Pac-12: Usua Amanam

Ed Reynolds leaving for NFL

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
3:15
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Stanford safety Ed Reynolds will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft, the school announced Tuesday.

A two-year starter for the Cardinal, Reynolds was twice named first-team All-Pac-12 and ranked third on the team with 87 tackles this year.

“After much thought and discussion with my family and mentors, I have decided to enter the NFL sraft,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I would to thank the Stanford football family for putting me in this position and preparing me for the next level. A very special thanks to our coaching staff, support staff and my teammates for making the memories of these past four years last a lifetime."

He's the second Stanford player in two days to declare for the NFL draft, joining guard David Yankey. Right tackle Cam Fleming has yet to announce whether he'll return for his final year on the Farm. The deadline to declare is Wednesday.

Reynolds is among the top free safeties in the country and is ESPN.com's eighth-ranked safety overall. He was a key member of two Pac-12 championship teams and a pair of defenses that both ranked No. 10 in the country in scoring.

Without Reynolds, the Cardinal will have to break in a relatively inexperienced player to play next to strong safety Jordan Richards next year. His immediate backup this season, Devon Carrington, is out of eligibility and Kyle Olugbode and Zach Hoffpauir, the most experienced replacement candidates, have both worked primarily at strong safety.

Despite the loss of Reynolds, Stanford's secondary still figures to be a strength of its team next year with the return of starting corners Alex Carter, Wayne Lyons and Richards. The Cardinal will also need to fill holes at defensive end, two linebacker spots and nickleback due with the losses of Ben Gardner, Trent Murphy, Shayne Skov and Usua Amanam to graduation.

Reynolds replaced current Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas in the starting lineup in 2012 and finished the season with six interceptions -- the most by a Stanford player since 1973. His 301 interception yards that year led the nation and fell 1 shy of the FBS single-season record.

Cardinal antsy to get season started

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
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Saturday’s 8 p.m. PT kickoff between Stanford and San Jose State ensures that the Cardinal, who had a Week 1 bye, will be the last team in college football to start its season. So yeah … Stanford’s players are more than a little anxious to get going.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireWith an extra week before starting the season, David Shaw and Stanford have not played a game in 250 days.
“I was 50-50 before but now I’m in favor of playing (in Week 1),” Stanford head coach David Shaw said. “It’s hard not to play when other people are playing -- especially the start of a season. The start of the season has such a buildup. We’re antsy.”

Shaw split last Saturday watching games and pulling dad duty. Most of his players rallied around TVs and watched games with as critical of an eye as possible. Still, others were so focused on Stanford’s Week 1 that they failed to realize it was actually college football’s Week 1.

“I didn’t even realize the season started on Saturday until I turned on the TV and saw College Football Live,” defensive back Usua Amanam said. “It was awesome. I love watching football.”

Now he gets to play some, finally, with a familiar foe coming to town. Last year the Spartans pushed the Cardinal in the opener. Not that the Cardinal took SJSU lightly last year, but they probably weren’t expecting Mike MacIntyre’s team to come out with such tenacity. A fourth quarter field goal was the difference in Stanford’s 20-17 victory.

“We were ill-prepared,” Amanam said. “They came out fast and punched us a couple of times in the mouth. It wasn’t until the third or fourth quarter that we realized we were in a dog fight. Looking back at that game will help prepare us better for this year.”

It’s also, for the foreseeable future, the last Bill Walsh Legacy game on the schedule. Whether the game will/should continue in the future has added a little fuel to the rivalry in the Bay Area media this week.

The Spartans are led by new head coach Ron Caragher. Ironically enough, Caragher replaced Jim Harbaugh and Shaw -- Harbaugh’s assistant -- at the University of San Diego after Harbaugh left for Stanford.

“We met for the first time at the Bay Area Media Day, about a month ago, which is strange because we know so many of the same people,” Shaw said. “We had never met before or been in the same room before. I feel like I know him because I’ve heard so much about him from guys we’ve both coached at USD as well as other places he’s been.”

Pleasantries aside, the Cardinal will be out to rattle and disrupt Caragher’s QB. San Jose State quarterback David Fales, the most accurate quarterback in FBS last year, is a top priority for the Stanford defense. With some good receivers around him like Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones, the pressure is on Stanford’s front seven to create some pressure, while the back half of the defense closes up passing lanes.

“He can fit tight balls in,” Shaw said. “He played extremely well (last week) and still had a few balls that were dropped on him that were very well-placed. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. He’s hard to get to. He sees things quickly and gets the ball out of his hands.”

The Cardinal offense, on the other hand, spent this past week installing new red zone schemes. With some critical weapons -- like running back Stepfan Taylor and tight end Zach Ertz – gone to the NFL, Shaw is looking for the next generation of players to step up.

“We’ve had good receivers, but the guy (Ertz) was phenomenal," Shaw said. "And I loved Coby Fleener. Coby Fleener was special. But I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a guy like Zach that can run all the routes. He’d run every single route the smaller, quicker, faster guys could run and most of the times run them better.”

