Stanford Daily » SPORTS 11/28/2014 Sat, 29 Nov 2014 06:12:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cardinal seek seventh heaven against UCLA Fri, 28 Nov 2014 20:36:09 +0000 At the start of the season, we all thought that this Stanford-UCLA matchup at the end of the season would have significant postseason implications. And indeed, that does happen to be the case — just not so much for the Cardinal as it is for the Bruins.

UCLA (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) currently sits at No. 8 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and can secure its berth beside Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a win over Stanford. The Cardinal (6-5, 4-4), meanwhile, won’t have conference title or playoff hopes to play for today. The difference between a win and a loss will likely be the difference between Las Vegas and Tempe come bowl season — hardly a significant difference to Cardinal fans.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing at stake — in addition to the opportunity to play spoiler to UCLA and push one of the Arizona schools into the conference championship game, Stanford also has a six-game winning streak against UCLA at stake that it will be looking to push to seven, which would mark the longest ever streak by either team against its opponent.

It certainly won’t be easy this time around. UCLA — the preseason darlings of the Pac-12 — hasn’t exactly had the smoothest journey to its two-loss record, including unconvincing wins over Virginia, Memphis, Cal and Colorado. That being said, this is also a team that hasn’t lost since a close loss to Oregon on Oct. 11 and brutalized a good Arizona State team 62-27.

The pieces are there for the Bruins, but they’ve just had a bad habit of playing down to their opponents’ levels. They’ve just come out on top much more often than not in those close games.

Stanford, however, can’t really say the same this season. After going 14-5 under Shaw in one-possession games before this season, the Cardinal have suffered a regression to the mean, notching a 1-3 record in such games this year.

Despite the disparities in records and the struggles of the Stanford program this year, this is a matchup that does bode well for Stanford. The Cardinal have done a great job of limiting the normally explosive Bruins offense over the last two seasons, and with the defense realizing its turnover potential against Cal and playing with a fully healthy defensive line, the Cardinal have the formula to stop Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley and give UCLA fits on the offensive side of the ball.

Of course, it will still boil down to execution — something that Stanford has struggled with this season. But there were promising signs against Cal with an offensive line that was getting more push and playing a cleaner game, and a running back in Remound Wright that had the field vision to get the crucial few extra yards.

However, UCLA’s front seven will pose one of the most formidable challenges of the season to a running game that has largely struggled to get afloat. Stanford still seeks its first 100-yard rusher of the season, and if the monstrous Eddie Vanderdoes, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks have anything to say about it, Stanford will likely not end up with one.

That means that senior quarterback Kevin Hogan will likely need to attack through the air early and often. With his favorite target in senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery out for the game with a shoulder injury suffered in last week’s Big Game, that figures to be a tall order, but he had reasonable success finding his big possession receivers in Devon Cajuste and Austin Hooper and will need to continue to do so today to keep the chains moving.

But if the defense can continue its stifling play and limit the explosive Bruins offense like it has in the last two seasons, the offense will always have a chance to keep the game close. And if Hogan plays a clean game and the Cardinal play up to their potential, this is a game that the Cardinal could very well end up playing closer than most expect.

If there’s any team whose number Stanford has had over the last few seasons, it’s UCLA. The Cardinal will look to salvage the end of a lost season by keeping that going.

Stanford will take on UCLA at the Rose Bowl at 12:30 p.m., with the matchup to be televised on ABC.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’

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Football live blog: Stanford vs. No. 8 UCLA Fri, 28 Nov 2014 20:28:36 +0000 Welcome to The Daily’s live blog of Friday’s Stanford-UCLA game, featuring Stanford (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) and hosts UCLA (9-2, 6-2). The Cardinal are hoping to close out their season with a big upset victory in the Rose Bowl after cruising by California in the 117th Big Game last week. Stanford achieved minimum expectations (in its new era of excellence) by securing bowl eligibility against Cal, but although all the Card have left to play for is pride, pride is a powerful motivator. Stay tuned to our live blog here all afternoon and follow us on Twitter @StanfordSports for live updates and analysis.

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Football predictions: Stanford vs. UCLA Fri, 28 Nov 2014 08:44:22 +0000 Stanford (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) at No. 8 UCLA (9-2, 6-2)

Do-Hyoung Park: Stanford 24, UCLA 20

A reasonable person would pick UCLA in this game. Unfortunately, I am not a reasonable person. Even without Ty Montgomery, I think Stanford is the more talented team on the field on Friday and even though the team has had its shares of ups and downs throughout the season, UCLA has been the least-convincing two-loss team in the country featuring uncomfortably close wins over frightening powerhouses like Virginia, Memphis, Cal and Colorado. (This isn’t basketball, ya know.) I don’t see Brett Hundley and the UCLA running game getting anything going on Stanford’s frightening defense and I think Stanford’s offense can move the ball as long as it doesn’t try to run the ball too much on that defensive line (okay, given that we’re talking about Stanford, this might be too much to ask for). But a man can hope, right?

Ashley Westhem: UCLA 31, Stanford 24

With the loss of Ty Montgomery, coupled with having to play at the Rose Bowl, this is going to be a hard game for the Cardinal to win. However, Remound Wright provided a huge spark against Cal showing the potential for the Cardinal’s running game and Big Game surely revitalized the offense. Yet on the other hand, the Card have to play a UCLA team that has just come off of a stomping of USC on the same field on which it will be taking on the Card. The Bruins have the added motivation of needing to redeem themselves after being stripped of the Pac-12 title at the hands of the Card two years ago and losing six straight to them within five years (UCLA has not beaten Stanford since 2008). The Bruins will be out for blood and although the game will be close, the Bruins will get the best of the Card.

Vihan Lakshman: UCLA 24, Stanford 14

I disagree with Do’s assessment of UCLA’s “sketchy” running game. The Bruins rank 30th in the nation with 208.5 yards per game on the ground and feature one of the best running backs in the country in Paul Perkins, who has already amassed over 1,200 yards on the ground. Couple that potent ground attack with a top-notch quarterback in Brett Hundley and you have an offense that’s capable of exploding at any given moment. The Bruins have already put up 62 points on an elite Arizona State squad this season and just finished sending USC into a minor existential crisis with a 38-20 thrashing. While Stanford’s defense is incredibly stout, the Cardinal’s struggling offense will give UCLA additional chances to strike and the Bruins have too much talent not to take advantage. Stanford’s offense will put up points early behind some creative scripted plays — like we saw against Utah — but I don’t expect its season-long struggles with consistency to suddenly disappear. UCLA takes this one behind a couple of late touchdowns to march on to a colossal showdown with Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship.

Do-Hyoung Park isn’t always a homer — but when he is, he goes all the way with his prediction. Ashley Westhem and Vihan Lakshman sadly seem to be suffering from a lack of faith. Share your opinions with them at dpark027 ‘at’, awesthem ‘at’ and vihan ‘at’

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Stanford’s unbeaten run comes to an end in Washington Thu, 27 Nov 2014 18:09:01 +0000 Stanford women’s volleyball team, poised to become the 18th Division I team to finish an undefeated regular season in the NCAA era, saw its unbeaten run come to an end Wednesday night in Seattle, Wash. in front of the biggest crowd in Pac-12 history.


Sophomore middle blocker Merete Lutz (left) had eight kills and a match-high-tying five blocks in the Cardinal’s first loss of the season on Wednesday night at No. 5 Washington. Stanford’s middles were held at bay, however, by the Husky defense throughout the match. (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/stanfordphoto.comgi)

8,646 fans were on hand at the Alaska Airlines Arena as No. 5 Washington (28-2, 17-2 Pac-12) celebrated Senior Night and also made the race for the Pac-12 Championship a lot more interesting. The No. 1 Cardinal (28-1, 18-1) were plagued by errors throughout the night and were overpowered from start to finish as they fell in four sets, 18-25, 21-25, 25-23, 20-25.

Stanford hit just .265 in the match, as they had a season-high 40 total errors — 17 attack, 11 service, nine receiving and three blocking. Washington hit .331, spurred by an inspired performance from senior Krista Vansant, the reigning AVCA National Player of the Year. The Redlands, California native dominated the Cardinal defense from start to finish, something that’s become customary over the years, as she had a match-high 21 kills while hitting .304.

The Huskies, who entered the match leading the conference with an average of 1.53 aces per set, did not waste any time to show their serving prowess. They notched six of their nine service aces in the first set — three from their top server, junior libero Cassie Strickland. The Washington serve seemed to keep the Cardinal out of system for most of the match, especially in the early going as they had trouble getting the ball to their bread and butter on offense — their middle blockers. While sophomore Merete Lutz and junior Inky Ajanaku had accounted for 41 percent of the team’s kills entering Wednesday, the two tallied just seven kills combined over the first two sets against the Huskies.

While Stanford battled back from an early third-set deficit to close the Washington lead to 2-1, they never got much closer than that. The Cardinal took an 11-10 lead in the fourth set on a Husky service error, but they lost all of their momentum shortly afterwards. Washington went on a 9-2 run — with two timeouts from head coach John Dunning in between unable to stop the bleeding — to open up a 19-13 lead that they would never surrender.

Junior outside hitter Jordan Burgess led the Cardinal with 14 kills in the match, adding eight digs and two blocks. Ajanaku and senior opposite hitter Morgan Boukather each added 11 kills. Junior setter Madi Bugg notched 48 assists and 13 digs for her 14th double-double of the season.

While Stanford clinched a share of the Pac-12 Championship with its win over Colorado last Saturday, the team will still need a win in its final match of the regular season to win the conference outright. The Cardinal travel to Cal for another edition of the Big Spike on Friday at 3 p.m. The match will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’

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Women’s soccer blazes into NCAA Quarterfinals Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:19:33 +0000 Lo'eau Labonta (21), Stanford W. Soccer defeats Oregon 1-0 in overtime on October 30, 2014 (Roger Chen)

Senior Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta scored both of the Cardinal’s goals in the two wins over Arkansas and Washington in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. (ROGER CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

With wins over No. 24 Arkansas on Friday and No. 10 Washington on Sunday, the No. 3 Stanford women’s soccer team continues its journey to its first NCAA title since 2011. The Cardinal now advance to the round of eight and will have their final home game of the year on Friday at Cagan Stadium against Florida.

On Friday, it wasn’t near the same offensive explosion that Stanford women’s soccer had in their first playoff game against Cal State Fullerton, but it will certainly do, as the Cardinal notched their second playoff victory against Arkansas. Senior Lo’eau LaBonta netted a penalty in the 24th minute and the Stanford defense, led by senior Hannah Farr, senior Kendall Romaine, sophomore Maddie Bauer and junior Laura Liedle held Arkansas to just 6 shots and only 2 in the second half to win their second tournament game and send them into the round of 16.

LaBonta on her penalty: “I usually take a deep breath and relax, because usually when people just rush to it, they may not get as good of a hit as usual. Washington…[sitting in the crowd after their victory and who faced the winner of this game]…was yelling ‘she’s going right’ so I was like, alright, I’m going to try and hit it left.”

Goalkeeper Jane Campbell was not without her own game-saving moments as well, keeping the game level after a few chaotic moments almost saw the game drawn level. First she knocked a looping header from an Arkansas attack over the bar mid-way through the second half. Moments later, perhaps against Arkansas’ best chance of the game, she kept cool as a ball was headed down in the box by an Arkansas forward and took a rolling deflection off of a Cardinal defender. The ball found a bit of space in the crowd and Stanford’s defenders looked as though they could not get to it before Arkansas’ star forward Ashleigh Ellenwood inside the five-yard box. Campbell would be called into action at the end of the game when an Arkansas through-ball looked as though it might find a lone forward with only her in front. She charged forward decisively to quickly end the attack that came close to the end of the game.

Although she did not score, senior forward Chi Obogagu again looked like an offensive force to be reckoned with and she is playing extraordinarily well when paired with Stanford’s leading scorer senior forward Taylor Uhl. Uhl was at the center of the game once more, earning yet another penalty in the 24th minute on one of her break-neck runs behind the defense. Although the Cardinal looked very sharp in possession, they also looked very comfortable sending balls from the back on counter-attacks to a sprinting Uhl.

Two things in particular stood out from the game. The first is the aggression of freshman midfielder Andi Sullivan on the ball who has shown no sign of being intimidated of her first post-season games. She made a number of charging runs from the midfield and created a plethora of chances with her skilled movements up from the center of the field. The second is the return to full-strength of LaBonta who has, more often than not, been one of the preeminent driving forces behind Stanford’s superb play all year long.

As she said with a wry smile: “I love being healthy. Being healthy is the best, my trainer loves not seeing me, which sounds terrible but we have a great relationship, I just don’t want to see her in the training room.”

Then on Sunday, another 1-0 win for the Stanford women’s soccer team came off of a 43rd minute penalty off of the foot of LaBonta at home against the Washington Huskies.

“It was funny, this time they [the Washington team] were all yelling this time ‘she’s going to the left’, so I was like, ‘alright, we’ll now I’ll go to the right’…But Megan Kufeld [is a] great keeper and I’ve played with her before and she got the block in, but I [thought]…this is going in some way… followed it up and tried to get it in there,” said LaBonta of her shot.

The game shared a number of parallels with Stanford’s last tournament game against Arkansas on Friday, far more than just the score and manner of scoring. Stanford outshot Washington 20-6 and has outshot their opponents 44-10 in those two games. They have been exceptional in almost every aspect of the game except for putting the ball in the back of the net. It hasn’t necessarily been accuracy in front of goal either.

