Stanford Football: Ka'imi Fairbairn

Our look at position groups in the Pac-12 continues with place-kickers.

Arizona: Casey Skowron, Bret Miller and Michael Unzicker are all in the mix this spring to replace Jake Smith, who converted 12 of 19 kicks (63.2 percent) last season, including a long of 53. The 12 converted field goals were the lowest in the conference, as was the conversion percentage.

Arizona State: No team in the Pac-12 attempted more field goals in 2013 than the Sun Devils -- and Zane Gonzalez was one of the few bright spots for an otherwise dismal ASU special teams unit. The freshman All-American converted 25 of 30 attempts (83.3) and had a streak of 18 straight.

California: With Vincenzo D’Amato gone (he was 17 of 20 last season), it’s looking like James Langford, Noah Beito and Matt Anderson will all get looks. Langford might have the edge as the kickoff guy with Beito a potential early frontrunner for field goals.

Colorado: Senior Will Oliver is back after converting 17 of 24 kicks last year (70.8 percent). He was perfect inside the 30 (7 of 7) and missed just once inside of 40 yards. Three of his misses came from 50-plus (2 of 5). He’s a potential All-American candidate. Strong-legged Diego Gonzalez from Guadalupe, Mexico, is waiting in the wings.

Oregon: Oregon’s kicking adventures weren’t as interesting in 2013 as they’ve been in the past. While the Ducks attempted the fewest field goals in the conference, Matt Wogan was a solid 7 of 9, and Alejandro Maldonado was 3 of 5 for a combined 71.4 percent -- seventh in the conference. Wogan returns and should be considered the frontrunner to handle all kicking duties, including punting.

Oregon State: Trevor Romaine returns as a fourth-year starter after converting 14 of 20 attempts last season. He was mostly money inside of 40 yards, converting 11 of 13 attempts. But struggled on the longer kicks, converting just 2 of 5 between 40-49 yards and 1 of 2 beyond 50.

Stanford: Jordan Williamson is back after connecting on 18 of 22 kicks in 2013, including a long of 48. Of his four misses, two of them came from 50 yards or longer, where he was 0 for 2. He was automatic inside the 30 and 15 of 16 inside of 40 yards. Time to finally put the 2011 Fiesta Bowl to rest. He's one of the league's most consistent kickers.

UCLA: Ka’imi Fairbairn returns after a hit-and-miss year where he connected on 14 of 21 kicks with a long of 48. He had a stretch where he converted on eight in a row. But also had some inconsistent games (2 of 4 against Nebraska, 2 of 4 against ASU).

USC: Andre Heidari had an up-and-down season. He struggled greatly in the 40-49 yard range, converting on just 3 of 8 kicks. Overall, he was 15 of 22, and his 2013 will most likely be remembered for his 47-yard game-winner against Stanford. Heidari also handled almost every kickoff, though punter Kris Albarado is available if needed.

Utah: "Automatic" Andy Phillips returns after making quite the splash in his first season of football. The former skier became a household name -- well, at least a name in Pac-12 households -- after converting on the first 11 field goals of his career. He’s got a big leg, converting on 9 of 11 from 40 yards or longer.

Washington: No easy task replacing Travis Coons, who handled kicking and punting for the Huskies. He was the Pac-12’s most accurate kicker in 2013, converting on 15 of 16 attempts. Cameron Van Winkle handled some kickoffs before an injury set him back, and Tristan Vizcaino comes in this fall and should be in the mix.

Washington State: Strong-legged Andrew Furney is gone. Wes Concepcion and Erik Powell are the kickers on the roster. Powell was a walk-on, but the coaching staff is high on him. Concepcion likely will handle punting but could kick if needed.

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Pac-12 names players of the week

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey has been named the Pac-12’s offensive player of the week, along with defensive player of the week Jordan Richards of Stanford and special teams player of the week Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State.

Here’s some more on the trio and other nominees per the Pac-12’s release:
Carey, a junior from Tucson, Ariz., carried the ball a school-record 40 times for 236 yards and a game-clinching touchdown as Arizona beat Utah 35-24 on Saturday night at home. He gained 30-yards on his first carry of the game and ran for a 44-yard touchdown on his last carry with 90 seconds remaining to secure the Wildcats‘first Conference win. The 236 rushing yards is Carey’s second-highest career tally and third-highest in Arizona single-game history. The reigning national rushing champion now leads the nation with 161.0 rushing yards per game.