Expect a heavy rotation of Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney at running back, with others trying to carve out their own niche. The maturation of quarterback Kevin Hogan will also be a storyline to watch.

Stanford's defense, which is being heralded as one of the nation’s best, is also looking to make a good first impression.

“We have a chance to do something special this year,” Amanam said. “We want to make the most of the opportunities we have.”

Stanford Cardinal season preview

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
10:30
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We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Stanford Cardinal.

Stanford

Coach: David Shaw (23-4)

2012 record: 12-2 (8-1 Pac-12 North)

Key losses: RB Stepfan Taylor, TE Zach Ertz, TE Levine Toilolo, OLB Chase Thomas

Key returnees: QB Kevin Hogan, OT David Yankey, LB Shayne Skov, LB Trent Murphy, DE Ben Gardner, S Ed Reynolds

Newcomer to watch: Stanford loves to rotate its linebacking corps, and outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi is impressive. He was a five- or four-star recruit, depending on which service you follow, and was one of the highest-rated OLBs in the country. He has a strong chance to play his way into the rotation.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
Brian Murphy/Icon SMIStanford coach David Shaw has smiled a lot since Kevin Hogan became the starting QB late in the 2012 season.
Biggest games in 2013: The eyes of a college football nation will be tuned in on Thursday, Nov. 7, to see Oregon’s trip to Palo Alto. But there are plenty of big games before and after that -- including Arizona State (Sept. 21), Washington (Oct. 5), UCLA (Oct. 19), USC (Nov. 16) and the finale against Notre Dame (Nov. 30). If the Cardinal repeat as conference champs, they will have earned it.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: It might have been the running back situation and the fact they have to replace Taylor. But Tyler Gaffney’s return from professional baseball adds experience and depth and bolsters a committee that should be able to mimic Taylor’s production. Receiving production, however, is still up in the air. Five of the top six receiving options from last year are gone -- including tight end Zach Ertz, Taylor and Drew Terrell. Ty Montgomery was sensational in 2011 and if he returns to form, could be a bona fide stretch-the-field threat. Behind him are a host of talented, but mostly unproven players. Look for Devon Cajuste, Michael Rector, Kodi Whitfield and freshman Francis Owusu (yes, that name should ring a bell), to work into the rotation.

Forecast: Expectations have never been higher for the Cardinal as they enter the year a preseason top-5 team. This is a veteran-heavy team that’s built to win tight games and grind opponents down in the fourth quarter.

The offensive focal point will be the progress of quarterback Kevin Hogan, who took over last season and went 5-0 as a starter -- including a 4-0 mark against Top 25 teams. He’s got one of the top offensive lines in the country -- headlined by All-American David Yankey -- protecting him, and a stellar defense has his back. Often forgotten is fullback Ryan Hewitt, who returns as one of the best in the country.

The running back group will be interesting to watch. Coach David Shaw strayed from his preferred by-committee method last season as Taylor carried 322 times -- most of anyone in the Pac-12. But he was that reliable. Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson, Barry Sanders et al should all contribute and carve out their niche in the offense.

Aside from the aforementioned receiving position, many are eager to see what tight end Luke Kaumatule can do stepping in as a full-time player. The Cardinal were spoiled the past few years with Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Coby Fleener. Now it’s Kaumatule’s turn to carry the torch for what has been the nation’s most productive tight end-driven offense the past couple of years.

There are no real weak spots on Stanford’s defense. Five of the front seven are back from last year -- including DE Ben Gardner, ILB Shayne Skov and OLB Trent Murphy. The defensive backfield features, arguably, the nation’s top safety tandem in Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards and Usua Amanam doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves as an outstanding nickel.

As noted above, the Cardinal play a very difficult schedule -- including four straight rivalry games to close out the season. This may seem daunting, and it is. But the Cardinal could have as many as 18 juniors or seniors in the starting 22, so chances are there isn’t a situation they haven’t seen or played through before. That experience will be invaluable as the Cardinal look to defend their conference title and try to make a run to another Rose Bowl -- or beyond.
Cornerback, at least from a preseason perspective, is not a strong position across the conference in 2013.

Three of the four corners on the 2012 All-Pac-12 first- and second-teams -- Oregon State's Jordan Poyer, Washington's Desmond Trufant and USC's Nickell Robey -- are now in the NFL. Only Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State welcome back both starting corners, and of those, only the Ducks ranked in the top eight in the conference in pass efficiency defense last year.

So how do things stack up?

GREAT SHAPE

[+] EnlargeStanford celebrates
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezWayne Lyons, along with experienced safeties, gives Stanford one of the conference's top secondaries.
Oregon: The Ducks have the nation's best corner tandem in All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell. In fact, their backups, Dior Mathis and Troy Hill, probably would rate as one of the better tandems in the conference if they were starting. The Ducks welcome back the entire two-deep from their 2012 secondary, as well as safety Avery Patterson, an All-Conference talent who was hurt last year. This is probably the best secondary in the nation.

Stanford: While the Cardinal's star power is at safety, they are also strong at corner with Alex Carter, Wayne Lyons, Barry Browning and Usua Amanam giving them an experienced, athletic foursome.

