Hogan, but after watching him up close and personal at the Foster Farms Bowl, became a huge fan. On Sunday, he had a highlight-reel 28-yard touchdown run for the Cleveland Browns.
Stanford may well turn things around this year. (This week’s game at under-performing Arizona provides an excellent opportunity). However, to do so, their young quarterbacks must mature quickly and do a better impersonation of Kevin Hogan.
Meanwhile, across the Bay: Though both teams have 4-3 records, Stanford and Cal offer a remarkable contrast in style of play. Consider last weekend’s games. Cal beat Oregon in double overtime, 52-49, while Stanford fell to Colorado, 10-5. Cal vs. Oregon lasted four hours and 25 minutes, while Stanford-Colorado lasted exactly three hours. Cal and Oregon ran 203 plays and scored 102 points; Stanford and Colorado ran 136 and scored 15.
Behind a stronger-than expected running game and the vaunted “Bear Raid” passing attack, Cal has registered impressive wins over Texas and Utah (both undefeated at the time). Only tough losses to San Diego State and to Oregon State in overtime have prevented the Bears from sporting an even better resume.
You forgot someone: Friday's San Francisco Chronicle handicapped three QBs the quarterback-hungry 49ers might pick in the 2017 draft—DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame, Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Chad Kelly of Mississippi. Missing from the list was the most obvious candidate—Cal’s Davis Webb. Against Oregon last Friday night, Webb completed 42 of 61 passes for 325 yards and five TDs. He can make all the throws, has the size the pros look for, and would bring a lot of Cal fans to Levi’s Stadium. What’s not to like?
Delay of game: Aside from the offensive onslaught and some rather porous defense, the other reason the Cal-Oregon game ended at 11:55 Pacific (2:55 a.m. Eastern) was the rash of penalties. There were 28 infractions called in the game. The typical college game has 12 penalties. The last time I saw that many flags was when I visited the U.N. as a child. There were lots of ticky tack fouls that could’ve gone uncalled…and got us all to bed a lot earlier.
Retirement, anyone? Last week we noted that Utah senior running back Joe Williams “retired” from football after the second game of the season due to injuries. With his team short-handed at the position due to additional casualties, Williams came back last week and rushed for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State. Still fresh from his four-week layoff, Williams ran for a school record 332 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Utes to a 52-45 win over UCLA.
Heisman update: 1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB—another excellent game on Saturday. 2. Jake Browning, Washington QB—has 26 TD passes and two interceptions so far this year. 3. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB—had a bye yesterday, needs a big performance against Florida State this weekend. 4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB—threw seven TD passes Saturday for the resurgent Sooners. 5. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU—after missing two weeks with injuries, rushed for 284 yards and three touchdowns in big win over Mississippi.
New AP Top 25: 1. Alabama, 2. Michigan, 3. Clemson, 4. Washington, 5. Louisville, 6. Ohio State, 7. Nebraska, 8. Baylor, 9. Texas A&M, 10. West Virginia, 11. Wisconsin, 12. Florida State, 13. Boise State, 14. Florida, 15. Auburn, 16. Oklahoma, 17. Utah, 18. Tennessee, 19. LSU, 20. Western Michigan, 21. North Carolina, 22. Navy, 23. Colorado, 24. Penn State, 25. Virginia Tech.
Somewhere Mike Riley is smiling and nodding knowingly.
The current Nebraska head coach had somewhat of a tradition while at Oregon State in which he would take his football team to In-N-Out Burger following a particularly big win.
Picking up that burger mantle is Mike MacIntyre, who rewarded his Colorado team with a trip to the famous fast-food joint following their physical, grinding road win over Stanford earlier in the day.
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