Stanford rumbles over Oregon, hangs on for 26-20 win

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For the second year in a row, Stanford has upset the BCS apple cart.

The No. 6 Cardinal used a powerful run game and a physical defense to beat No. 2 Oregon in Palo Alto, 26-20.

With the win, Stanford moves to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12, while Oregon falls to 8-1 and 5-1 in league play.

For about three-and-a-half quarters, this game was the province of the Cardinal ground game. Running back Tyler Gaffney carried the ball a career-high 45 times for 157 yards and a touchdown as Stanford punched the Ducks in the mouth over and over again. The Cardinal rushed for 274 yards and converted 14-of-21 third down conversions while holding the ball for an unbelievable 45:30.

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan was efficient and killed the Ducks with timely scrambles. He was 7 of 13 for 103 yards and rushed for 57 yards and a score. The Cardinal didn’t need him to do much more since they were in control for most of the game.

Ah, but what about the end?

When Cardinal placekicker Jordan Williamson hit his fourth field goal of the game to put Stanford up 26-0 with 11:40 to play, it looked like the Ducks were going to go quietly into the Northern California night. There was even talk of blanking Oregon, something that hasn’t happened since 2007.

But Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who struggled most of the game, suddenly came to life. He led Oregon on a 60-yard drive that culminated in a 23-yard touchdown pass to Daryle Hawkins. That made it 26-7 with 10:11 to play.

Oregon’s onside kick failed and Stanford drove the ball to the Oregon 23-yard line and then Williamson lined up for his fifth field goal of the night. But the attempt was blocked and Rodney Hardrick returned it 65 yards for a touchdown and it was suddenly 26-13 after Mariota’s 2-point conversion attempt failed.

The Ducks lined up for another onside kick and this time it worked. Oregon recovered and, seven plays later, had a first and goal at the Stanford 2-yard line with almost four minutes to play. It looked like Oregon had a chance to pull off a miracle comeback.

But this is where the Ducks’ hopes died. While Oregon eventually scored on a fourth down play to make it 26-20, the Ducks ate up valuable time on the clock and, with one time out left, it wouldn’t be able to get the ball back unless its next onside kick worked.

It didn’t. Wide out Jeff Trojan recovered it and Stanford ran out the clock. Afterward, Stanford students stormed the field.

And it no doubt set off celebrations in Tallahassee and Columbus, as both Florida State and Ohio State’s odds of making it to the BCS title game improved substantially tonight. When Sunday’s BCS standings come out, we’ll see FSU holding on to its spot at No. 2 behind No. 1 Alabama.

For Oregon, it’s back to the drawing board. On the bright side, it won’t have to face a Stanford defense of this caliber anytime soon as 15 of the 22 players on the Cardinal’s defensive two-deep are seniors. Mariota’s Heisman hopes took a big hit, though the late rally mitigated the damage somewhat, but he’s going to need some help down the stretch to win his school’s first Heisman.

As for Stanford, it’s now in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North and has an outside chance at crawling back into the BCS title hunt. If Alabama loses to LSU, Ohio State loses to Michigan or Michigan State and Baylor drops a game in the next month, it will be well-positioned to give the title tilt a physical presence — from the Pac-12, no less.

Utah evaluating potential upgrades to Rice-Eccles Stadium

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It may be hard to believe, but Utah has just completed its sixth year in the Pac-12. Now, after benefitting from an increased conference revenue compared to their days in the Mountain West Conference, Utah appears to be ready to dig in and explore the possibility of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The University of Utah announced today the school is putting together a feasibility study to expand the south end zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Among the details to figure out include how much it may cost, who it will be funded and whether or not there is a market for such an expansion in the first place. Given the move to the Pac-12 a little more than half a decade ago and the success of making the transition with a more attractive regular season schedule, it stands to reason there is potential for a stadium expansion to take advantage of.

“Understanding the market, costs and feasibility will help us better prepare for the future of the stadium,” said President David W. Pershing in a released statement. “There’s still much work to be done before taking steps toward renovation. We have to know if the market will support this kind of expansion.”

Rice-Eccles Stadium opened its doors in 1998 after a complete rebuild of the original stadium structure that was Rice Stadium. One of the only portions of the stadium that was left largely untouched between the transition of the stadium was the south end zone. This is where Utah wants to explore renovation plans for the most part. If the hypothetical project goes through, Utah will rebuild the locker rooms, equipment storage and media rooms as well as medical treatment areas. Of course, the school will also evaluate possibilities for luxury seating for fans and donors and concession area upgrades. Among those fan amenities under consideration is connecting the east and west concourses.

Rice-Eccles Stadium currently has a listed seating capacity of 45,807. It has a sellout streak of 38 games, with 35 going above the official maximum capacity, according to Utah Athletics.

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

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Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

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Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

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USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.