GOOD SHAPE

Arizona: If Jonathan McKnight and Shaquelle Richardson are healthy -- and get supported by any sort of pass rush -- they have the potential to be an elite cover tandem. Derrick Rainey is also in the mix.

Oregon State: Rashaad Reynolds is now the lead dog with Poyer gone. There’s and interesting competition on the other side between veteran Sean Martin and juco transfer Steven Nelson, who had a strong spring showing. It helps that things are good at safety -- and that the Beavers gave up just 14 TD passes last year.

Arizona State: Osahon Irabor, a four-year starter, is back and senior Robert Nelson has experience, including a notable interception in the win over Arizona. Rashad Wadood, who redshirted last year due to injuries, is a third option who had a strong spring. The Sun Devils ranked first in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense in 2012.

Washington: Like Oregon State's Reynolds, Marcus Peters now moves out of a big shadow -- Trufant -- and gets an opportunity to show what he can do. While Greg Ducre and Tre Watson, backups last year, are back, watch out for junior college transfer Travell Dixon, a former Alabama signee.

Washington State: The Cougars welcome back three corners with significant experience: Damante Horton, Anthony Carpenter and Nolan Washington. On the downside, the pass defense struggled last year, ranking 11th in pass efficiency defense, yielding a 65.5 percent completion rate.

WE'LL SEE

USC: Josh Shaw has moved back to safety, so this position is in flux for the Trojans. Senior Torin Harris has nine career starts but his play has been uneven, while Anthony Brown has two. Kevon Seymour, Devian Shelton and freshman Chris Hawkins are in the mix.

California: While the Bears lost both starters -- Steve Williams and Marc Anthony were a strong tandem -- Kameron Jackson has plenty of experience and Stefan McClure has plenty of pure talent. Depth is a question.

UCLA: The Bruins are replacing their entire secondary, and that might not be a bad thing considering they gave up 27 TD passes in 2012. Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams are the leaders to start, with Fabian Moreau also in the mix. It will be interesting to see if true freshmen Priest Willis and Johnny Johnson make a move. It hurt to lose sophomore Marcus Rios to a serious sinus infection.

Utah: The Utes lost their top three corners from a fair-to-middling 2012 pass defense, one that grabbed just eight interceptions. Keith McGill is a likely starter, while redshirt freshman Justin Thomas and JC transfer Davion Orphey are competing on the other side. Lots of inexperience here.

Colorado: The Buffaloes welcome back essentially their entire 2012 depth chart at corner, including intriguing young talents Kenneth Crawley, Greg Henderson and Yuri Wright. But the Buffs ranked last in the nation in pass efficiency defense in 2012 -- just three interceptions -- which must be accounted for here.

You can see previous previews here:

Quarterback

Running back

Receiver

Tight end

Offensive line

Kicker

Linebacker

Defensive line
Unlike last year, there is no quarterback competition at Stanford. But the recently released post-spring depth chart does reveal some potentially interesting developments to eye-ball heading into fall.

Starting on offense -- there are only two running backs listed -- Anthony Wilkerson "or" Tyler Gaffney as the starter. Both are trying to replace three-time 1,000-yard rusher Stepfan Taylor, though it's widely believed the Cardinal will take more of a committee approach than they did last year, when Taylor led the Pac-12 with 322 carries. There is plenty of depth, albeit mostly inexperienced, behind Gaffney and Wilkerson.

Also of note offensively is the addition of Kevin Danser on the depth chart at center. He's slated to start at right guard, though there is also an "or" separating Khalil Wilkes, Conor McFadden and Danser at center. It will be interesting to watch in the fall if Danser continues to get work at center. And if he wins the job, it would allow the Cardinal to insert Josh Garnett into the starting rotation at guard. That would give the Cardinal a starting front of Andrus Peat (LT), David Yankey (LG), Danser (C), Garnett (RG) and Cam Fleming (RT).

With the news of Josh Nunes' retirement yesterday, Evan Crower is locked in as the backup to Kevin Hogan and, for now, Devon Cajuste looks like he'll start opposite Ty Montgomery at receiver.

Fullback Geoff Meinken also announced he'll retire after struggling to return from a knee injury that kept him out of 2012.

At tight end -- Stanford's go-to receiving position the last couple of years -- Luke Kaumatule and Davis Dudchock are separated by an "or." However both will probably get a ton of work in Stanford's two-tight-end sets.

Defensively, there are only two "ors" on the depth chart. Henry Anderson and Josh Mauro have a good competition going at defensive and Blake Lueders and James Vaughters are undecided at the outside linebacker spot to release Chase Thomas. Though the Cardinal rotate backers and defensive linemen so frequently that "starter" is more of an honorary title.

Worth noting also that Devon Carrington, who has spent his career at safety, is also listed as a backup with Usua Amanam at right cornerback behind Wayne Lyons. Amanam is Stanford's go-to nickelback and Carrington is also backing up Ed Reynolds.

Looking at the specialists, up for grabs is the punter, which could go to either Ben Rhyne or Conrad Ukropina. Montgomery looks set at kick return while it's a four-way race between him, Kodi Whitfield, Keanu Nelson and Barry Sanders to return punts.