On Sunday Washington forced 7 saves and as LaBonta pointed out, Kufeld was first-rate and the majority of those saves were not ones that would be made on a daily basis in the regular season. The midfielders and forwards have played very, very well, and senior midfielder Alex Doll and freshman midfielder Andi Sullivan played particularly well against the Huskies.

Overall the whole team, players coming in, made a difference in the game. There was one spell [at the start of] the second half when I thought we dropped a little bit and we weren’t keeping possession and playing our style, which was a little bit disappointing but I think they maybe got a little…uncertain…we need to get in the zone and play and get after it [in those situations],” said head coach Paul Ratcliffe.

Stanford takes on a feisty Florida this Friday at Cagan stadium in the final home-game of the season. The previous game against Florida came earlier this year on September 12th and was also played at Stanford. That game had a very similar feel to these past two; the Cardinal scored in overtime on a LaBonta penalty to win 1-0, but outshot the Gators 20-8 in the process. Campbell only had to make one save while Florida was forced into 6.

As Ratcliffe pointed out, “We’re getting amazing opportunities in both games and then a dominant performance overall. My hope is that we’re building up the goals for later on and maybe the next game we can put some away…When we do hit the back of the net, we can really hit our stride. I’m hoping we can get a bunch of goals instead of squeaking by with just one.”

The third ranked Stanford Cardinal plays their final game at Cagan Stadium of the season on Friday, November 28th at 7 p.m. as they square off against Florida in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

Contact Nic Radoff at nradoff ‘at’ 

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Women’s basketball narrowly avoids third OT in three games with win Tue, 25 Nov 2014 06:10:15 +0000 No. 1 Stanford women’s basketball (3-1) dodged a bullet Monday night when New Mexico (0-4) missed two free throws with under a minute left in regulation that could have either tied the game and sent it into overtime or won the game for the Lobos.

In the end, the Card pulled off a narrow 70-65 win, playing at The Pit of UNM, a typically challenging atmosphere to play in.


Freshman Kaylee Johnson became just the 12th player in Stanford history to have a 2o rebound game. She finished with 22 rebounds and 10 points. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/

In the win, senior point guard Amber Orrange scored her 1,000th career point with her 8th of 18 points in the game. She is only the 35th player in Cardinal history to reach that milestone. Additionally, Orrange was named earlier that day to the John R. Wooden Award Pre-season watch list. Freshman forward Kaylee Johnson also had a record setting performance in terms of rebounding. She grabbed 22 rebounds in the win — accounting for almost half of the team’s total boards. She is only the 12th player in Stanford history to have a 20 rebound game. Johnson also recorded a double-double, scoring 10 points and getting 2 blocks.

In the absence of sophomore guard Lili Thompson, who sat out the game due to not feeling well but is expected to begin practicing again this week, sophomore Karlie Samuelson was called upon to start. As the sixth woman off the bench anyways and someone who always brings plenty of energy, she did not disappoint. Samuelson sparked the Cardinal offense in the first half when she went 4-6 from the 3-point line, knocking down the first four consecutively. She ended the game with 23 points.

“Karlie Samuelson had a great game, she really got us going and with Lili out, that just added another double digit scorer for us,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “We’re a young team and our bigs are really young and i think they’re working hard out there. We’re just trying to find a way to win every game.”

However, the Cardinal’s offensive spurt was tempered by their defensive performance and poor free throw shooting — 17-29 for 58.6% in the game. The team struggled to stop the dribble penetration and allowed the Lobos to lead by 2 with seconds left in the first half after leading by double digits for the majority of the game. A last second quarter court shot by Orrange however tied up the game heading into the half.

The Card made adjustments on offense and defense to start the second half on a 14-2 run. Missed free throws again came to affect the Card however as it was unable to capitalize at the free throw line on solid drives to the basket.

The Lobos were able to keep themselves in the game by knocking down crucial 3s. In the end, the Card made free throws down the line that the Lobos weren’t able to and pulled away in the final seconds, yet VanDerveer still claimed how amazing it was “to win close games when you shoot so poorly from the free throw line”.

“Playing these close games is challenging for us because we have to sub in a lot and figure out different lineups and I think our team is growing by playing these close games and not panicking,” said VanDerveer. “We have to make free throws, but I thought we rebounded really well. We just have to get different people going.”

The Cardinal will now travel to Hawaii on Wednesday for the Rainbow Wahine Shootout where it will have to play three games in three days — not an easy feat considering that three of its season openers were played down to the wire and required all Stanford starters to play more than 30 minutes.

The Card begin tournament play in Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day against North Carolina in an Elite Eight rematch of last season.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’

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Cardinal stranglehold on Axe continues with fifth straight Big Game win Sun, 23 Nov 2014 01:23:07 +0000 Has this season been rough? Sure. Has it been frustrating? Absolutely.

But Saturday at California Memorial Stadium, there was nothing but elation and delirium in the air for Cardinal fans as Stanford (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) picked apart Cal (5-6, 3-6) in a 38-17 show that ensured that none of the seniors on Stanford’s roster would leave the school ever having lost to Cal.

It also marked the fifth straight Big Game victory for Stanford, which has outscored Cal 201-75 through that stretch and also attained bowl eligibility for the sixth straight year.

Senior running back Remound Wright had a field day against a questionable Cal defense, powering into the end zone four times as the Cardinal’s clear primary back and narrowly missing out on becoming Stanford’s first 100-yard rusher of the season with a 23-carry, 92-yard performance. With the show, Wright tied the late Chuck Muncie of Cal and Toby Gerhart ’09 of Stanford for most rushing touchdowns in a Big Game. Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan also added a rushing touchdown and had a very efficient 15-of-20 day for 214 yards.

On the other side of the ball, senior inside linebacker Blake Martinez had the game of his life, leading all defenders with 11 tackles while forcing a fumble and also adding two interceptions to boot. While the Cal offensive line held firm at the start of the game, Stanford’s feisty front seven eventually began to break through and forced five defensive turnovers while pressuring and knocking down Cal quarterbacks Jared Goff and Luke Rubenzer.

Stanford will have a short week of practice before heading down to Pasadena for the regular-season finale at UCLA on Friday.

This post will be updated.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’

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Men’s soccer primed for NCAAs Sun, 23 Nov 2014 00:00:29 +0000 Austin Meyer (17) (Frank Chen)

Senior midfielder Austin Meyer (above) kicked the game winning goal against Cal last Sunday to clinch the program’s first conference title since 2001. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

The Stanford men’s soccer team (13-2-3) will look to continue its magical season come Sunday afternoon, as they host the UC Irvine Anteaters in a second round clash in the NCAA tournament. Fresh off a Pac-12 league crown, the Card were awarded the 6th overall seed in the 48 team competition, and as a result received a bye into the second round.

UC Irvine earned its trip to the Farm Thursday evening, as they bested UNLV at home 3-0. A first-half brace from senior striker Cameron Iwasa put the Anteaters well in control at the break, while Dennis Martinez killed the game off with a quarter of an hour remaining.

The Big West side has been in good form as of late, unbeaten in their last four matches, with a marquee win away at eventual conference champions UCSB on Nov. 8. Thus far, it has been a decent season for the Southern California club, who finished second in the South division of the Big West Conference and T-4th overall.

In Sunday’s game, Irvine head coach Chris Volk will be looking to his heavy artillery to perform well, as his side will need to turn in a great performance to give them a chance of advancing. Leading scorer Eduardo Calzada (7 goals) will be one to watch in the attack, along with a brilliant supporting cast of playmakers. Junior Mats Bjurman assisted on both Iwasa goals in the UNLV match, while leading set-up man Gor Kirakosyan will also be looking to get in on the act.

As the Anteaters will most likely be outmatched for quality, expect the away side to compete with the grit of a second-rate prizefighter. While they may not possess the skill of their superiors, they will by no means let a lack of effort be the cause of their demise.

Stanford should be well equipped to counter their opposition, as their distinct style of possession-oriented soccer will be able to stretch the defense. Head coach Jeremy Gunn will want his side to possess the ball early and dictate the tempo of the game, leaving nothing to chance.

The Cardinal enters this match as the newly minted Pac-12 conference champions. It is the team’s first trophy since 2001, and was the result of one of the more dramatic run-ins in recent memory. Stanford went unbeaten in its final eight conference fixtures, and secured the championship in a Big Derby clash in Berkeley. The final league contest was full of late drama, as an overtime goal by Austin Meyer gave his squad the three points it needed to win the league.

The home side will welcome sophomore Jordan Morris back into the fold Sunday, after he missed the Cal match due to a senior USMNT call-up. Having earned his first cap in a 15 minute run-out against the Republic of Ireland, the precocious striker will be brimming with confidence come kickoff.

The return of Morris may present a bit of a selection headache for Gunn, who has striking options aplenty at his disposal. Senior Eric Verso was given the start at Cal in place of Morris, and validated his selection with an early goal. It is always touchy to leave an in-form striker on the bench, so it will be interesting to see how the Stanford manager utilizes his squad depth. US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann deployed Morris in a wide left role against the Irish, but the Seattle Sounders Academy graduate has played almost exclusively up front for the Cardinal.

Winger Bobby Edwards will also be looking to contribute in the attack after perhaps his best game of the year against the Golden Bears. The Danville, California native was a constant threat on the dribble and was unlucky not to score in the match.

The Cardinal will also require a strong defensive performance, as knockout fixtures are often low-scoring affairs. Keeping a clean sheet can often be the difference between advancing and going home. The traditional back four of Callinan, Nana-Sinkham, Hilliard-Arse and Vincent has been brilliant all year, and their cohesion has become more apparent each game. Look for the fullbacks to get involved in the attack and provide that extra spark.

For Stanford, the tournament could not have arrived at a better time. Momentum is an integral concept in football, and the Cardinal has that in spades now. But once the whistle blows, anything can happen.

The second round NCAA matchup with UC Irvine is at 5 p.m. on Sunday at Cagan Stadium and will be televised on Pac-12 Bay Area.

Contact Will Drinkwater at willydri ‘at’

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Football live blog: Stanford at California (117th Big Game) Sat, 22 Nov 2014 20:33:14 +0000 Welcome to The Daily’s live blog of Saturday’s 117th Big Game, featuring Stanford (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) and hosts California (5-5, 3-5). The Cardinal are making the trek to Strawberry Canyon after losing in a double-overtime heartbreaker to Utah at Stanford Stadium last week. With the Cardinal set to play No. 9 UCLA and the Golden Bears a solid BYU squad, this game could be critical for both teams’ bowl hopes. Stay tuned to our live blog here all afternoon and follow us on Twitter @StanfordSports for live updates and analysis.

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Whistleblowers: AxeComm defends the Big Game rivalry Fri, 21 Nov 2014 09:00:17 +0000 There are 109 hours before Big Game, and my ribcage is already rattling as if it were on the receiving end of a Patrick Skov hit. I’m standing a few feet from a Trancos freshman holding a cord attached to the valve of the Axe Committee’s train whistle as he yanks on it three times, just after the clock tower strikes midnight on Tuesday, his birthday. I’d heard that whistle blow hundreds of times in Stanford Stadium, but I’d never felt it before, up close and personal.

As the Trancos delegation disperses, I’m left with about a dozen AxeComm members: students from all four classes, many of them wearing their AxeComm pullovers, all of them decked out in some sort of Cardinal garb. From “the birdcage,” AxeComm’s perch overlooking White Plaza this week, they serve as one of the last bastions of a storied rivalry that, at least among Stanford students, has begun to reek of irrelevance. Between the Cardinal’s four-game winning streak in the series, Cal’s 4-20 overall record from 2012-13 and Stanford’s resurgent rivalries with USC and Oregon, few current students buy into the animosity toward that school across the Bay.

“Not enough Stanford students get excited about beating Cal, but we do our best to spread that friendly rivalry,” said Sloane Sturzenegger ’16, AxeComm’s chairman. “The way the football season has turned out, this will be the most important game of the season…It is super important, and if we do our job by counting down properly, [we’ll make] people aware.”

He’s referring to the blasting of the train whistle in White Plaza, which takes place every hour during Big Game week. This year the countdown began at 4 p.m. on Monday, 117 hours in advance of Saturday’s game, the 117th in the rivalry’s history.

(Kristen Stipanov/The Stanford Daily)

The AxeComm has staffed the birdcage at White Plaza 24/7 since Monday 4 p.m., exactly 117 hours in advance of Saturday’s game to mark the 117th rendition of Big Game. (Kristen Stipanov/The Stanford Daily)

From then on, AxeComm staffs the birdcage 24/7. Only a few of AxeComm’s 35 members need to be at each shift, but the group tends to gravitate toward White Plaza all week long.

“I’m just hanging out. I love you guys so much,” proclaims Lark Trumbly ’17, who stops by around 12:10 a.m. A few minutes later, she reciprocates. “I’m actually here because I’m eating crackers,” she says, a box of saltines in hand.

I planned to sit in on one three-hour shift in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I wanted to embed myself in this rare hub of Big Game frenzy, sort of, as Daily opinions editor and AxeComm member Nick Ahamed ’15 explained most eloquently to my hosts, “like a war correspondent in Afghanistan.”