Richards, a junior from Folsom, Calif., intercepted two passes, broke up another pass and recorded a team-leading 10 tackles as Stanford rebounded after its first loss of the season to take down No. 9 UCLA 24-10 on Saturday afternoon. Both of Richards’ interceptions set up Stanford touchdowns, which proved to be the difference in the game. It was his first multi-interception game of his career.

Gonzalez, a freshman from Deer Park, Texas, set a career-high for field goals, going 4-for-4 in the Sun Devil’s 53-24 win over No. 20 Washington at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday. He has connected on 11-straight field goal attempts and is 15-of-18 on the season. Gonzalez scored 17 points in the game, bringing his season total to 80 points and ranks No. 5 nationally in scoring at 11.4 ppg.

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Connor Halliday of Washington State; running backs Marion Grice of Arizona State, Byron Marshall of Oregon, Tyler Gaffney of Stanford, and Silas Redd of USC and tailback Michael Adkins of Colorado. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were defensive linemen Sione Tuihalamaka of Arizona, Will Sutton of Arizona State, Scott Crichton of Oregon State, Leonard Williams of USC and Trevor Reilly of Utah; and safety Randall Goforth of UCLA. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Conrad Ukropina of Stanford and Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA, Utah punter Tom Hackett; wide receiver/punt returner Nelson Agholor of USC; and Arizona running back Terris Jones-Grigsby.

Pac-12 names players of the week

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
5:15
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The Pac-12 has named Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota the offensive player of the week, Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy its defensive player of the week and Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery the special teams player of the week.

Some more on the trio, per the Pac-12’s release:
Mariota, a sophomore from Honolulu, set a school record with 42 points accounted for in Oregon’s 57-16 win at Colorado on Saturday. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns. Mariota also ran for an additional 43 yards and two more scores. He is eighth in the country in passing efficiency (176.30 QB rating) and ninth in total offense (339.20 ypg), helping Oregon to a No. 2 national ranking in total offense (630.40 ypg).

Murphy, a senior from Mesa, Ariz., recorded six tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, in Stanford’s narrow 31-28 win over Washington at home on Saturday night. He also deflected a pass that led to a Stanford interception that ended a Huskies’ drive late in the fourth quarter. The forced turnover proved to be pivotal in the Cardinal’s three-point victory.

Montgomery, a junior from Tahlequah, Okla., set a school record with 204 kickoff return yards that included a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game against Washington. He added a 39-yard touchdown reception and ended the game with 290 all-purpose yards on nine carries (32.2 yards per touch). Montgomery currently ranks sixth in the nation in all-purpose yards (176.6 ypg).

Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were quarterbacks Brett Hundley of UCLA and Connor Halliday of Washington State; and wide receivers Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, Chris Harper of California, and Dres Anderson of Utah. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Addison Gillam of Colorado, Eric Kendricks of UCLA and Jared Norris of Utah; safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State; and defensive back Damarious Randall of Arizona State. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors were kickers Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State, Ka’imi Fairbairn of UCLA and Andy Phillips of Utah.

Pac-12's best moments in 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
11:00
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Here's a collection of great moments/storylines from the 2012 Pac-12 season in no particular order:

  • Clutch catches: A couple from Arizona wide receivers come to mind. There was Austin Hill laying out in the season opener against Toledo for a 30-yard touchdown -- quite possibly the best catch in the Pac-12 this season -- and Tyler Slavin's snag in the New Mexico Bowl. Zach Ertz's haul-in against Oregon was as clutch as it gets.
  • [+] EnlargeReggie Dunn
    Russ Isabella/US PresswireUtah's Reggie Dunn was a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball.
    Dunn and done: It was a record-setting year for Utah's All-American kick returner Reggie Dunn. He set the NCAA single-season record with four 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. He set the NCAA mark for career 100-yard kickoff returns with five, the single-game 100-yard kickoff return record with two and the kick return average in a game at 74.0. He also tied the NCAA record for kick return touchdowns in a game from any distance with two. His performance prompted one of the best quotes of the year from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I can't believe they kicked to him," Whittingham said after the Colorado game.
  • Having their moment: Colorado is going to get mentioned a lot in this post -- mostly because of what others did to it. But in a season loaded with disappointments, it was a gritty fourth-quarter performance that stands out as a highlight for the Buffs. Trailing 31-14 in the final frame, Colorado outscored the Washington State Cougars 21-3 in the final 7:06 for their only win of the season, a 35-34 victory in Pullman, Wash.
  • The other side of Colorado: Feeling good after reading that, Buffs fans? Here comes the rub. Pac-12 teams exploded against Colorado this year with several record-setting performances. We've already mentioned Dunn getting one of his kickoff return TDs against the Buffs. But before that, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods had record-setting days against Colorado. Barkley threw six touchdowns and completed 95 percent of his passes (19 of 20), giving him the Pac-12 career touchdown record. Woods caught eight balls to set the USC career receptions record and he became the first USC player to have four touchdown catches in one game. A couple of weeks later, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey ran for a league-record 366 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 14.6 yards per carry. In conference games, Colorado was outscored, on average, 49-17.
  • Clutch kicks: In what was a very off year for Pac-12 kickers, a few key moments stand out: Ka'imi Fairbairn's 33-yard game winner lifted the Bruins to a 45-43 win at Arizona State; Jordan Williamson's 37-yarder in overtime downed Oregon and changed the entire landscape of college football; and WSU's Andrew Furney was oh-so-money in the Apple Cup, drilling a 45-yarder to tie the game in the closing minutes and then hitting a 27-yarder in overtime.
  • UW shockers: For as shocking as the Apple Cup demise was for the Huskies, they also provided a couple of big shockers of their own, knocking off a pair of top-10 teams. A week after Stanford stunned USC (not as stunning as it was at the time), Washington held the No. 8 Cardinal without an offensive touchdown in a 17-13 home win. A month later -- to the day -- it snapped No. 7 Oregon State's six-game winning streak, also at the Clink.
  • SoCal slugfest: Before the season, we all looked to the Oregon-USC game as the first of two that would determine the conference championship. As it turned out, neither team even reached the title game. But the game itself didn't disappoint. It was a 62-51 thrill ride in which Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and four touchdowns, Barkley threw for 484 yards and five scores and the two schools gained 1,345 yards of total offense between them.
  • Quarterback controversies: Midseason switches and turnover at the position seemed like a constant throughout the Pac-12. Only four schools -- Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington -- started the same quarterback in every game this season. Injury caused changes at Arizona, Cal, Oregon State, USC and Utah, while competitions/switches happened at Washington State, Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado. In the end, it was a good move for Stanford -- which went on to win the Pac-12 title. At Oregon State, the competition is certainly wide open after the Alamo Bowl collapse. Colorado has some things to figure out with a new coaching staff and we'll see if Connor Halliday can hold on to the job next year.
  • Heisman shutout: The Pac-12 didn't have a finalist for the first time since 2008 -- despite strong seasons from Marqise Lee, Barner, Carey, Johnathan Franklin, etc. Barkley was the preseason favorite, but fizzled as USC imploded. Despite having the nation's top wide receiver and three of the four consensus All-American running backs, the Pac-12 was snubbed out of a trip to New York.
  • Stanford's staying power: Surely, 2012 was the year Stanford would come back to earth. No Andrew Luck, no Coby Fleener, no Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. But behind a fierce defense, the Cardinal won the league title, Kevin Hogan is 5-0 as a starter at quarterback and the Cardinal won the Rose Bowl. Not bad for a rebuilding year.
  • Coaches are better than ever: Jim Mora, Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez all took their teams to bowl games in their first seasons. Mike Riley has his team back in the Top 25. David Shaw has won the coach of the year honor twice in two seasons. Chip Kelly is back. Sonny Dykes has an exciting offense. Mike MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding. The Pac-12 might have the hottest crop of coaches in the country. That's a very good thing.
  • 2-0: There are many ways to judge the talent of a conference. BCS bowl games are the biggest litmus test. The Pac-12 went 4-4 in the bowl season, but won both of its BCS games: Stanford beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Oregon thrashing Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. History judges the best of the best. And there was no doubt those two teams earned everything they got this year.

Chip on shoulder, Stanford comes up roses

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
11:12
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- It didn't matter to Stanford that everyone was handing the Pac-12 to either USC or Oregon in the preseason. But, of course, it did. It didn't matter to Stanford that many expected the Cardinal to take a significant step back after losing quarterback Andrew Luck, the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. But, of course, it did.

That's the twin engine that drives Stanford. It's contradictory only on the surface. Stanford doesn't pay attention to what you think because that chip is already on its collective shoulder. It's part of the program's culture. It doesn't care what you think but -- just in case -- it's certain you doubt them.

Yet here the Cardinal are, headed to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 champions after beating UCLA 27-24 on Friday, gutting out a victory over a foe that looked a lot tougher than it did six days earlier in a 35-17 defeat. The Cardinal is headed to a third consecutive BCS bowl game with a chance to finish a third consecutive season in the final top 10.