You can see the complete depth chart here and interpret it as you see fit.

PASADENA, Calif. -- A nip-and-tuck defensive battle was expected in the 99th edition of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio. And neither Stanford nor Wisconsin disappointed as the Cardinal downed the Badgers 20-14. Here's how it all went down in Pasadena:

It was over when: Stanford’s Usua Amanam recorded the first turnover of the game when he intercepted Wisconsin’s Curt Phillips with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Turning point: An interference penalty while Drew Terrell attempted to fair-catch a punt gave the Cardinal great field position with about 10 minutes left in the game. The drive resulted in a 22-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson and a 20-14 Stanford lead.

Game ball goes to: While this certainly wasn’t the cleanest game for Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (12-of-19, 123 yards), he kept plays alive with his feet, rushing for 54 yards on seven carries, and he didn’t turn the ball over. As we saw, even one turnover can make the difference.

Unsung hero: After taking quite a beating following last season’s Fiesta Bowl, Williamson turned in a solid performance, hitting field goals of 47 and 22 yards.

What it means for Stanford: It’s a bit of good news for the Pac-12, which has had a disappointing bowl season. The Cardinal, playing in their third BCS bowl game in as many years, get to wash away a bit of the bad taste from last season’s Fiesta Bowl loss.

What it means for Wisconsin: The Badgers now are 0-for-their past three Rose Bowls, and the Big Ten has won just one Rose Bowl Game since 2000. It also caps a disappointing day for the conference, which saw Michigan, Nebraska and Purdue all go down.

Pac-12 2012 awards announced

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
5:50
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The Pac-12 conference has announced its 2012 individual honors and all-conference first and second teams as voted on by the coaches.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marqise Lee, WR, USC.
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE, Arizona State.
Freshman Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon.
Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: Leonard Williams, DE, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford.

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Marcus Mariota, Fr., Oregon
RB Kenjon Barner, Sr., Oregon
RB Ka’Deem Carey, So., Arizona
WR Marqise Lee, So., USC
WR Markus Wheaton, Sr., Oregon State
TE Zach Ertz, Sr., Stanford
OL Hroniss Grasu, So., Oregon
OL Khaled Holmes, Sr., USC
OL Brian Schwenke, Sr., California
OL Xavier Su’a-Filo, So., UCLA
OL David Yankey, Jr., Stanford

SECOND-TEAM OFFENSE

QB Matt Scott, Sr., Arizona
RB Johnathan Franklin, Sr., UCLA
RB Stepfan Taylor, Sr., Stanford
WR Austin Hill, So., Arizona
WR Robert Woods, Jr., USC
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, So., Washington
OL Jeff Baca, Sr., UCLA
OL David Bakhtiari, Jr., Colorado
OL Sam Brenner, Sr., Utah
OL Kevin Danser, Sr., Stanford
OL Sam Schwartzstein, Sr., Stanford

FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, So., Oregon State
DL Dion Jordan, Sr., Oregon
DL Star Lotulelei, Sr., Utah (2)
DL Will Sutton, Jr., Arizona State
LB Anthony Barr, Jr., UCLA
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford
LB Chase Thomas, Sr., Stanford (2)
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, So., Oregon
DB Jordan Poyer, Sr., Oregon State
DB Ed Reynolds, Jr., Stanford
DB Desmond Trufant, Sr., Washington

SECOND-TEAM DEFENSE

DL Henry Anderson, Jr., Stanford
DL Morgan Breslin, Jr., USC
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Datone Jones, Sr., UCLA
LB Kiko Alonso, Sr., Oregon
LB Michael Clay, Sr., Oregon
LB Brandon Magee, Sr., Arizona State
DB Deone Bucannon, Jr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Jr., Arizona State
DB T.J. McDonald, Sr., USC
DB Nickell Robey, Jr., USC

FIRST-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Vince D'Amato, Jr., California
P Jeff Locke, Sr., UCLA
RS Reggie Dunn, Sr., Utah
ST Jordan Jenkins, Sr., Oregon State

SECOND-TEAM SPECIALISTS

PK Andrew Furney, Jr., Washington State
P Josh Hubner, Sr., Arizona State
RS Marqise Lee, So., USC
ST David Allen, Sr., UCLA

ALL-PAC-12 HONORABLE MENTION
NOTES
  • By School: OREGON and STANFORD placed the most players on the first team with five selections each, followed by OREGON STATE with four.
  • By Class: Of the 26 first-team selections, 14 are seniors, five are juniors, six are sophomores and one freshman.
  • Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches--WR Marqise Lee of USC.
  • Two-time selections: Two players are repeat first-team selections from last year--DT Star Lotulelei of Utah, LB Chase Thomas of Stanford.
  • All-Academic: Two players were named to the first team on both the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Football Team--P Jeff Locke of UCLA, OL Khaled Holmes, USC. In addition, OL Kevin Danser of Stanford, DL Ben Gardner of Stanford and Michael Clay of Oregon were named second-team All-Academic and second-team All-Pac-12.
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PASADENA, Calif. -- The 24-hour rule is not in effect for Stanford or UCLA. Not even close.