The birdcage does feel a bit like an outpost in a war zone. Ropes and caution tape are strewn about, tarps stretch over the structure’s metal frame and a ladder still stands in the corner from Monday afternoon’s setup. Christmas lights — all red and white, of course — hang from above, along with a “Beat Cal” banner. There’s a mini fridge, a microwave, four couches and a few tables. Quarters are tight; it’s not long until someone’s pizza crusts are knocked onto the ground. Prominently displayed out front early in the week, hanging from a noose strung firmly around its neck, was a giant teddy bear with plush stuffing leaking out of a few tears. (It was later removed due to student complaints of lynching imagery.)

And, of course, there’s the artillery. According to Sturzenegger, Caltrain took the whistle off one of its old trains and donated it in honor of the 100th Big Game, back in 1997. That spawned the customary three blows of the whistle after the Cardinal score at Stanford Stadium, as well as the White Plaza countdown leading up to Big Game.

After the final chime of the clock tower each hour, someone announces through a megaphone, “Attention White Plaza: please cover your ears.” That’s followed by the train whistle itself, an update on how many hours are left until Big Game and a resounding, “Beat Cal!”

AxeComm keeps Nitrogen tanks close at hand to fill the whistle, as well as oil to make sure the valve doesn’t get stuck. Around 12:20 a.m., Sturzenegger, who’s not on shift, stops by to check on his crew — and the train whistle.

“Hey guys,” he says disapprovingly, “the safety’s off.”


“There are 108 hours before Big Game,” announces a representative from Casa Zapata, the dorm tasked with blowing the whistle at 1 a.m.

A few minutes later, there’s cheering: Someone reads online that fireworks from AxeComm’s Big Game Rally, which was held earlier that night, caused some students studying in the library to “hit the floor.”

It’s at about this time that the AxeComm crowd starts reaching for electric blankets and snuggies, as temperatures sneak into the low 40s. Most of the remaining students came prepared with scarves and beanies, but they also aren’t quite sure what to do with the tin of hot chocolate powder sitting in the corner; there isn’t hot water nearby, and none of their cups are microwavable. In case things get really bad, AxeComm has a few kerosene heaters at its disposal.

Time and body temperature aren’t the only things that AxeComm members have to sacrifice this week. Drinking isn’t allowed in White Plaza, per University rules. Perhaps more relevant at 1:15 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, the birdcage has terrible WiFi reception, which is a problem for Luis Gardea ’17, a computer science student trying to finish up the crash reporter assignment for CS107. (“It’s okay, dude. It’s worth it,” he says as he struggles to connect to Stanford’s network file system, AFS.)

But the gig has its perks as well. Besides blowing the train whistle and keeping the Axe safe this week, AxeComm gets to watch games from the field and pump up students.

“It’s fun for me holding up a T-shirt and watching the crowd lose themselves,” said Mitch Hokanson ’16.

A political science student, Hokanson grew up in Long Beach as a Cardinal fan and the son of an alum. His first Stanford football game was the 2000 Rose Bowl loss to Wisconsin, and as a freshman 13 years later, his AxeComm responsibilities included marching in the Rose Parade and leading Stanford out onto the field for “The Granddaddy of Them All” against the Badgers. This time, the Cardinal won.

He is one of several AxeComm members who hold longtime allegiances to Stanford — and enmity toward Cal — including Sturzenegger, a Burlingame native who started coming to Cardinal football games as a kid.

They understand that they’re a rare breed. When I asked whether Stanford students care about the Cal rivalry, a defining element of Cardinal football throughout its history, the birdcage responded with a resounding, “No.”

“I feel like the only people who came here with an understanding of Stanford football grew up around here or had parents who went to Stanford,” Hokanson said. “People come to Stanford for school.”

As AxeComm waits for the top of the next hour, they munch on the stash of snacks that they expect will get them through at least the first half of the week. The provisions — free for any student who visits the birdcage — are impressive. They’ve got Granny Smith and Gala apples (whole and sliced); tea (iced and bagged); Doritos, Fritos and Cheetos; Goldfish, Cheez-Its and Pirate’s Booty; potato chips, tortilla chips and guac; Chewy and Nature Valley bars; fruit snacks and juice boxes; saltines and Wheat Thins; sour worms, M&Ms, Lifesavers and marshmallows; Milano cookies and Oreos; bananas and grapes; almond butter and Pop Tarts.

The most important snack, ordered just for the occasion: a bubble-wrapped packing envelope of blue gummy bears.


There are 107 hours before Big Game, and it’s my turn to blow the whistle. Besides “celebrities” such as University Provost John Etchemendy, President John Hennessy and head coach David Shaw, AxeComm tries to involve freshman dorms, nearby offices and community centers in the countdown. (They ask Condoleezza Rice every year, but she’s always “too busy.”) No one’s signed up for the 2 a.m. slot, so I jump at the chance.

I don protective headphones as one of the AxeComm members warns White Plaza. Then I flip the safety valve, stabilize the whistle with my foot and pull the cord.

Out blasts that familiar sound, the signal of victory brought to Stanford fans oh so many times over the last few years by the Toby Gerharts, Andrew Lucks and Jordan Williamsons of the world. After about a second, I loosen the tension on the cord, but the whistle keeps blowing. One second becomes two, which becomes three. I finally reach down and flip the valve back with my hand — guess it needed some more oil.

I overcompensate on the second pull, which is far too short, before letting out another protracted blast on the third. Switching the safety back on, I turn around sheepishly, ready to apologize for butchering the distinctive sound so badly and hoping I didn’t offend Storey House, the nearby student residence that gets woken up by the whistle every now and then. Instead, I’m met with a hearty, “Beat Cal!” from AxeComm.

Quickly, AxeComm falls back into homework. At 2:15 a.m. I’m asked to explain how an op-amp works; at 2:20 a.m., after much debate regarding Taylor Swift, a streak of Johnny Cash begins to flow out of Hokanson’s speakers. Soon, three people exclaim, “My name is Sue! How do you do!” in perfect unison.

The group of eight that’s left consists of a good mix of Big Trees — returning members — and Little Trees — typically freshmen — so around 2:30 a.m., the conversation turns to majors, after-college plans and hometowns. Sitting next to me, 15-year-old Albert Zhang ’17, who skipped high school, began at Cal last year and just transferred to Stanford, works on a math problem set. Selby Sturzenegger ’18, Sloane’s sister, asks Gardea about priority queues as she types away at her CS106B assignment. In the corner, someone dozes off. (“The cool people are the people who can sleep through the train whistle,” Sloane Sturzenegger explained.)

I ask the AxeComm members why they like being there. “Chillin’,” says one; “food,” notes another.

“It reminds me of rushing,” Hokanson explains. “I went in, and it’s like, ‘I want to spend more time with these guys.’”

The birdcage is a freshman dorm lounge under the stars. It’s home to a mishmash of personalities, backgrounds, ages, food cravings and music tastes, but it’s also the kind of home that brings drowsy people together at 2:45 a.m. on a Tuesday in November with something as silly as a train whistle.

I ask the members of AxeComm if they have a least favorite thing about Cal, and suddenly, the birdcage perks up. Even the guy napping in the corner stirs. People begin to characterize the enemy student population, launching into a discussion about UC admissions standards. Someone suggests that Cal students must have no personality if they were smart enough to get into Berkeley but didn’t stand out to Stanford or the Ivies. Another AxeComm member counters that Cal certainly has its fair share of weirdos.

The only person with her mind made up is Selby Sturzenegger. “Like, all of it,” she quickly responds to my question. “Is that not an acceptable answer?”


There are 106 hours before Big Game, and nobody realizes it until the clock tower strikes 3 a.m., the proverbial air raid siren that brings the birdcage to life in a heartbeat. Sean Means ’18 tosses aside his laptop and makes a beeline for the train whistle while another AxeComm member mans his battle station at the megaphone. I begin to pack my bag and take a sip from my water bottle, which, by now, is ice cold.

The first two blasts from the whistle sound fine, but the third quickly peters out — no one had refilled the Nitrogen. Most of AxeComm laughs while one member announces the countdown to White Plaza, which has long been empty, save for the teddy bear impaled on the Claw.

I stand up to leave, tiptoeing around the fallen pizza crusts still sitting at my feet from two hours earlier. From the birdcage, its outpost on the front lines of this week’s war, AxeComm’s chapped lips issue its battle cry once again. “Beat Cal!”

Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’

]]> 0 SPO.112114.bigGameLarge-2 (Kristen Stipanov/The Stanford Daily)
More than football: Jordan Richards succeeds on and off the field Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:58:33 +0000 Take a second to imagine that you’re 21 years old and a captain of the Stanford football team. You’ve started in two Rose Bowls, and by all accounts, NFL draft experts have you projected to be selected as high as the third round in the upcoming draft (for reference, that’s about a four-year, three million dollar contract coming your way).

It seems safe to assume that most college students (or people in general) in that scenario would be counting down the days until the draft and the lucrative contract that would inevitably follow.

But then again, Jordan Richards has never been like most other student-athletes.

In today’s world of college football, which includes scandals across universities that make people question the “student” aspect of “student-athlete,” it’s incredibly refreshing and inspiring to see Stanford’s defensive leader defy the negative image that has been cast on collegiate athletics.

NFF Scholar-Athlete

The 5-foot-11-inch, 210-pound strong safety who wears the #8 jersey with pride on Saturdays has recently been selected as a National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete. The award, which is given to student-athletes who have excelled in academic, athletic and leadership areas, rewards 17 finalists with $18,000 in post-graduate scholarships. On top of this, Richards will join the other finalists in New York on Dec. 9, where the William V. Campbell Trophy and an additional $7,000 in post-graduate scholarships will be awarded to a finalist (former Stanford great Darrin Nelson will also be inducted into the college football Hall of Fame at this ceremony). The prestige of the award is clear from its selectivity, as each university can nominate only one senior student-athlete for the prize. Richard’s selection makes him Stanford’s 12th NFF Scholar-Athlete and the first since Owen Marecic in 2010.

Academic Success and Volunteering

But again, for someone who seems destined for the NFL, will the postgraduate scholarship even be used? On the surface, this question doesn’t seem too unreasonable to ask. Richards, however, cracks a huge smile and begins discussing his future academic aspirations.

“I’m at the point at the end of my senior year where I’d like football to continue but I’m definitely thinking non-football post-graduate plans, and so I plan on when football’s over — whether it’s this year or a couple of years from now — going back to school and getting my master’s in education.”

While at Stanford, Richards has studied public policy, and serves as an undergraduate peer advisor to students interested in learning more about the major. For Richards, it was during his early years that he discovered and fostered a passion for helping others.

“I actually took a couple of sociology classes, and I developed a heart for helping people. I thought a really good opportunity to do this was through public policy,” Richards explained.

Richards has spent his summers helping others throughout the community. For example, he has tutored high school students in East Palo Alto, and this past summer, he worked in Redwood City with first-generation ninth-grade students, helping with tutoring and college preparation. When asked about his desire to help others and where it comes from, Richards reflects on his own experiences and the blessings he’s received.

“For me, I just want to try to make the best opportunities for everyone else. I’ve been blessed to have so many opportunities handed to me and I’ve tried to take advantage of that as much as I can, and I’d like to open up some of those doors for other students.”

Just from talking with Richards, his humility and passion for learning are more than evident. His continued references to his plans to lead and help students in the future genuinely seem to mean more to him than how many pass-deflections or tackles he’s had in the season. Richards understands the opportunity he’s been given to represent Stanford off the football field, and it is clear that he has made the most of all aspects of his time here.

Senior strong safety Jordan Richards has been one of Stanford's most reliable playmakers in the past three years, but he also excels off the field, as he was selected as a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. (Kevin Hsu/The Stanford Daily)(Kevin Hsu/The Stanford Daily)

Senior strong safety Jordan Richards has been one of Stanford’s most reliable playmakers in the past three years, but he also excels off the field, as he was selected as a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. (Kevin Hsu/The Stanford Daily)(Kevin Hsu/The Stanford Daily)

Big Game

As far as on the football field, Richards knows that the end of his collegiate career will soon be upon him. This year’s Big Game marks the fourth time Richards will have taken part in the rivalry — during his time, Stanford is 3-0 against Cal. The rivalry has special meaning for Richards, who grew up just outside of Sacramento.

“Being from Sacramento, I rooted for Cal. It was the [school] that was closer to my home. I hadn’t been to a Stanford football game until the recruiting process. I had gone to a bunch of Cal games and seen Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best, Aaron Rodgers and DeSean Jackson.”

So what made Richards choose Stanford over his childhood team?

“I know it’s cliché, but it really is the best combination of academics and athletics. At that time, our football program was just phenomenal and growing. And ultimately, it was the guys on our team. I just really found my ‘brothers’ so to speak, and I’m just really comfortable with the guys on the team and wanted to be part of this atmosphere.”

This season will be the final time that Richards takes on Cal as a member of the Stanford team. When asked about the rivalry and how it has evolved over his time on the Farm, Richards had the following to offer:

“Four years ago, Cal was a team that was in the middle-ground in the Pac-12, and we’ve been successful against them the past three years. Last year, obviously, they struggled a lot, but this year is a totally new team and they’ve been playing very well. It’s exciting; it’s nice to have that rivalry back in full swing.”

For all of Richards’ success on the field, it is clear that there is a bright future awaiting him when he decides to retire the cleats — whether that is after this season or after an NFL career. When asked about what his plans are after he uses the scholarship money from the NFF for a master’s in education, Richards talked about wanting to teach.

“After a master’s, I’d like to get my teaching credential and start in the classroom. That’s something I’m really excited about. And from there, maybe go into administration. I don’t know yet, but I definitely want to start with teaching and try my hand at that.”