Surely that will convince the naysayers that the most elite academic institution playing FBS football is also elite on the gridiron?

"They probably still won't give us credit," outside linebacker Chase Thomas said. "They never have. They just don't get it. They counted us out before the season after Andrew left. They counted us out when [coach Jim] Harbaugh left. And when [running back Toby] Gerhart left."

While you might quibble with Stanford not getting credit -- it has finished ranked fourth and seventh in the final Associated Press poll the past two seasons -- you can't quibble with the facts: The Cardinal is now 11-2 and headed to the Rose Bowl after replacing one of the great college quarterbacks of the past decade, not to mention a handful of other early-round NFL draft picks.

This program has some legs.

But this one wasn't easy. The Bruins showed up for take two. It was only decided when Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 51-yard field goal attempt with 34 seconds left.

After rushing for just 73 yards and giving up seven sacks in game one, the Bruins rushed for 282 yards and yielded three sacks. They outgained the Cardinal 464 yards to 323.

Said Stanford coach David Shaw, "They just played better."

But two plays changed the game. First, with UCLA leading 14-7 and facing a second-and-16 from the Cardinal 36-yard line, quarterback Brett Hundley threw his only interception on the night, but it was returned 80 yards by Ed Reynolds to the Bruins' 1-yard line. A play later, it was 14-14, and the Cardinal quashed early UCLA momentum.

[+] EnlargeEd Reynolds.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezEd Reynolds halted a UCLA drive with this 80-yard INT return, which Stanford immediately cashed in.
Then, early in the fourth quarter with UCLA leading 24-17, Stanford faced a third-and-15 from the Bruins' 26-yard line. The Cardinal sent out four vertical receivers, with tight end Zach Ertz cutting underneath in the middle. The safety followed Ertz. Quarterback Kevin Hogan saw receiver Drew Terrell get some space along the right sideline.

"The corner sat a little bit," Hogan said.

Hogan found Terrell for a 26-yard touchdown to tie the score.

Said UCLA coach Jim Mora, "We busted a coverage."

Hogan won game MVP honors, and Stanford's transformation can be traced to him. The redshirt freshman made his first career start Nov. 10 against Oregon State, but now he has beaten four consecutive ranked teams, including the victory at Oregon that keyed the Cardinal taking the North Division title.

"It's been a good month," Hogan said.

Hogan is already notorious for two things: poise and a desire not to talk about himself. It's better to have others talk about him, a signal-caller who can do damage with his arm and legs.

"He's an impressive kid," Mora said. "He's very poised. He's careful with the ball. He makes good decisions."

Shaw said Hogan's "ceiling is very high" and that his poise is "innate."

"You don't train a guy like that," Shaw said. "You find a guy like that."

Hogan completed 16 of 22 passes for 153 yards and rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries. But the biggest number is this: No turnovers for the Cardinal offense. On a day when UCLA was statistically superior, that might have been the difference.

"You're a freshman?" Thomas joked with Hogan on the podium during a postgame news conference, then turning back to reporters. "He sure doesn't play like one."

Stanford hasn't played in a Rose Bowl since losing to Wisconsin after the 1999 season. Shaw is the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. The Cardinal has won at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons for the first time in their history.

There are probably a few folks who don't believe they will do it a fourth time in 2013. At least, that's what they hope in the Cardinal locker room. Not that they care what you think. But they know you think that.

Remember: These guys are nerds. They know things.

Said Shaw, "We expect to be good again next year."

Instant analysis: Stanford 27, UCLA 24

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
8:51
PM ET


PALO ALTO, Calif. — Here's a quick take on Stanford's 27-24 victory over UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game:

It was over when: It was over only when UCLA kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 51-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the score with 39 seconds left.

Game ball goes to: UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, who was shut down in last week's meeting, gained 201 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. It was a brilliant effort.

Stat of the game: 1-0. That was the turnover total in favor of Stanford. And UCLA's turnover was a Brett Hundley interception that was returned 80 yards by Ed Reynolds to the Bruins' 1-yard line, which set up the tying score at 14-14. It was big.

Stat of the game II: UCLA gained 282 yards rushing after getting just 73 in last week's game. But it didn't matter.

Unsung hero of the game: Stanford redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan was again unflappable. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 153 yards with a 26-yard touchdown. He also rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries with a score.

What it means: It means Stanford is headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. UCLA likely ends up in the Alamo Bowl.

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