“There are no 24-hour rules when you are playing for a championship,” said Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy of the time coaches generally allow a team to savor or sulk following a win or loss.

And across the hallway in the other locker room…

“All we have to do is get better in six days. Plenty of time, right?” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone asked, rhetorically, sarcastically.

They better. Because the Stanford Cardinal came into the Rose Bowl and sacked quarterback Brett Hundley seven times, held Doak Walker finalist Johnathan Franklin to just 65 yards on 21 carries and locked up the Pac-12 North Division with a 35-17 win over the Bruins.

“Not this time, no 24 hours,” said Hundley. “It’s an after-the-game-rule. I’m already on to next Friday. There is no 24 hours. This loss, it is what it is, we’ll get better from it.”

The teams will meet again on Friday at Stanford Stadium for the Pac-12 title and a shot at the Rose Bowl on the line.

“It’s going to be hard,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “It’s going to be 10 times harder than this game was … Beating Oregon last week didn’t help us win this game. Winning this game is not going to help us win the next game. As I like to say, each game is its own lifetime. It’s its own entity. Every game is different and you have to approach it that way.”

If the Cardinal do what they did Saturday -- and to that point if UCLA does what it did – the Cardinal will be in a BCS game for the third straight season. Running back Stepfan Taylor rushed for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries (7.1 average) and one of the nation’s best defenses was stifling.

[+] EnlargeStanford's Stepfan Taylor
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PRESSWIREStanford's Stepfan Taylor rushed 20 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA.
“This will be a tough night to sleep, if you do sleep,” said UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, whose team surrendered 221 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns. “All you can do is start watching film and figuring out how to get better.”

The Stanford defense, however, did what it does best. It pressured the quarterback, got penetration and tallied nine tackles for a loss -- two apiece from A.J. Tarpley and Chase Thomas, who also had a pair of sacks.

“Brett was under a lot of pressure tonight, so we have to do a better job of finding a way to protect Brett,” said UCLA head coach Jim Mora. “I think that it’s a combination -- pressuring with four and then they brought five and six. And sometimes we did not get open. Sometimes he didn’t find the open guy. Sometimes they beat us. I think it was a combination of all those things.”

Offensively, Taylor continued to roll for the Cardinal (10-2, 8-1) -- winners of six straight. It’s the third straight game he’s gone for more than 100 yards and the eighth time this season. He said if the Cardinal stick to what has worked for them all year -- power running behind their vicious defense -- they should be fine.

“We shouldn’t make it difficult,” he said. “We knew if we won this game what the situation would be. We have a mature enough team to understand the situation and that it’s a quick turnaround. We need to get our bodies right and get back on film and watch this to be ready. They did some great things tonight. We have to study what they did and be able to make adjustments.”

The home team showed flashes of why they are the South Division champs. But they also continued a disturbing trend -- excessive penalties. In the previous three games, the Bruins (9-3, 6-3) had committed 13 (Arizona), 12 (Washington State) and 12 (USC) penalties. Saturday they were flagged 12 times for 135 yards. Mora, Mazzone and Hundley all pointed to penalties when reviewing the stat sheet as a top concern.

“Yes, it’s disappointing,” Mora said. “But we have to get over it quickly because we have a game on Friday night.”

One of the intriguing factors about the rematch is that it’s a clean slate for both teams. Each will have the opportunity to self-scout tendencies, mistakes and tells. But at the same time, neither team is going to drastically change what got them to the conference championship.

“Both teams will probably have similar game plans, but it definitely helps to see the team you’re playing in the following week,” said Stanford defensive back Usua Amanam, who scored a touchdown after recovering a UCLA fumble off a kickoff -- a pivotal game-changing play midway through the third quarter. “You kind of know what to look for and you’ll have a feel for them. But the same can be said for UCLA.”

Stanford safety Jordan Richards, who nabbed Stanford’s lone interception, said he’s taking a moment to enjoy the win -- because without it the Cardinal wouldn’t be playing next week. But a moment is long enough.

“Losing next week makes this game irrelevant,” he said. “We’re going to prepare to win like we did this week and try to dominate.”

Instant analysis: Stanford 35, UCLA 17

November, 24, 2012
11/24/12
9:49
PM ET


PASADENA, Calif. -- With Oregon topping Oregon State, Stanford knew it had to win on the road to capture the Pac-12 North. And the Cardinal did it in dominating fashion, 35-17. Here’s how it all went down at the Rose Bowl.

It was over when: Stanford took a 28-10 lead midway through the third quarter on a touchdown run from Stepfan Taylor. On the ensuing kickoff, Kenneth Walker was hit by Alex Debniak and fumbled. Usua Amanam picked up the fumble and returned it 11 yards for the touchdown, giving Stanford 14 points in a 13-second span and a 35-10 lead.

Stat of the game: 7 -- the number of times the Cardinal sacked UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Heading into the game, Stanford ranked second nationally in sacks.