Richards, who was also named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list, embodies excellence both on and off the field. Regardless of whether he is ultimately awarded the William V. Campbell trophy or whether Stanford becomes bowl eligible this season, Richards has set an example that all student-athletes should strive to match.

Contact Shawn Tuteja at sstuteja ‘at’

]]> 0 SPO.112114.bigGame-9 Senior strong safety Jordan Richards has been one of Stanford's most reliable playmakers in the past three years, but he also excels off the field, as he was selected as a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. (Kevin Hsu/The Stanford Daily)(Kevin Hsu/The Stanford Daily)
Stanford readies for Big Game, still in search of bowl eligibility Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:57:46 +0000 Stanford has made a habit of limping into Big Games the past three years.

In 2011, the Cardinal begrudgingly got back on the field for Cal a week after losing to Oregon in one of the biggest games in college football that year. A season later, Big Game took place following Stanford’s controversial 20-17 overtime loss at Notre Dame. And in 2013, the Cardinal had to bounce back a week after seeing their national championship hopes derailed at the hands of USC.

(Tri Nguyen/The Stanford Daily)

Senior outside linebacker Kevin Anderson (48) has proven to be one of Stanford’s most explosive pass rushers and will look to bring the heat on Cal quarterback Jared Goff on Saturday.  (Tri Nguyen/The Stanford Daily)

As Stanford (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) faces Cal (5-5, 3-5) in the 117th rendition of Big Game this weekend, the storyline fits with the three-year trend. But things are also a little different this time around. Instead of only limping into Berkeley, the Cardinal are bleeding from every orifice, having lost three of their last four games including most recently a double-overtime heartbreaker to Utah.

Cal can smell the blood.

“We haven’t earned the right to be overconfident about anything,” said head coach David Shaw. “We’re trying to scrap and claw for a win…This is our closest rival. Our seniors haven’t lost a Big Game and have the desire to keep the Axe, and that’s where our focus is. Winning one more game gets us bowl eligible, but at the same time, winning this game has a chance to be special.”

The 2014 Big Game will feature a battle of the worsts: Stanford’s offense vs. Cal’s defense. The Cardinal have averaged 23.9 points per game while the Bears have given up 37.9 points per game, both of which are rock-bottom in the conference. Stanford’s red-zone woes have been well-documented, but some of the Bears’ defensive performances have been equally laughable — Cal has given up over 20 points in one quarter five times this year, including 36 in the fourth quarter against Arizona back in September. Against Pac-12 opponents, the Bears have allowed opponents to score at least two touchdowns in one quarter 13 times, almost forty percent of total quarters they’ve played in.

In light of Stanford’s recent struggles in both the running and passing game, it’s difficult to envision the Cardinal putting up 63 points like it did last year, when wideout Ty Montgomery scored 5 touchdowns and made the Bears defensive backs look like junior varsity benchwarmers. But if there’s any consolation in last week’s loss to Utah, it’s that true freshman halfback Christian McCaffrey has been getting more touches. The versatile McCaffrey had eight carries for 77 yards and three catches for 10 yards against the Utes, by far the most Shaw has involved him in the offensive gameplan this year.

“We’ll continue to do a lot of things with Christian [McCaffrey], both as a runner and a receiver,” Shaw said. “He’s got great versatility…We still don’t want to completely overload him — we want to be very specific with what we give him. He’s proven to be effective in just about everything we’ve done with him, so his role will continue to expand.”

On the other side of the ball, Cal’s offense has been impressive to say the least, as it’s ranked behind only Oregon in the conference when it comes to points scored per-game (40.7). The major catalyst for the Bears’ success on offense in the past two years has been their quarterback Jared Goff, who’s had an outstanding season statistically with 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Goff has benefited from a more balanced Cal offensive attack this season, especially with running back Daniel Lasco averaging 5.3 yards per carry and being used as a dangerous target out of the backfield.

“[Cal’s offense] is very good,” said senior outside linebacker Kevin Anderson. “They’re the fourth-best passing team in the country and they can also run the ball well. It’s going to be a challenge this week.”

None of the players on the current Cardinal squad know what it’s like to lose Big Game or to relinquish the Axe. On Saturday, they’ll look to keep it that way.

“In this program we pride ourselves on playing for tangible evidence,” said fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeff Trojan, “so [playing for the Axe] is something we’re excited for.”

Saturday’s Big Game is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff time, with television coverage on Fox Sports 1.

Contact George Chen at gchen15 ‘at’

]]> 0 SPO.112114.bigGame-12 (Tri Nguyen/The Stanford Daily)
Football predictions: The 117th Big Game Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:48:24 +0000 Stanford (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) vs. California (5-5, 3-5 Pac-12)

Do-Hyoung Park: Stanford 35, Cal 24

In the words of the always-eloquent Jeremy Lin: “I don’t… it’s… you know… uh… I don’t know, man.” I’m not exactly sure how else I can describe Stanford’s offense. But give it credit, though — for as much crap as we’ve given it, against weak defenses like Oregon State, Washington State and Army, it showed up and looked at least respectable and put points on the board. To say that Cal has a weak defense is an insult to weak defenses around the nation. With everything on the line — not just pride and the Axe, but bowl implications as well — the offense is going to show up and play inspired football. I’m calling it right now: We’re finally going to see Montgomery throw out of the Wildcat. To a wide-open Kevin Hogan. We’ve seen flashes of creativity, but if there’s any game for it to be unleashed in full force, now is the time. The Bears smell blood and will be playing with four years of mounted frustration — and a glimmer of hope. And hope is dangerous. On paper, this matchup should go to the Cardinal — assuming they don’t beat themselves again. This game is what these players have left to play for. I don’t think they’re going to let us — and themselves — down again.

Michael Peterson: Stanford 35, Cal 28

You can bet that Cal will be more fired up for this game than any game in the past several years. Fresh off last year’s 63-13 mauling by Stanford, the Bears sense that this year’s Stanford team is wounded and vulnerable. Make no mistake: Cal will show up to play on Saturday. However, despite the similar records, Stanford still has way too much talent to succumb to Cal just a year after its 50-point victory, especially on the perimeter with Ty Montgomery, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Rector and company salivating over the chance to wreak havoc on an atrocious Cal secondary. And one would hope that Stanford will play with an urgency knowing that it’s still not bowl eligible and facing its biggest rival. Cal opens the game with a 14-point first quarter and takes the early lead, but Stanford proves too much for the Bears over the course of four quarters, and we finally see a comeback victory out of the Card after a season of heartbreak.

Ashley Westhem: Stanford 28, Cal 21

With a 5-5 Stanford team meeting a 5-5 Cal team, I would prefer to view Saturday’s matchup blissfully without expectations or any predictions–basically how my parents or any other family with a house divided will view the game. But, I won’t miss a chance to put in my two-cents. With both teams playing so inconsistently and unpredictably all season, I’d be surprised if anyone will end up accurately predicting the outcome of this Big Game. One key question for Cal to hit on if they are to succeed will be whether they can stop Ty Montgomery. In last year’s beat down of Cal at Stanford, the Golden Bears had a tough time of containing the wide receiver who scored 5 touch downs. Cal’s rush defense is not half bad so for the Cardinal offense to succeed this year, the passing game will be crucial. The beauty of Big Game is that it’s all about emotions and a timeless rivalry, and no one can really make a valid prediction when those factors are involved.

Winston Shi: Stanford 31, Cal 21

In reality, Stanford’s offense puts on a show as it did against Washington State and Oregon State, the defense corrals the Bear Raid just as they did against WSU (even though Cal has a better run game than the Cougs), and Stanford ends Cal’s conference schedule with style in a game that isn’t as close as the final score might suggest.

But what I’d like to see is David Shaw lead the Stanford team in a rendition of the Arrested Development chicken dance midway through the second quarter. Crippled by stadium debt and with no end to the suffering in sight, California’s athletic department is acquired by John Arrillaga in an unprecedented LBO for the grand total of one dollar. (Plus debt, obviously.) Reflecting Cal’s lack of “real cash money,” Arrillaga trades the name “Golden Bears” to Baylor for the name “Bears,” a chocolate cupcake from Sprinkles and some (but not all) of the loose change in Baylor head coach Art Briles’ pocket. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers ’18 announces his intention to enroll in Stanford Law School. He’s not allowed to play for the team per NCAA rules, but as he explains, “I just wanted to cheer for a team that actually beats its rival for a change.”

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A look back at the last three Stanford – Cal matchups Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:37:07 +0000 There’s nothing quite like the magic of college football rivalries. If it weren’t for the powers of unfiltered, mutual hate, the third Saturday in November would be just another day on the calendar, phrases like the “Iron Bowl” or “Michigan-Ohio State” wouldn’t get hearts racing and — if it weren’t for rivalries — would people really go crazy for the chance to claim an old, worn-down axe? We wouldn’t have one of the most iconic plays in college football.

(SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

Then-junior Ty Montgomery (left) had 5 touch downs in the Card’s dismantling of Cal in last year’s Big Game. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

That’s right — on Saturday, Stanford and Cal resume their rivalry for the ages as the Big Game again descends on Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. While both teams come into this matchup with identical 5-5 records, Stanford had the Bears’ number in the last few years. Let’s take a look back at the last three Big Games.

2011: Another Stroke of Luck

After leading the Cardinal to a Big Game win in 2010 (and annihilating a Cal defender in the process), Andrew Luck was again the star of Stanford’s come-from-behind victory in 2011. On a soggy night at Stanford Stadium, Luck recovered from an early interception to help Stanford squeak out a 31-28 victory. Ryan Hewitt became the pride of all fullbacks anytime, anywhere with a team-high 7 receptions while Coby Fleener sealed the deal by recovering an onside kick in the waning moments of the game. The Bears, led by Keenan Allen’s 97 receiving yards, fought hard, but there was just too much Luck on Stanford’s side in this one. With the win, the Card recovered from a devastating loss to Oregon a week earlier and continued their furious march to another BCS Bowl.

2012: The October Experiment

A Big Game in October? In 2012, this blasphemy became a reality in Berkeley and the product on the field was equally bizarre. Stanford’s juggernaut offense of just a year ago looked absolutely anemic, despite Stepfan Taylor grinding his way to 189 rushing yards. Conversely, the once-suspect Stanford defense didn’t just shut the door on Cal — they slammed it in the Bears’ face. Led by stellar performances from Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov, Stanford held Cal to just 1-14 on third down and grinded out a 21-3 win to keep the Axe on the Farm.

2013: Montgomery runs Wild

As Cal experienced the pains of a rebuilding year under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes, the Bears ran into an angry Stanford squad coming off of a loss to USC that dashed any hopes of a national title. The result was Big Game history.

Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery singlehandedly took down the Bears with 5 (5!) touchdowns in the first half. In the second half, Tyler Gaffney delivered the finishing blow with a long run out of the Wildcat for a touchdown. When the dust finally settled, the Cardinal emerged as 63-13 victors, the largest margin of victory in Big Game history.

What will 2014 bring? If history has taught us anything, we can never really know. But when you bring two teams fighting for a bowl berth who just happen to disdain each other to the core, how can the result be anything but epic?

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’

]]> 1 SPO.112114.bigGame-2 (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)
Football podcast: Stanford at Cal Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:31:53 +0000 Stanford and Cal meet in the 117th Big Game on Saturday in a matchup of 5-5 teams. The Cardinal have won the Axe four straight years, and the Golden Bears smell blood against a Stanford team that has struggled offensively throughout 2014.

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Women’s basketball suffers OT loss to Texas Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:20:08 +0000 After a thrilling victory against UConn on Monday, the mood was reversed in Maples Pavilion on Thursday as the newly minted No. 1  Cardinal (2-1) lost its first game of the season against the No. 10 Texas Longhorns, 87-81.

Sophomore guards Lili Thompson (27 points) and senior point guard Amber Orrange (15 points) were the only Stanford players who ended the game with double-digit points. Freshman forward Kaylee Johnson contributed 13 rebounds but struggled from the free-throw line (5-10) and missed three important free throws at the end of regulation.

(Mike Kheir/The Stanford Daily)

Senior point guard Amber Orrange (33) scored 15 points on Thursday night, but it wasn’t enough as No. 13 Texas upset the Cardinal at Maples 87-81 just three days after Stanford took down mighty UConn. (Mike Kheir/The Stanford Daily)

“It didn’t look like we had that pep in our step that we needed. Credit to Texas; they came out aggressive and had more energy than we did,” said head coach Tara VanDerveer. “They didn’t back down and did a great job of going inside.”

Stanford trailed 43-37 at halftime after having difficulty penetrating the middle for most of the half.  Texas’ defense forced Stanford to take lower-percentage shots and led to seven Cardinal turnovers.

“We relied a little too much on our perimeter shooting. We didn’t have our legs and we didn’t get out on transition because we didn’t play defensively as well as we needed to play,” VanDerveer said. “And for not playing very well we still made it an overtime game.”

Stanford’s first-half points came mostly from Thompson (16 points) and sophomore guard Briana Roberson, who went 8-8 from the free throw line after she repeatedly weaved through the Texas defense and drew fouls.

“We take away [from this loss] that we definitely have things to work on and we’re still a young team and it’s early in the season,” Thompson said. “If we had won this game then we wouldn’t have focused as much on what we need to improve on so looking at it from that standpoint we’ll watch film and make adjustments.”

The Cardinal had trouble defending Empress Davenport’s pull-up jump shot. The Card were too often beat off the drive and did not rotate quickly enough on help defense, allowing the Longhorns to shoot 53 percent from the field in the first half under strong shooting by Davenport, Kelsey Lang, and Ariel Atkins.