Second-guessing: The Pac-12 preseason media poll -- which predicted USC and Oregon in the conference championship game. Please accept a humbled frowny face on behalf of all us media types.

Game ball goes to: Taylor turned in his usual workmanlike performance, carrying 20 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 49-yard touchdown run.

What it means for Stanford: The Cardinal claim the Pac-12 North by virtue of their tiebreaker over Oregon -- which they gained by beating the Ducks last week. They play UCLA again Friday -- this time serving as hosts for the Pac-12 title game.

What it means for UCLA: The Bruins had already locked up the South Division with their victory over USC last week. There are certainly some things to work on before heading to Palo Alto, Calif. -- like pass protection, turnover reduction, cleaner special teams, run defense, etc., etc.

Conference names players of the week

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
5:00
PM ET
The Pac-12 conference announced its players of the week and USC wide receiver Marqise Lee is the offensive player of the week, Arizona's Marquis Flowers is defensive player of the week and Utah kick returner Reggie Dunn is special teams player of the week.

From the Pac-12's release:
Lee, a sophomore from Inglewood, Calif., set a Pac-12 record with 345 receiving yards while hauling in 16 catches -- one shy of the USC single-game record, and the third-highest total in Pac-12 annals -- and a pair [of] touchdowns in a 39-36 loss to Arizona. His 345-yard receiving effort represents the fifth-highest single-game mark in NCAA history. He accounted for 469 all-purpose yards, a total that ranks second in NCAA history, as he added 123 yards on three kickoff returns and a one-yard rush. Lee, who racked up 255 receiving yards in the first half, caught six passes of 28 yards or longer on the afternoon. In 2012, he has 76 receptions for 1,129 yards (14.9 average) with 10 touchdowns and has returned 15 kickoffs for 426 yards (28.4 average). He leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game (141.1, second in the FBS), receptions per game (9.5, third in the FBS), all-purpose running (199.9 avg., fourth in the FBS) and kickoff returns (28.4 avg., 12th in the FBS).

Flowers, a junior from Phoenix, Ariz., accounted for three takeaways and seven total tackles in Arizona’s 39-35 win over USC. On the game’s opening possession, he halted a 13-play USC drive with an interception at the UA 26-yard line to set up a 7-play, 60-yard touchdown drive for the Wildcats. In the second quarter, Flowers quelled another USC attack deep in Arizona territory with a strip of running back Silas Redd, and later in the frame, he preserved a three-point Wildcat lead with with his second interception of the afternoon. His three takeaways were part of a five turnover day for the Arizona defense, its highest single-game total since 2008. Flowers and the UA defense, which allowed just one third-down conversion in five second-half attempts, held USC scoreless on six of the final seven possessions of the game.

Dunn, a senior from Compton, Calif., returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, tying the NCAA record for kick return touchdowns in a game, in a 49-27 victory over California. Dunn set the NCAA record for kick return average in a game (74.0), returning three kicks for 222 yards. He tied the school record for 100-yard kickoff returns in a season (2) and set school records for kickoff return touchdowns in a game and 100-yard kick returns in a career (3). As a sophomore in 2010, he became the first Ute in 25 years to return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, accomplishing the feat against Iowa State.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Matt Scott of Arizona and Brett Hundley of UCLA and running backs Marion Grice of Arizona State and Christian Powell of Colorado. Also nominated on defense were defensive backs Usua Amanam of Stanford, T.J. McDonald of USC and Desmond Trufant of Washington and linebackers Carl Bradford of ASU and Eric Kendricks of UCLA. Also nominated on special teams were punters Kyle Dugandzic of Arizona, Josh Hubner of ASU and Kyle Negrete of USC, placekicker Ka'imi Fairbairn of UCLA and running back/punt returner De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon.

Instant analysis: Stanford 24, Wash. St. 17

October, 27, 2012
10/27/12
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- It counts the same as any other win, but Stanford's 24-17 victory over Washington State on Saturday isn't one the Cardinal will feel all too good about.

Against the Pac-12's No. 11-ranked rush defense, Stanford (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) managed just 120 yards on the ground -- its third-lowest total of the season -- as running back Stepfan Taylor (20 carries, 56 yards) was rendered largely ineffective.

WSU (2-5, 0-5) outgained Stanford 385-256 and controlled the tempo for most of the game, but a pair of big plays by the Cardinal proved to be the difference. First, a 70-yard touchdown pass from Josh Nunes to Jamal-Rashad Patterson in the second quarter, which came as a result of broken coverage, and then a 25-yard interception for a touchdown from safety Ed Reynolds in the fourth quarter.

The good news for Stanford? Most of the Bay Area -- evident by the sparse crowd at Stanford Stadium -- had their attention on the San Francisco Giants and Game 3 of the World Series.

Here are a few highlights from Stanford's less-than-impressive win:

It was over when: Henry Anderson sacked WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel with the Cougars facing second-and-goal from the 19 with only seconds remaining in the game.

Game ball goes to: Usua Amanam, who had seven tackles, two sacks, two and a half tackles for loss and a pair of pass breakups. He came up with a crucial sack of Tuel as the Cougars faced first-and-goal with under a minute to play.