The referees made it difficult for either team to play aggressive defense, for they called 24 total fouls in the first half alone and 51 in total in the game.

“They called really tight hand checking. I dont think it was a poorly called game but I don’t think anyone wants to pay to see a free throw contest,” said VanDerveer. “Having said that we didn’t win the free throw contest…It was an aggressive physical game.”

The second half and overtime proved to be a continuation of the Cardinal’s struggles.

While Thompson made some important shots to keep the team within striking distance, the Cardinal shot only 37.5 percent in the second half and 14.3 percent in overtime, where they got off only one shot.  Lang, Atkins, and Nneka Enemkpali from the Longhorns took advantage of the Cardinal’s inability to defend the dribble penetration and combined for 29 points. Stanford was able to keep up offensively as Orrange and Johnson scored 6 apiece in the second half.

After not leading since the beginning of the first half, the Cardinal saw a glimmer of hope when senior guard Bonnie Samuelson hit a long three with 1:43 left to put Stanford up by 1 point, 74-73.  After sophomore forward Kaylee Johnson went 1-2 from the free throw line and put the team up by 2 points with 12 seconds left, Davenport hit an open layup with one second left to tie the game and force it into overtime.

In overtime the Cardinal again struggled to stop the penetration down the middle and gave Texas open lanes to the basket. While offensively the Cardinal had a resurgence from the free-throw line and had better shot selections, the Card weren’t able to capitalize off several steals and key defensive rebounds to put up enough points to pull away.

Texas outscored Stanford in the paint 34-24 on the day and outrebounded them 44-37.  The Cardinal struggled most with offensive rebounds, while Texas earned 34 defensive rebounds.

“Losing is a blessing. It’s early in the season and…we don’t like losing but this can be a really good learning game for us,” Orrange said.

“Going Monday against Connecticut and then Thursday against Texas after playing on Friday is tough but we’re going to turn around and play three games in three days in Hawaii and that’s what the Pac-12 Tournament is like,” VanDerveer concluded.

The Cardinal will travel to New Mexico for its first road trip to meet the Lobos in Albuquerque at 6 p.m. local time.

Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’

]]> 0 SPO.112114.wbb (Mike Kheir/The Stanford Daily)
Women’s volleyball looks to continue dominance as Pac-12 wraps up Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:17:28 +0000 Entering this weekend as the only team in the nation still undefeated, the No. 1 Stanford women’s volleyball team (26-0, 16-0) seeks to make program history tonight to open up its final weekend of regular season matches at Maples.

(Nathan Staffa/The Stanford Daily)

Senior Morgan Boukather (3) has collected five double-doubles in her 24 starts this season. (Nathan Staffa/The Stanford Daily)

A win over the Utes would give the Cardinal their 27th consecutive victory to start the season, matching the program record set by the 1991 squad. But it won’t be easy, as Utah looks to knock off its second top-ranked opponent within a week, after taking down then-No. 2 Washington in five sets on Saturday. Almost exactly a month ago in Salt Lake City, the Cardinal defeated the Utes in four tightly contested sets behind senior opposite hitter Morgan Boukather’s career-high 18 kills on a .467 hitting percentage.

“Our record is perfect, but our play is not perfect,” Boukather told GoStanford. “What’s really cool is that our entire team understands that and we are not comfortable where we are. We have to get so much better to be where we need to be. We know how good we can be.”

Though Stanford won’t have to deal with the altitude in this rematch, they will have to contend again with Utah’s leading offensive weapon, senior outside hitter Chelsey Schofield. The team’s leader in kills with 3.04 per set, she is just the fourth player in Utah history to tally 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs over her career and just last weekend, she had 26 kills and 18 digs combined in Utah’s two wins.

The Cardinal will counter with their balanced offensive attack that propelled them to two sweeps in Los Angeles last week, which is led by middle blockers Merete Lutz and Inky Ajanaku, who rank third and fifth nationally in hitting percentage respectively.

Contact Jordan Wallach at jwallach ‘at’ 

]]> 1 Morgan Boukather (3) (Nathan Staffa/The Stanford Daily)
Venkataraman: What I’m thankful for this year Fri, 21 Nov 2014 08:06:01 +0000 As Thanksgiving approaches faster than a flying turkey (and yes, biology majors, I know that turkeys can’t really fly), and as my deadline to submit this column approaches at roughly the same pace as the wrath of my desk editor, I find myself at a total loss for words, which is shocking to anyone who has listened to me prattle on and on about esoteric things in the past. I’ve pretty much exhausted every sports-related topic that I could ever speak about over the last two plus years of penning these weekly columns, and my Stanford Daily Dropbox folder proves it — I’ve got columns with titles ranging from “April Fools” to “World Cup” and nearly every letter in between.

So, to pull a faux Bill Simmons, its time to recycle an old gimmick: the “most thankful for” edition of my column, sports style. So without further ado, here come the BLAH things that I am most thankful for this holiday season.

1) Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos losing the Super Bowl

I know, I know, it is a spiteful thing to be thankful for. But trust me, as a Tom Brady fan since before he ever started a game for the New England Patriots, the absolute last thing I wanted was an NFL offseason of gushing praise for Manning and how a Super Bowl win would mean that he had conclusively taken the “greatest QB of this generation” belt from Brady.

I, for one, am of the opinion that there is nothing to separate the two; in fact, if I needed to win a single game with one of these quarterbacks, I truthfully have no idea who I’d pick. But no one else seems to get that there is no separating the two, and they keep insisting, “Brady only wins because he has a better defense” or “Manning chokes in the playoffs.” I wish we could just agree that both are once-in-a-generation talents that we will likely never see again, but in the absence of that agreement, a brutal Super Bowl loss will keep me happy just fine.

2) Redemption in the NBA Finals

Last year, as the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy was being wheeled onto the court, Ray Allen pounced on a loose ball and hoisted up one of the most clutch three-pointers in NBA history, sending what seemed to be a surefire Spurs championship down the toilet and giving LeBron James his second NBA championship ring. At the time, you looked at the aging San Antonio Spurs and felt a pain in the pit of your stomach, as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard — who each played magnificently in defeat — came up just short in agonizing fashion. You got the feeling that their window of opportunity to claim another NBA title had just been slammed shut in their faces.

Boy, were we wrong. Fast forward one year, and the Spurs blew the defending champs out of the water, with Leonard maturing into an unstoppable two-way threat and claiming Finals MVP honors at the ripe old age of 22, while the master of consistency Tim Duncan claimed yet another ring to add to his burgeoning collection of accolades and awards.

Sports history is rarely kind enough to feature a rematch and rarely cordial enough to present that rematch in almost identical settings to the previous encounter. In this case, the Spurs had almost everything work out perfectly for them, as they not only filleted the Heat but also ended up being one of the catalysts that broke up the Big 3 era in Miami.

The Spurs? They merely reloaded and look to be a threat to repeat as champions coming out of the wild, wild Western Conference. And their beautiful, flowing, rhythmic offensive play and their suffocating defense are enough to bring tears to any basketball fan’s eyes.

3) The rise of soccer (sorry, “football”) in the USA

I’m a proud member of the FIFA generation, the group of soccer fans who began as button mashers playing the FIFA video game before getting sucked into the fantastic world that is “fútbol.” And trust me, there are a lot of us folks hanging out in colleges across the States. But this summer birthed a new era of soccer fans, as the World Cup in Brazil, coupled with immense coverage on ESPN and the gritty, powerful, and inspiring performances of the U.S. Men’s National Team, seemed to resonate with far more folks than I remember from even four summers prior in South Africa.

At my internship, productivity slammed to a halt even in the startup subculture of Palo Alto, as hordes of folks ran out to sports bars in the middle of the day to catch Team USA’s games. And even when the clock ran out on the U.S., which bowed out to powerhouse Belgium in the round of 16, I got the feeling that more and more folks were seduced by the artfulness of the game, even if the feigned injuries and the showmanship that are very much a part of soccer seemed to get on their nerves. Think of all the little kids who are now playing soccer in their backyards, inspired by Tim Howard’s gutsy performance in goal or Clint Dempsey’s tenacity on the pitch. This generation might just be the one that catapults the U.S. into the elite of world soccer.

4) Madison Bumgarner and his “MadBum” underwear gift to Jimmy Fallon

As a Red Sox fan, this season was over before the All-Star Break even rolled around, as the AL East suddenly turned into a murderer’s row of competitive squads — and that is excluding the Sox and the Yankees, teams that had two of the top four payrolls in the majors. But across the nation, my adopted team, the San Francisco Giants, and their plucky neighbors the Oakland A’s marched through the regular season with eyes on the big prize. And while the A’s bowed out of the playoff race in a dramatic game against the eventual runners-up from Kansas City, the Giants continued their storied run of success in even-numbered years, winning a third World Series title in five years (gasp!) behind a superhuman pitching performance from ace Madison Bumgarner.

Bear in mind: The last time the Giants played in a World Series, their pitching staff featured a healthy Matt Cain, a suddenly-good Barry Zito, a young Bumgarner, and super-reliever Tim Lincecum. This year? Bumgarner was the rock all by himself; he ended up pitching nearly a third of the Giants’ total innings in the World Series and set all kinds of ludicrous postseason and World Series records that I suspect will never be broken. Thanks, MadBum, for allowing me to shriek like a schoolgirl in my room while watching you mow down batters this postseason. May your cup runneth over forever.

5) Family

I know, I promised that my thankfulness would be limited to sports, but there are a few select things that are bigger than sports (shocking, I know) and family is one of them. The last year has been a whirlwind, not always in the best of ways, but myself, my brother, my mother, my father, my grandmother and all my relatives have come out of it better than we ever could have hoped. To everyone in my life who I call family, thank you for being there and for making life an unforgettable experience each and every day.

Happy holidays everyone, stay safe, and eat your respective weights in turkey next Thursday.

Vignesh Venkataraman would also be thankful to see the Cardinal take the 117th Big Game in enemy territory tomorrow afternoon. Let him know what you’re thankful for at viggy ‘at’

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Senior Sit Down: Lo’eau LaBonta and Chioma Ubogagu Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:22:52 +0000 Heading into the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, the Stanford women’s soccer team continues to work tirelessly to accomplish its singular goal: emerge as champions. Staff writer Elizabeth Trinh of The Stanford Daily sat down with senior midfielder/forward Lo’eau LaBonta and senior forward Chioma Ubogagu to reflect on their Stanford soccer experiences.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): How did you get started in soccer, and what influenced you to continue to play?

Lo’eau LaBonta (LL): When I was young, my dad put me in all the sports. I literally played basketball, baseball and soccer. I just always fell for soccer first, so I just stuck with it. My dad is the one who always told me to work my hardest in all my sports, and he was the one at all my practices and all my games, so he’s the one who’s always had me stick with it, and he showed just as much passion, so I think he was the one who kept me working. Growing up, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy were always my influences.

Chi Ubogagu (CU): I was born in London, England, and soccer is huge there, or football, as they call it. My brothers played for their schools, and they’re both older than me. I always wanted to do whatever they were doing, so I never really played with dolls, never really hung in the house. Every time they got back from school, I would just follow them around and try to kick the ball.

TSD: In 2011, your freshman year, the Stanford women’s soccer team was the NCAA champions. With that being said, what makes this current team different from that team?

LL: Well, that team had a bunch of standout players, of course the seniors were crazy amazing, but I know they were trying to focus on a bunch of players who got the goals and the assists – but I think this team is more of a team than that team was. We fight for each other. When we celebrate our goals, it’s as a team. We don’t really have individual celebrations for every girl. We’re total girls; we run together and hug each other and scream, so I think this team, as a whole, has all bought in – from a redshirted freshman that’s on the bench to a senior that’s about to graduate.

CU: The personnel is different, for sure. We have a lot of younger people on our team, and they’ve made a great impact, and they’ve done a great job of buying in and just totally having a great work ethic to achieve our two goals. We set two goals at the beginning of the year. They were to win the Pac-12 championship, which fell a little short, and to win the national championship. Everyone immediately bought in, and the team chemistry was great, and everyone was just really competitive and ready to fight for it.

TSD: With this season being the last of your Stanford soccer career, what are you looking to accomplish by the end?

Stanford women's soccer seniors Lo'eau LaBonta (left) and Chioma Ubogagu (right)

Stanford women’s soccer seniors Lo’eau LaBonta (left) and Chioma Ubogagu (right) are aiming to cap-off their already-impressive careers on the Farm with another national championship. (TRI NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

LL: My personal goal is the same as everyone else’s goal on this team, which is to win that national championship. It was first to win the Pac-12 championship, but unfortunately, with our loss to UCLA, we weren’t able to achieve that – but we are just in as good of a position to win that national championship, so that’s obviously my number one goal.

CU: By the end of this season – I hope my team, by early December, is holding a national championship trophy. That’s what we really, really want; that’s what our coach and staff want. It’s what we’ve worked really hard – not just the preseason, but also the off-season – to put in a lot of hours to try to achieve that goal, so I hope it pays off.

TSD: What has been your most cherished soccer memory of this season?

LL: One of the most memorable, for sure, would be that first game against UNC when Chi scored the overtime goal to end the game. It was the first time in Stanford’s history ever beating North Carolina, so once that happened, the bench cleared, and our team all ran out to her, and we just piled together. We were screaming because we were so happy, and it was such a great way to start off the season. I think a lot of people doubted us in the beginning, and when we came out with that W, people started to believe in us, and then our team all believed in each other. It just set off a great season.

CU: So our first game of the year was at Chapel Hill against UNC, one of our biggest rivals because we have never beaten them in the history of our program. We went to their place and got a win. I just remember how excited everyone was – it was such a great start to the season – and how pumped our coach Paul Ratcliffe was. I had never seen him like that, genuinely excited. It’s definitely a moment I’ll remember after I leave Stanford.

TSD: This is your final season with these girls. If you could impart lasting words of wisdom to your teammates, what would they be?

LL: With this team, we just had a great team get-together, and we all just let out our favorite moments, but I would just say that I love this team with all my heart – every individual. These girls are all my friends, my sisters, my teammates, and they’re out here everyday working just as hard as I am. At the end of this, I would say thank you to all my seniors and to my teammates for an amazing year to go out with. This was one of the best years in my life.

CU: This has been an incredible season. I remember our senior game, how they [my teammates] decorated our locker room, and it was amazing to see how everyone cared. You felt the camaraderie, and it was really special. I’m definitely going to miss this group of girls. We just have so many funny moments, so many different personalities on the team that make me laugh all the time. Sometimes at practice, I won’t even talk because I am listening to all these different conversations, and it’s hilarious. It’s just the little things like that, our bus rides, team dinners, where you can’t pinpoint one exact thing that happened, but just being around a group of your best friends, I’ll miss that. The game is always fun; the game is meant to be fun. It’s something that you love, and hopefully everyone’s passion stays with them through the problems that arise and the losses and the doubts.

Contact Elizabeth Trinh at entrinh ‘at’

]]> 0 SPO.112014.wsSSD Stanford women's soccer seniors Lo'eau LaBonta (left) and Chioma Ubogagu (right)
Football back and forth: The Daily Californian Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:21:55 +0000 Stanford faces Cal in Berkeley on Saturday in the 117th iteration of the Big Game, looking to continue its recent domination of its cross-bay archrival. This year’s contest is likely to be a much closer battle than last year’s 63-13 rout that gave the Cardinal their fourth straight victory in the series. In advance of this weekend’s matchup, The Stanford Daily’s Winston Shi spoke with The Daily Californian’s sports editor, Riley McAtee, to discuss the game. 

The Stanford Daily (TSD): Cal isn’t the punchline it was last year. I’ll keep this short and sweet: What happened?

Riley McAtee (RM): The offense has basically come together. Last year’s offense was fairly deceptive, as after some big performances early in the season fans got the idea that the team could score on anyone. In reality, it was a below-average unit, based on efficiency metrics. The flashes of potential we saw last year have become much more consistent this season. The receiving corps is among the best in the Pac-12 and Daniel Lasco has emerged as a feature running back. The result is an offense that is near the top in the country, which has balanced out a defense that still ranks toward the bottom.

TSD: Cal’s Bear Raid has been doing really well so far this season. Aside from the 7-point collapse against Washington, the fewest points the Bears have scored all season was 30 points last week against USC. What did the Huskies do so well to shut down the Bears, and what did USC do to slow them down?

RM: I really think that the Huskies’ defensive line was the difference in that game, especially when it came to rushing Jared Goff. Cal was able to move the ball up and down the field that game, but fumbles killed several promising drives early and prevented the Bears from getting points. Goff was sacked four times and Cal as a team fumbled the football five times, losing three of them. A lot of those turnovers came at key points, too. Just think about Shaq Thompson’s 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown and you can realize what I mean.

Goff definitely doesn’t look as comfortable under pressure (not that any quarterback does) and I think that’s how the Huskies were so effective both at forcing turnovers and shutting down Cal’s offense. If Stanford can do the same on Saturday, the Cardinal will be in good shape.

The Cardinal's vaunted defense will be put to the test Saturday

The Cardinal’s vaunted defense will be put to the test Saturday when they face quarterback Jared Goff and the Bears on the road. Goff has nearly 7,000 yards (6,906) passing in his first 22 games, the most ever by a Power 5 conference quarterback since at least 2004. (KEVIN HSU/The Stanford Daily)

TSD: Is Jared Goff’s emergence primarily due to external factors: that is, scheme and an improved line? Will the Cardinal be able to dare Goff to beat them with his arm?

RM: The line is improved and the entire team is more comfortable with the Bear Raid scheme, but Goff also looks much better outside of that. He has a zip to his passes that he didn’t have last season. I used to think he didn’t have the greatest arm — not that he had a noodle or anything, but that his arm strength would never be a cornerstone of his game — but this year I’ve seen him make every throw in the book. Forget scheme and the talented receivers around Goff: I think he’s shown enough based on just his own play to have a future in the NFL. Goff is impressive.

TSD: Defensively, the fewest points Cal has surrendered to a Pac-12 team this season is 31. Stanford’s offense has sputtered this year, but can the Bears stop the Cardinal?

RM: Cal hasn’t really stopped an FBS team at all over the past two seasons, so I think that trend will continue Saturday. This team wins by outrunning its defense, and I think Cal can do that. So Stanford will probably put up some points in this game, but even if the Cardinal break 30 I think that the Bears have the ability to score more. When this team does win, that’s essentially the only way it does.

TSD: Do you have a prediction for the game? What does Cal need to do to beat Stanford, and the other way around?

RM: For Stanford to win, they need to look at the Washington game and the first half of the USC game and bring out a similar game plan, defensively. That means disrupting the offensive line and breaking into the backfield, especially to disrupt Goff. For the Bears it’s just the opposite — if Cal can keep Goff upright I think it can do enough to eke out a win.

I won’t put a number on it yet, but I’ll give Stanford the edge going into this one.

Contact Winston Shi at wshi94 ‘at’

]]> 0 SPO.112014.fbbackforth The Cardinal's vaunted defense will be put to the test Saturday
Sophomore forward Jordan Morris debuts for USMNT in 4-1 loss to Ireland Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:21:10 +0000 Stanford sophomore Jordan Morris earned his first United States senior team cap this past Tuesday evening, as the Stars and Stripes were in Dublin to contest a friendly against the Republic of Ireland.

With 76 minutes gone in the match, Morris replaced Timmy Chandler. Sporting the number 24 shirt, the Mercer Island, Washington native was deployed in the wide left position of a fairly straightforward 4-4-2 formation.

Morris had just over a quarter of an hour to show his worth to manager Jurgen Klinsmann. The German coach has touted the Stanford attacker as one for the future, and patrolled the edge of his technical area for the entirety of Morris’ run out.

The debutant’s first touch in the red, white and blue was a simple layoff to a teammate, but the All-Pac-12 First Teamer didn’t take long to warm to the match.

Sophomore striker Jordan Morris (above)

Sophomore striker Jordan Morris (left) made his debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team on Tuesday, coming on as a late substitute in the United States’ 4-1 loss to Ireland in Dublin. (SHIRLEY PEFLEY/

Only minutes after coming on, Morris was the target of Mix Diskeroud’s long ball to the left corner. A deft touch from the orange boots of Morris resulted in instant control as the 20-year-old was able to get his head up and pick out a pass. Morris played a ball cleanly to an arriving Greg Garza, whose first-time effort forced Irish keeper Shay Given into a decent save.

The United States conceded two goals during Morris’ stint on the pitch, but he lacked responsibility in either. In total, it was a poor performance from the Americans, as they lost the match 4-1 to continue their post-World Cup run of lackadaisical form.

Morris’ debut has to be one of the brighter spots from the otherwise dreary match from Klinsmann’s perspective. The Seattle Sounders Academy product looked the part from beginning to end, and showed a willingness to get stuck in as he drew a yellow card from Irish defender Aiden McGeady.

The sophomore is the 50th player to be deployed for the senior team this year, which shows that Klinsmann is scraping the depths of the talent pool in search of players for the 2018 World Cup and beyond.

It is a great honor to be selected for a national team, and Morris carried himself with a quiet confidence and the quality to match. The youngster never looked out of place, and if things continue in the same manner for the boy, we may be seeing him the USMNT strip for years to come.

Contact Will Drinkwater at willydri ‘at’

]]> 0 Jordan Morris Sophomore striker Jordan Morris (above)
Women’s soccer set to face Arkansas in NCAA round of 32 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:19:54 +0000 The Stanford women’s soccer team returns to Cagan Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m. for what is likely to be a heated NCAA 2nd round matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-6-6, 4-4-3 SEC). Stanford (18-1-2, 9-1-1 Pac-12) will be looking to continue its fine form that has seen the squad win eight straight games. When it comes to the NCAA tournament, however, every team has a chance and despite being a favorite, Stanford will need to be cautious with Arkansas in the round of 32.

The Razorbacks will be looking to play through junior forward Ashleigh Ellenwood to create some offensive output against the strong Cardinal defense. Ellenwood is the points leader for Arkansas, largely through her incredible distributive abilities. Ellenwood has tallied 14 assists this season — double anyone else on her team — and Stanford will need to shut her down in order to stifle the Arkansas attack.

Arkansas could face trouble if they aren’t able to solidify their defense, which has been shaky all season. They have only recorded six clean sheets over the course of the campaign, and have let in 27 goals in the process. This Stanford team, which has averaged five goals a game over the last three matches, will pose a real threat to the Razorbacks’ back line.

Stanford is aiming to muster a similar, if not higher, level performance than what it has turned out all season, but will be hoping to erase its recent defensive troubles. Four of the 10 goals Stanford has conceded this season have come in the last two games, and although the Cardinal still managed to win both of those games, defensive complacency could prove dangerous.

Senior forward Taylor Uhl (right)

Senior forward Taylor Uhl (right) has come to life offensively down the stretch for the Cardinal, scoring all nine of her goals in the final third of Stanford’s regular season schedule. (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/

If head coach Paul Ratcliffe can continue to get the best out of his forwards in this matchup — like he has been doing for weeks now — Stanford will have no issue on the offensive end of the pitch. Forwards Chioma Ubogagu and Taylor Uhl had spectacular performances against Cal State Fullerton, scoring 3 and 2 goals, respectively. After early season scoring troubles from the forwards, they have managed to flip their fortunes around completely, a turnaround demonstrated most strikingly by Uhl, who has scored all nine of her goals in the last third of the season.

Stanford has heated up at the opportune moment heading into the end of this season, and it is pivotal that it can keep the momentum rolling. An early defensive blunder could be a big hurdle for the Cardinal, so it will be crucial that they come out strong against an Arkansas team that has been known to loosen up defensively as the game progresses. Of the 27 goals that the Razorbacks have conceded, 18 of them have come after halftime.

The Cardinal have posted a near-perfect 11-0-1 home record this season and as the tournament progresses, the home field advantages they built up by earning the No. 1 seed could prove more and more useful. If all goes according to plan, Stanford will move on to the Round of 16 in a matchup against the winner of the No. 4 Washington and Missouri match.

Contact Jack Seaton at jrseaton ‘at’

]]> 0 Uhl, Taylor Senior forward Taylor Uhl (right)
Lakshman: Questions abound as men’s basketball seeks to maintain its momentum Thu, 20 Nov 2014 06:19:05 +0000 Realistically, what can we expect out of the Stanford men’s basketball team this season? Is this the year that the Cardinal re-establish consistency and find a place in the Top-25?

The program is coming off of its first NCAA tournament appearance in six years, head coach Johnny Dawkins has a new contract — locking him up for the foreseeable future — and the Cardinal boast a promising mix of talented freshmen and battle-tested veterans.

Yet, the air surrounding the program seems to be a bit deflated. No one is really talking about Stanford basketball, even while the football season provides more reasons to do so with each passing week.

It’s easy to write-off the barren state of Maples Pavilion during the team’s season opener as a result of a 9 p.m. game on a Friday night, but I’m pretty sure that if you scheduled a Duke or a Kentucky game at 3 .a.m on Armageddon, people would show up. I’m not saying that Stanford should be compared to those programs any time soon, but they provide a sense of just how far Stanford needs to come to enter that conversation.

Maybe this lack of excitement stems from a hyper-cautious fan base. After all, this team has broken hearts time after time, just after they manage to convince you that they’ve changed their ways. I’ve even talked to some pessimists who discount last season’s Sweet 16 run entirely, with people asking, “What’s the big deal about beating an overrated Kansas team sans Joel Embiid?”

The doubters are certainly out there. The Cardinal were predicted to finish fifth in the conference at Pac-12 media day, and the challenge of attracting students to games will almost certainly persist. A three-point exhibition win over Division II Cal Poly-Pomona probably didn’t do the squad any favors.

In my opinion, the only way out of this basketball purgatory for Stanford men’s hoops is building some consistency and keeping this train of momentum going.

Will the Cardinal keep the magic alive? I think so — they absolutely have the pieces to make something special happen. Going forward, here are some keys to look out for as this team progresses.

Can Stefan Nastic maintain his level of play?

After a stretch of breakout performances at the end of the last season, the Canadian’s towering presence in the middle has picked up right where it left off. In the Card’s season opener against Wofford, Nastic shot an absurdly efficient 11-of-14 from the floor, scoring 26 points. Through the first two games, Nastic has avoided his typical demons of early foul trouble and turnovers and the results have been huge for Stanford, especially on offense where the ball seemed to go through him in the post on almost every play. Going forward, the Card will need Nastic to continue coming up big, especially on defense, where the losses of Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis leave the Card especially thin on the interior. If Stanford does face off against Duke in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, we will see Nastic get his first serious test against an elite big man: Blue Devil wunderkind Jahlil Okafor. If Nastic can prove that he can hold his own defensively, Stanford could make some noise come March.