Stat of the game: Washington State was held to minus-16 yards rushing. The performance by the Stanford defense comes a week after limiting Cal to just three yards on the ground.

Unsung hero: DE Josh Mauro was solid up front for Stanford. He finished with one and a half sacks.

What it means: The Cardinal are officially bowl eligible, but the poor execution by the offense is definite reason for concern. Stanford is nearly assured of another win next week with a trip to Colorado on tap, but with No. 7 Oregon State and No. 2 Oregon after that, improvement will be paramount.

Lunch links: Wisconsin's paranoia

September, 6, 2012
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My father would womanize; he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes, he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
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Taking stock of the first week of games in the Pac-12.

Team(s) of the week: USC and Oregon did nothing to dispel the notion they are the class of the conference and are headed toward an epic clash on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles. Both teams pounded lesser foes, while a number of teams trying to challenge them -- Stanford, Washington and California -- didn't look ready for prime time. Further, both looked strong on both sides of the ball.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
Kirby Lee/US PresswireUSC receiver Marqise Lee stole the show against Hawaii on Saturday.
Best game: Arizona gave the conference its lone, true nail-biter of the week. QB Matt Scott threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Miller in overtime to give the Wildcats a 24-17 victory over Toledo in Rich Rodriguez's coaching debut. Scott bailed out kicker John Bonano, who missed a 25-yard field goal as regulation ended after failing on a 24-yard attempt earlier in the game.

Biggest play: We'll give you two from the same guy. USC WR Marqise Lee took the very first play of USC's game with Hawaii 75 yards for a score. He later dashed 100 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return.

Offensive standout: Scott seems like a good fit for Rodriguez's offense, just as most expected. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 387 yards and two scores and also rushed 14 times for 74 yards in the win against Toledo.

Defensive standout: Stanford CB Usua Amanam, a converted running back, recorded six tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in the Cardinal's win over San Jose State.

Special-teams standout: Hard to overlook Lee's 100-yard kickoff return. The truth is it wasn't a very good weekend for special teams, with lapses all over the conference.

Smiley face: Well, is there anyone who doubts Oregon's redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota now? Yes, it was a home game against an overmatched Arkansas State team, but Mariota looked completely in control during the brief time he played. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 200 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. He also rushed for 24 yards. It was the ninth most efficient performance on the opening weekend.

Frowny face: Cal! Cal, Cal, Cal! DRRRRRRRRR. That 31-24 loss to Nevada was bad period, but losing on the very day you celebrate the opening of your $321 million renovated stadium? Yuck. Nevada has now swept a home-and-home series with the Bears, and the only conclusion is the Wolf Pack is just better. After all, they outgained Cal 450 yards to 365 and converted 11 of 20 third-down plays compared to 3-of-14 for Cal. Oh, and the Bears' piddling run game likely won't get better if OT Matt Summers-Gavin is injured. Recall the Pac-12 blog writing about solid upset hopes for the Bears at Ohio State on Sept. 15? The Pac-12 blog wishes that stricken from the record. Consider this from Jeff Faraudo of the Contra Costa Times: "[Nevada QB Cody] Fajardo torched the Bears for 327 yards rushing and passing. Uh-oh ... in two weeks, Cal faces Ohio State and QB Braxton Miller, who had 368 combined yards vs. Miami-Ohio."

Thought of the week: Arizona State's 30 penalty yards versus Northern Arizona were the fewest it has posted since recording just 27 versus Arizona on Dec. 1, 2007, a span of the past 51 games. New coach Todd Graham talked about discipline and he delivered in the first game. Sure, it's against an FCS team and not a very good one at that, but since his controversial hiring, Graham continues to give off a positive impression. Now let's see what he can do the next two weeks against Illinois on Saturday and at Missouri on Sept. 15. Oh, and did anybody see that Pittsburgh-Youngstown State score? Just wondering how the post-Graham era started for the Panthers.

Questions for the week: The Pac-12 went 8-3 against a weak opening slate, with California, Colorado and Washington State losing and Arizona, Stanford and Washington playing tight games with what should have been overmatched foes. It was not an impressive opening weekend for the most part. Now the competition amps up considerably, with matchups with the SEC (Washington at LSU), Big 12 (Oklahoma State at Arizona), Big Ten (Illinois at Arizona State, Nebraska at UCLA, Wisconsin at Oregon State) and ACC (Duke at Stanford) and Big East (USC vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J.). The Pac-12 will be underdogs in four of those games. Is anyone capable of pulling an upset? And will the favorites all hold serve?

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 1

September, 2, 2012
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Helmet stickers are back! And there are some very worthy winners this week. If you forgot the criteria, Ted explains it quite well in this mailbag from a year ago.

On to the stickers:

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA: The Bruins running back rushed for 214 yards (2 yards shy of his career high) and three touchdowns in helping UCLA to a 49-24 win at Rice. Franklin scored on runs of 74, 78 and 22 yards.