How much will we see the freshmen?

In the team’s season opener against Wofford, Dawkins didn’t hesitate to get his highest rated recruited class involved early and often. Forward Reid Travis — Stanford’s first McDonald’s All-American since the Lopez twins — broke into the starting lineup and displayed some much-needed aggressiveness on both heads of the floor.

Aside from Travis, though, I wouldn’t expect too much from the other freshmen. Robert Cartwright showed off some unbelievable quickness and slick ball-handling, but it looks like Chasson Randle will continue to handle the brunt of point guard duties. Michael Humphrey and Dorian Pickens both looked promising in their debuts, but Dawkins tends to keep his rotations very tight. Speaking of which…

Will the team be deeper than last season?

Remarkably, the Cardinal made the Sweet 16 last season despite what was essentially a six-man rotation with the occasional sprinkles of Grant Verhoeven and Marcus Allen. Last season, Stanford was always a couple fouls or a bad-shooting night away from absolute doom and gloom. With the return of Rosco Allen and Christian Sanders from injury, Stanford will likely be just fine on the wings, but the Card could run into issues down low. If Nastic ever gets into foul trouble, Stanford might have to play the 6-foot-7 Travis at center. With Verhoeven out with an injury and Humphrey still finding his place in the system, the lack of depth up front could really come back to bite Stanford down the road.

So far, though, the Card has taken care of business, but several huge games loom on the horizon. The hype may not be there now, but — with a few more wins — the magic of Maples might just return. 

Given the absence of size on his roster, it’s been rumored that Coach Dawkins is planning on holding open tryouts to pad his front court depth. Vihan — all 5-foot-8 of him — thinks he could throw his weight around down low for the Cardinal, and is thinking of taking his talents to the tryouts. Send the man some encouraging words or  suggestions for a good orthopedist at vihan ‘at’

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The Big Sail Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:24:58 +0000



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Stanford completes decade-long dominance in Big Sail Wed, 19 Nov 2014 07:31:52 +0000 With the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz as the back drop enclosing the racecourse, the Stanford sailing team enjoyed its 10th consecutive Big Sail victory at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco on Tuesday . The competition, involving both alumni, young and old, and current varsity athletes, allows for older generations to relive the rivalry, while the younger sailors are able to compete with the rivalry fresh on their minds.

“It’s cool finally being able to participate in Big Sail. Most of the seniors have done it in past years and that leaves the underclassmen out so this is my first time at the event and it’s pretty cool and a special little memory for sure,” said senior Kieran Chung. “This is unique going head-to-head with a rival school so it kind of raises pressures a little bit.”

With the sounds of the Leland Stanford Junior Marching Band mingling with that of Cal’s Straw Hat Band in the background, the Golden Bears and Cardinal went head-to-head in match racing style in an annual race as part of Big Game week, an event that was made all the more entertaining for all Cardinal spectators when a Cal young alum sailor fell overboard in the middle of the race course while his boat was trailing.

Four divisions competed for each school in a best-of-three racing series around the Bay, with the Big Sail trophy waiting to be claimed back at the festively-decorated Yacht Club. Although collegiate sailors are typically accustomed to sailing in smaller, two-person boats, and usually race in team or fleet style as opposed to match racing, the teams used J-22’s, intermediate small keel boats, that provide for quick acceleration and allow for three to four sailors. The races started just seven minutes apart from each other, so generations of Cal and Stanford sailors crossed paths in a whirlwind as they battled to win their respective races.

Stanford sailing (center)

Stanford sailing (center) won its tenth consecutive Big Sail in San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon, defeating Cal at the St. Francis Yacht Club. (KRISTEN STIPANOV/The Stanford Daily)

The young alumni teams (39 years and younger) kicked off Big Sail first, with the masters (40-59 years) and grand masters (60+ years) following and the current varsity sailors finishing off the day. Despite imperfect wind conditions, with breezes blowing inconsistently throughout the early part of the day before picking up after the races had already concluded, the sun was shining and the temperatures were more than bearable from the umpire’s boat.

Although the Card took home the trophy with wins in the varsity and young alumni divisions, concluding another decade of Stanford dominance over Cal on the water, the Cal masters and grand masters held their own for the Golden Bears and officially ended Big Sail in a split. The stronger boats were evident from the start, as neither division made it to a third race and instead were able to sweep.

The Stanford varsity boat was comprised of all seniors, including co-captains Chung (trimmer) and Haley Kirk (pit), with skipper Hans Henken and bow Max Kohlman. Whereas the Cardinal compete on the east coast against the best crews in the nation, and only marginally prepares for the rivalry regatta, Cal fields a team that operates as the school’s second-oldest club sport. The advantage in experience in terms of training and competition for the Card was evident from the get-go, as Stanford was able to beat the Cal varsity boat handily in both races, appearing to move faster and tack crisper. Though both teams battled equally in the pre-start, vying for position and playing with fire by attempting to trap each other away from the start line, it was the Card that pulled ahead early on after the start and never looked back.

In the first race, Kirk explained that, “Hans [skipper] was steering the bow really well so we were able to get on top of them just based on where the wind was coming from. We just trimmed the sails a little more correctly and plowed over them.”

In the second varsity race, Cal’s skipper got aggressive with trying to hold Stanford out in the pre-start, but Stanford was able to get out from underneath Cal and avoid the hold-off. After the start, it appeared that Stanford was just the faster crew, and mid-way through the race, Cal was rounding the leeward mark at the bottom of the course as Stanford approached the windward mark on its way back to the finish line.

“About halfway through the start we made a small error that put us to the port side of [Cal] which gives them the starboard advantage and we just couldn’t really find our way over their bow,” Chung explained. “After the start, I’m not sure why they tacked off the line because they had us but they definitely made a small mistake that opened up an opportunity that we took and capitalized on.”

The Big Sail trophy, after being passed around, figuratively and metaphorically, since the 1940s, will remain at the Stanford boat house for another year. Now it’s up to the Stanford football team to ensure that the coveted Big Game Axe remains on the Farm as well.

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ 

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Wednesday roundtable: Scoring expectations for the 117th Big Game Wed, 19 Nov 2014 07:30:51 +0000 Stanford’s battle with Cal this Saturday will be a clash of polar opposites – Cal ranks first in the Pac-12 in scoring offense while Stanford ranks 12th, and Stanford ranks first in scoring defense while Cal ranks 12th. With that in mind, we asked football writers Joseph Beyda, David Cohn and Michael Peterson:Is this year’s Big Game more likely to be a high or low scoring matchup?

Joseph: I think this weekend’s game is bound to be a high-scoring matchup. Cal scored 71 points in its two games against USC and Oregon, who have two of the top four scoring defenses in the Pac-12. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff also averaged nearly 320 passing yards in those two games, proving that his record-breaking season for the Golden Bears last year wasn’t just a fluke.

Stanford's offense

Stanford’s offense will likely have to have a strong day in order for Stanford to win the Axe for the fifth consecutive season. Cal’s offense is ninth nationally in points scored, with over 40 points per game. (KEVIN HSU/The Stanford Daily)

Meanwhile, we’ve grown accustomed to the Stanford offense finding ways to keep itself off the board, but its struggles have come almost entirely against teams that are known for their defenses: USC, Notre Dame, ASU and Utah. On the other hand, the Cardinal lit up Washington State and Oregon State, who boast the ninth- and 10th-best scoring defenses in the conference, respectively.

But it’s not just the stats that convince me we’re bound for a shootout on Saturday. This game is also the biggest chance for senior receiver Ty Montgomery to flex his muscles, which Cal just couldn’t deal with in 2013. He had more offensive touchdowns in last year’s Big Game (five) than he does through 10 games this season (four). Montgomery’s ability to contribute in 2014 has been limited by Stanford’s spurts of ineffectiveness on offense, and against the worst defense the Cardinal have faced since UC Davis (doesn’t that feel like it was ages ago?), Stanford should hold on to the ball long enough to maximize the involvement of its best player.

Michael: If Stanford needed to score at least 24 points to win a game, would you trust it do that? The Card will certainly need to put that many points on the board to beat the Bears, so that is the question ruminating in the minds of all Stanford fans right now.

Outside of traveling to Eugene to face Oregon, this could be the Card’s biggest defensive test this season. In the five games Stanford and Cal have played against mutual opponents this season, the Bears have scored 183 points, while Stanford has been limited to only 118. Cal’s offense can score right along with the best in the country, and the Bears just last week put 30 points on USC at the Coliseum, dwarfing Stanford’s subpar 10-point performance against USC at home earlier this season.

Fortunately for the Card, the outstanding play of their defense has helped keep the overall margin in those five mutual games to +16, while Cal’s horrific defensive play resulted in a -35 margin. And, like Joey shared, Stanford’s offense tends to click against mediocre defensive units. Stanford’s speed on the perimeter will likely be too much for Cal to handle, like it was for Washington State and Oregon State. The added motivation of playing for a bowl game and for the Axe should be enough to stir up what has recently been an uninspired offense.

The Big Game will probably turn into a “mini-shootout,” in that it will seem as a shootout to Cardinal fans, and probably a low-scoring game to Cal fans. However, given the inconsistency of Stanford’s offense and the dominance of the Card’s defense, it could just as easily finish 10-7. If I was a betting man, I’d slightly favor the likelihood of a high-scoring contest.

David: I believe this year’s Big Game will be a relatively high-scoring affair, as Michael alluded to, with both teams having the potential to put up at least 30 points on their respective opposing defenses. Cal’s defense has struggled mightily again this season; while the unit is probably improved from last year’s disaster, the Golden Bears are still 122nd nationally in points allowed, yielding nearly 40 points per game. Even the weakest offenses in the Pac-12, including Washington and Oregon State – which both torched the Bears for 31 points apiece in their respective matchups – have looked strong against Cal’s defense.

As such, I believe Stanford’s offense is fully capable of putting up 30 points against Cal on Saturday; the question with this unit has consistently been whether the execution and play-calling will be there so that the offense can sustain drives long enough to put points on the board. Quite simply, Stanford’s offense has derailed too easily on too many drives this season.

On the other side of this matchup, despite the all-around strong play of Stanford’s defense this year, I believe that the Bears can very easily score 25 points or more against the Cardinal. Stanford has already yielded 25+ points on the road twice to two elite offenses in the Pac-12 (26 points to Arizona State, 45 points to Oregon), and the California offense is elite; Cal ranks fourth nationally in passing yards with over 350 yards per game, and ninth in scoring with over 40 points per game. Quite simply, the only thing that has stopped Cal’s offense this season is Cal: The only time in which the Golden Bears have been held to fewer than 30 points was a three-fumble performance against Washington.

Joseph Beyda, Michael Peterson and David Cohn have unanimously decided that the Cardinal and Golden Bears will light up the scoreboard. However, the question remains whether the Stanford offense can step up to the plate and keep up with a high-octane Cal offense and whether Cal’s offense has what it takes to go up against the staunch Stanford defense. Share your predictions with the trio at jbeyda ‘at’, mrpetes ‘at’ and dmcohn ‘at’ 

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XC Blog: Men’s and women’s cross country advance to national finals Wed, 19 Nov 2014 07:29:36 +0000 With the cross country season coming to a close (mercifully or unfortunately, depending on who you ask), this is likely one of my last blog entries for a while. I just want to say what a pleasure it has been to share our program’s progress over the past few months with The Daily’s readers. As a member of a team that doesn’t enjoy the privilege of regular coverage, I think this space is incredibly valuable because it allows our program’s accomplishments to shine through when they might otherwise go unnoticed.

Stanford cross country

Senior runner Joe Rosa (center) had a solid day at the NCAA West Regionals for the Card, finishing sixth overall. (NICK SALAZAR/ The Stanford Daily)

Anyways, let’s get to the latest action. Since my last post, seven women and seven men – a group that I was fortunate to be a part of – raced at the NCAA West Regional, held at the Stanford Golf Course. There are nine regional meets held across the country, with the top two teams in each race (male and female) securing automatic berths to the upcoming NCAA championships. In addition, the top four individuals not on the auto-qualifying teams also advance to the national championship race, which will be held in Terre Haute, Indiana this year.

After the auto-qualifiers are determined, a committee selects 13 “at-large” teams (a process similar to the selection process for the NCAA basketball tournaments) in each gender to compete at NCAAs; in all, 31 men’s and women’s teams, plus individuals, toe the line at cross country nationals.

With the selection process the way it is, the strategy for teams racing at regionals can vary quite a bit. For our men’s team, Coach Chris Miltenberg implored us to treat the race like a preliminary race at a track meet: expending just enough energy and effort to make it on the next round, all while running composed and in control and executing the race plan.

Since we had likely already secured enough “points” in the eyes of the selection committee to warrant an NCAA berth regardless of our regional result, there was really no need for our squad to run “all out” and attempt to secure a top-two finish. Our women were also a safe bet to advance to NCAAs, though likely not as safe of a bet as the men’s team. Regardless, both Cardinal teams accomplished the goal last Friday and made it to NCAAs.

The women’s race, which covered six kilometers and consisted of several laps around holes 2, 5, 6 and 7 of the famed Stanford Golf Course, pitted familiar foes against one another. Many of the Pac-12 squads fall into the West region’s area, so in many ways the regional meet was a rematch of the conference race a few weeks before. With the addition of strong non-Pac-12 teams like Boise State and Portland, the women’s West regional was indeed a hotly contested battle.

The top individuals were, once again, Arizona State’s Shelby Houlihan, Stanford true freshman Elise Cranny and Boise State veteran Emma Bates; like the Pac-12 meet, Houlihan used her combination of elite middle-distance and solid endurance speed to pull away from the field, besting Bates (the 2014 national outdoor track champion in the 10,000 meters) by nearly five seconds and Cranny by 16.

Not far behind Elise was senior Molly McNamara, who has enjoyed an exciting-to-see resurgence over the past year after struggling with injuries in her freshman season. Molly placed 10th, earning All-West Region accolades. Also finishing in the top 25 for Stanford were sophomores Sophie Chase (16th) and Emma Fisher (21st); these two bring such a positive energy to our program, and it was great to see both of them perform well on a big stage. Team-wise, the women finished in a tie for second with Boise State. Although the Broncos broke the tie by virtue of their sixth runner placing higher than Stanford’s sixth runner, both squads will be going to Terre Haute. The Stanford women have now advanced to 22 straight NCAA cross country championships, the best current streak in the nation.

In the men’s race, fifth-year senior Maksim Korolev (we call him Maks) had a great day, out-kicking Oregon sophomore and defending NCAA cross country champ Edward Cheserek over the final 300 meters. Joe Rosa and Mike Atchoo also had great races, with both finishing in the top 25. While our 4-7 runners, myself included, didn’t have a great day, we placed third behind Oregon and Portland (even while running without star sophomore Sean McGorty) and will make the trip to Terre Haute.

This program has made incredible progress this fall, and nationals is just another step in the process. Please wish us luck as we travel back east this week! The women’s race is scheduled for noon (Eastern time) on Saturday, with the men slated to go off an hour later. The races can be streamed live on

Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’

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A conversation with Christian McCaffrey and Austin Hooper Wed, 19 Nov 2014 07:28:38 +0000 At the end of Tuesday’s practice, The Stanford Daily’s Nicholas Radoff spoke with freshman running back Christian McCaffrey and sophomore tight end Austin Hooper about Saturday’s Big Game.


The Stanford Daily (TSD): Both your parents were athletes here, so do you have any expectations or memories of the Big Game?

Austin Hooper (center)

Sophomore tight end Austin Hooper (center) has had a strong opening campaign to his collegiate career, as he is currently second on the team in receptions with 29 catches. Hooper also has 2 receiving TD’s. (KEVIN HSU/The Stanford Daily)

Christian McCaffrey (CM): It’s very clear here there is a reason it’s called the Big Game; there’s a lot of hype around it, but right now I think our guys are just focused on what we can do in practice to prepare and be as confident as we can going in.

TSD: Are you excited to play in your first Big Game?

CM: Very excited. Excited is definitely an understatement. I think we all are pretty excited; it means a lot.

TSD: Huge play in the first quarter against Utah on the misdirection pitch out; can you run us through the play real quick?

CM: It was fourth-and-1. In recent games, we lined two backs up in the backfield, with a lead blocker right behind the lineman and kind of ran a little boom play. We tried to just disguise that, so that we could toss it out to me and use my speed and allow me to do as much as I can with it.

TSD: Coach Shaw talked about you getting a better handle on the offense each week and using you more as you do. Do you feel like you can be fully integrated at this point?

CM: Definitely. The older guys and the coaches have done a great job of getting me integrated. They do such a good job of helping me out whenever I have questions. At this point, I think we’re all dialed in.

TSD: Is it tough to get ahold of the playbook from both a receiver perspective and a running back perspective?

CM: It’s difficult at first, but once you kind of get a hold of it, it’s muscle memory.


TSD: You had a big fumble recovery in the fourth quarter (9:48) to keep the drive alive; can you take us through the play real quick?

Austin Hooper (AH): Luckily, when the ball was ripped out, by some miracle, it just rolled to me; I reached out and grabbed it as it rolled out from the center of the pile. Just tried to show the refs that I had it. It was a really lucky bounce. I saw it and I was just glad I could put a grip on it, cover it up for the team.

TSD: So you are from the East Bay. Do you have any history with the Big Game, or have you ever been to it before coming to Stanford?

AH: I’ve never physically been to the Big Game, but I have family from both schools, so around this time, it’s a lot fun. I have half the family going for Cal and half going for Stanford, but all of them will be rooting for their family member, [even if it’s not] for Stanford. It’s going to be a lot of fun, a lot of family pulling for both schools. It’s going to be a good time, a good homecoming.

TSD: Are you excited about this group of tight ends that has come together with so much talent on this team?

AH: I’m really excited about Greg Taboada, Eric Cotton and even though he’s young, Dalton Schultz; he’s been a great contributor. Charlie Hopkins has been a great mentor and teacher for all of us younger guys. Individually, this position group can do a lot of different things, and collectively, it adds up to a lot. I’m really excited about where we’re headed in the future.

TSD: How has Dalton Schultz been performing?

AH: With him being redshirted, all we can see is him in practice, but he’s been doing really well. He’s picked up the playbook really quick, actually a lot faster than I did in my go around, so he’s definitely doing a lot of good things. He’s just gotta keep it up.

TSD: You were recruited as both a tight end and a defensive end coming out of high school. Any chance we’ll see you take some defensive reps?

AH: Coach Anderson jokingly mentioned it to me that I could play a bit of outside linebacker, but other than that one instance, it’s been pretty much all offense.

Contact Nicholas Radoff at nradoff ‘at’

]]> 0 111914.web-6 Austin Hooper (center)
Coach Shaw discusses the close calls that have marked the 2014 football season Wed, 19 Nov 2014 07:27:42 +0000 As Stanford head coach David Shaw gave his weekly media briefing on Tuesday, his mood seemed remarkably downtrodden.

Senior Kevin Anderson (right)

Senior linebacker Kevin Anderson (right) has had a tremendous season in his first season as a starter. Anderson is leading the team in tackles for a loss with 10.5 TFL, and tied for third in sacks with 4.5 sacks. (KEVIN HSU/The Stanford Daily)

It wasn’t really his tone of voice or his outlook for the upcoming rivalry game against Cal  the first in a number of years that could actually have postseason implications. But something about Shaw’s demeanor made him come off like someone who had just been hit with a piece of bad news that he couldn’t quite understand.

It certainly is difficult to see how things went wrong with a team that had credible national championship ambitions at the beginning of the season. Phrases like “poor execution” and a “failure to make plays” are tossed around almost every week to describe the obstacles that the team faces, but part of the problem appears to be that it just has not had many lucky breaks.

Shaw alluded to as much as he reflected on the Cardinal’s double overtime loss to Utah last weekend. Two somewhat questionable penalty calls slowed Stanford’s last drive in regulation, and while the Stanford coach certainly didn’t cast off his signature professionalism, he came about as close as he ever has to accusing the referees of making an error.

“It was just a judgment call. There was a closer referee that was looking right at the play and he didn’t throw his flag,” Shaw said of a holding penalty called on full back Lee Ward that moved the Cardinal out of field goal range. “Lee didn’t actually grab any cloth. He didn’t turn the defender, the defender turned himself. There was a discussion between officials and they maintained it was a penalty…but I still think it was just a judgment call.”

On another incident that came a few plays before Ward’s penalty, in which tailback Remound Wright was flagged for a personal foul, Shaw was arguably even more critical of the decision made by the officiating team.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen a penalty get called [on plays like that],” Shaw said. “I understand it; I’m not necessarily contesting it. I was just surprised in that situation at that time with how hard both teams we’re playing…that one guy got singled out.”

Turnovers were another area in which Shaw did not feel that things were breaking in his team’s favor. The Cardinal defense has been dominant in almost every aspect of the game, but it has inexplicably failed to generate many takeaways from opposing offenses.

“Periodically the ball gets on the ground like it did on Saturday, and it bounces toward them and away from us,” Shaw surmised. “That’s the tough part…you have to believe that you’re going to get a bounce here or there.”

Shaw never runs for cover when asked if he shares in the blame for this disappointing season, while also remaining steadfast in defending his players’ talent and drive. He simply hopes that the struggles endured by the team this season will ultimately pay dividends in the remaining games and in future years.

“The hard part about gaining experience is you usually gain experience through negativity, through something bad happening to you or through you doing something wrong. We have to believe through effort and dedication that we’re going to…learn from these mistakes and [ultimately become a better team].”


Looking forward to the Big Game, the Cardinal are excited for the chance to win a trophy and achieve bowl eligibility.

“The Axe, the trophy that you get if you win the game, makes it a little more special,” said linebacker Kevin Anderson. “The season being so close also heightens the intensity.”

“In this program we pride ourselves on playing for tangible evidence, so [playing for the Axe] is something we’re excited for” agreed wide receiver Jeff Trojan.

Even Shaw lightened up briefly when discussing the history and prestige of the Big Game. He referred to the 1990 incarnation of the rivalry, when he was a redshirt freshman on Stanford’s team, as “the most exciting game I’ve ever seen or been apart of.”

Stanford will have to stop a powerful Cal offense if it wishes to bring home the Axe for the fifth consecutive season. Cal quarterback Jared Goff, currently third in the nation in total yards, represents a particularly challenging threat.

“I’ve always liked [Goff], since he was in high school,” remarked Shaw.

Fortunately, Stanford will be at nearly full strength to deal with Goff and Cal, and the team is happy to have the chance to begin wrapping up the season on a positive note. For them, it’s time to “get back that good feeling back in the locker room, holding the Axe.”

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ 

]]> 0 111914.web-7 Senior Kevin Anderson (right)
Miller: Discussing possible sanctions for UNC in academic fraud scandal Wed, 19 Nov 2014 07:26:48 +0000 This is the fourth of a multi-part column series on the academic fraud scandal at UNC.

Now that the Weinstein Report has revealed the true scope of the academic fraud perpetrated by the AFAM department, the athletic department and other university officials at UNC, what level and type of punishment should the Tar Heels’ scandal incur? The NCAA has the opportunity to reaffirm the academic primacy of its mission; how will they respond to the findings in the Wainstein Report and the results of their own investigation into the matter?

When considering any possible penalties, it is important to remember how the “paper class” scheme was devised and maintained, and who knew what and when. The Weinstein Report is very clear where and how the fraud originated: The idea was hatched by AFAM department secretary Debbie Crowder, who had an illegal, albeit noble, desire to help academically disadvantaged students, especially athletes, in any way she could.

Crowder’s efforts were aided and abetted by department chair Julius Nyang’oro, who, despite his occasional moral qualms concerning his and his department’s actions, either perpetuated the scheme or allowed individuals like Crowder free rein to change grades, forge signatures and ignore the quality of assignments in the course of the grading process.

The key takeaway here is that no athletic department personnel – whether administrators, coaches, advisors or tutors – went to Crowder, Nyang’oro or anyone else in the AFAM department to suggest the initiation of academic fraud. To be sure, these individuals knew about and appreciated the existence of the scheme and, when Crowder was set to retire, lobbied hard for its continuance, but never was it their intention to commit academic fraud at the outset. Athletic department personnel were simply taking advantage of a situation they knew could be to their short-term benefit.

Because of these circumstances, I believe it would be inappropriate to give UNC the so-called “death penalty” – banning the football, basketball and other athletic teams from competition for a period of time. Even though the academic fraud seen at Chapel Hill is truly unprecedented, the fact that the athletic department wasn’t at the heart of the improprieties leads me to believe that competition bans should not be imposed (despite the fact that some current Tar Heel athletes may have been, at one point, beneficiaries of the “paper classes”).

It seems to me that more appropriate consequences from the NCAA should include, at the very least, vacating wins from the programs whose players remained academically eligible because of the “paper classes.” Penalties of this variety would likely blot out UNC’s national championships in men’s basketball in 2005 and 2009, forever tarnishing legendary coach Roy Williams’ legacy at Chapel Hill.

Speaking of Williams, I believe he should remain personally unscathed in this situation, insofar as I don’t believe it’s a collegiate coach’s responsibility to regulate or vet the classes his/her players are taking. Roy is a very prideful man, and the loss of past championships would more than rock his boat, especially when considering that he’s still incredulous that his players were even involved in the fiasco.

In addition to vacating wins, I believe the NCAA should impose a two-season postseason ban on the men’s basketball and football teams (and any other programs found to have significantly benefited from the AFAM department’s academic fraud), as well as reduction in available scholarships for a period not to exceed two years.

Furthermore, the entire athletic department should be placed on NCAA-administered probation for the period of time equal to the length of time the “paper class” scheme was in place, namely somewhere in the vicinity of 15-20 years. Under the terms of this probation, the UNC athletic department should be ordered to compile comprehensive academic information on all of its athletes and allow an independent auditor to compare this information with university-wide academic data to ensure no major discrepancies continue to exist. Finally, the NCAA should levy the maximum allowable monetary fines against UNC; these consequences have to hurt in order to deter similar behavior in the future.

As much as I’m against penalizing the student-athletes of today for the past transgressions of student-athletes and athletic personnel, the UNC athletic department cannot go unpunished for allowing its athletes to take advantage of an academic fraud scheme of unparalleled proportions.

The Weinstein report, which was authorized and paid for by UNC, clearly constitutes an independent investigation, and could not have been possibly designed to reduce or minimize the involvement of important coaches and certain university officials in this scandal. To discuss the academic fraud scandal and Cameron’s self-proscribed authority over the issue, or how proud coach Williams must be over this possible CYA national championship, e-mail Cameron at cmiller6 ‘at’  

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