Usua Amanam, Stanford: While the Cardinal defense as a whole looked average at best in a 20-17 win over San Jose State, Amanam was head and shoulders above all defensive players, notching six tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

Marqise Lee, USC: The wide receiver took USC's first offensive play 75 yards for a touchdown and never looked back. He finished with 10 catches for 190 yards and a touchdown, but also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score in a 49-10 win over Hawaii.

De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon: Can you imagine what this guy could have done if he actually played for more than a quarter and a half? He caught four balls for 55 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 64 yards and a score on three carries -- including a 33-yard touchdown run during Oregon's 57-34 win over Arkansas State.

Matt Scott, Arizona: The Wildcats' quarterback came up big in overtime, connecting with Terrence Miller on a 10-yard pass to give Rich Rodriguez a 24-17 victory in his Arizona debut. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 384 yards and two scores and also rushed 14 times for 74 yards.

Execution weak link in Stanford escape

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- What a difference a year can make.

Nearly a year removed from a 54-point drubbing of San Jose State, Stanford rang in the post Andrew Luck era with a thud. The Cardinal needed a 20-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson early in the fourth quarter to provide the difference in a 20-17 victory.

The smiles and laughter that followed last year’s 57-3 season-opening win against the Spartans were replaced by straight faces and looks of concern.

Running back and potential Heisman Trophy candidate Stepfan Taylor said the team needs to work on its communication. Coach David Shaw said the poor play was due to a lack of execution. Whatever it was, it won’t be good enough when the Cardinal entertain better opponents -- certainly not No. 1-ranked USC in two weeks.

[+] EnlargeBlake Jurich
Kyle Terada/US PresswireStanford's defense couldn't quite keep a lid on San Jose State, which trailed just 17-10 after this Blake Jurich touchdown early in the third quarter.
With Luck and offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin off to the NFL, the supposed strength of the team was its defensive front.

That wasn’t the case Friday as the Cardinal struggled to get pressure on San Jose State quarterback David Fales, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 216 yards.

“(They didn’t play) up to their capability, flat-out,” Shaw said. “I told them flat-out after the game, they are much better than the execution that was out there. Those guys shouldn’t stay blocked. It’s one thing to get blocked, it’s another thing to stay blocked.”

The team’s best pass-rusher was nickelback Usua Amanam, who recorded a pair of sacks and four tackles for loss.

Usually that designation would belong to outside linebacker Chase Thomas, who considered a jump to the NFL but returned for his fifth year on the Farm. San Jose State keyed in on Thomas, who finished with five tackles and half a sack. He did, however, provide the biggest hit of Fales on the night, but it came after he’d already got rid of the ball.

Next week against Duke, the front seven should benefit from the return of potential All-American linebacker Shayne Skov. Skov, who missed most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, served a one-game suspension Friday for a February drunk-driving arrest.

“(Skov’s) experience is going to be huge,” Shaw said. “Getting him back will give us four guys on the inside that can play.”

Skov is expected to start alongside sophomore James Vaughters, who displaced last year’s leading tackler, Jarek Lancaster, as a starting inside linebacker. Vaughters made five tackles in his starting debut, but has some cleaning up to do, Shaw said.

While expectations are high for the front seven, the same can be said for the Cardinal running game which, early on, looked like the same unit that helped the team qualify for BCS bowl games in each of the past two seasons.

Behind Taylor and its power running game, Stanford scored touchdowns on its first two possessions. By halftime, the Cardinal led 17-3 and had 118 yards on the ground with 86 from Taylor.

The second half was a different story.

After averaging 5.6 yards per carry before halftime, Stanford ran for just 37 yards on 20 carries the rest of the game.

What happened?

“That’s what I want to know,” Shaw said. “Next question.”

Taylor pointed to a lack of communication that comes with breaking in several new offensive linemen in the first game of the year, and while Shaw agreed, he wasn’t ready to make any excuses.

[+] EnlargeJosh Nunes
Kyle Terada/US PresswireJosh Nunes was 16-for-26 for 125 yards and a touchdown in his starting debut.
“They made some adjustments, which always happens,” Shaw said. “We made some adjustments after that. And, honestly, we made a lot of mistakes. We need to make sure we step it up a notch, but at the same time, when we run a play against a defense and it’s successful, and we run the same play against the same defense and it’s not successful, we’ll look to see why.”

Taylor finished with 116 yards on 26 carries.

While Luck had autonomy at the line of scrimmage last year, his replacement, Josh Nunes, isn’t quite there yet. The redshirt junior was solid in the first start of his career, but wasn’t asked to do a whole lot.

“It was everything I dreamed,” Nunes said. “I wasn’t nervous at all.
It was nice being back on the field again.”

Nunes completed 16 of 26 passes for 125 yards and found Drew Terrell on an 11-yard first-quarter touchdown, the first of his career.

“He played extremely well and was very poised under pressure,” Shaw said. “San Jose State gave a few looks we had not seen and Josh handled it all very, very well. He showed great leadership for our team out there and we look forward to having him do so throughout the season.”

Nunes knows he won’t be Luck, but realizes there will be comparisons.

In Luck’s first start as a redshirt freshman, he was 11 of 23 for 193 yards and a score in a 39-13 win at Washington State.

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