Stanford throttles ASU to win its second-straight Pac-12 title


Some teams just have other teams’ numbers.

You could certainly say that about Stanford and Arizona State. For whatever reason, the Cardinal know how to discombobulate the Sun Devils…and that’s what they did on Saturday night in the Pac-12 title game.

Tyler Gaffney rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns and Kevin Hogan threw for 277 yards as No. 7 Stanford won its second-straight league crown with a dominating 38-14 victory over No. 11 ASU.

Stanford improves to 11-2 and becomes the fifth team to go to four-straight BCS games. Arizona State fell to 10-3 and saw its seven-game win streak snapped.

As with the earlier game this season between the two teams, this one was all Stanford from the start. The Cardinal jumped out to a 28-14 halftime lead and then cruised from there.

ASU had its chances. It took the opening possession of the third quarter and drove it 61 yards to the Stanford 13 yard line. But Zane Gonzalez missed a 31-yard field goal and the Sun Devils blew that chance to chip away at Stanford’s lead. The Cardinal promptly drove 67 yards in 11 plays and got a 30-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson to make the score 31-14.

ASU came back again. This time the Sun Devils drove 66 yards to the Cardinal nine-yard line, where it was set up with a first-and-goal. Punch it in and it may have become a game. ASU made it to the one, but couldn’t score on two consecutive plays and Stanford took over (credit Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov for making a Levar Arrington-style leap to stop the QB sneak on third down).

To make matters worse, the Cardinal then went on a 99-yard drive to put the final nail in the coffin.

Stanford saved one of its best overall efforts of the season for its most important game. The Cardinal out-gained ASU, 517 to 311, and averaged a season-best 9.1 yards per play. The Sun Devils clearly missed its best offensive weapon, Marion Grice, who sat out the game with an injury, but nothing really seemed to go right for ASU when it mattered anyway.

Still, the future is bright for the Sun Devils. Quarterback Tyler Kelly is back next year as is explosive tailback D.J. Foster (142 combined rushing and receiving yards, 2 TDs vs. Stanford) and all-star wide out Jaelen Strong. If ASU can fill some holes on defense, it could be a regular in this title game.

As for Stanford, it’s the final hurrah for a large group of seniors who will have to be replaced, especially on defense. They’ve been the most successful senior class in school history (46-7) and are the core of the first Stanford team to repeat as conference champs since 1970-71.

With close losses to Utah and USC, though, the Cardinal will no doubt be asking “What if?” going forward.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) returns to practice

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In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.


The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.

Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are entrenched in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

USC graduate transfer Jalen Greene heads east to play at Illinois in 2018

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Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.

The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.

Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.

Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.

Josh Heupel keeping most of Scott Frost’s playbook at UCF as spring practice begins

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There are a ton of interesting storylines as spring practice begins across the country but one of the most intriguing programs to watch might be in Orlando as UCF looks to simultaneously follow up an undefeated season while also transitioning to a new coaching staff.

ESPN’s Andrea Adelson wrote a good story on the Knights changing some things up under head coach Josh Heupel the past few months like eating with players during meals, new strength and conditioning regiments and the usual offseason stuff you typically wind up season. However there was one interesting nugget about the team’s playbook that the coach relayed:

In other areas, player input has kept a few things unchanged. Take the offensive playbook, for example. Heupel and (Scott) Frost share enough offensive concepts that the new staff has adopted the terminology that players already know on the plays they have in common. So in theory, that should allow the offense to hit spring practice, which started Tuesday, with much more familiarity than another program that has completely changed over its staff.

As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In Heupel’s first head coaching gig, it seems he’s taking that to heart.

David Beaty elevates Cassius Sendish from GA to Kansas safeties coach

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It didn’t take long nor did David Beaty have to look far for Kansas’ new safeties coach.

The school confirmed on Thursday morning that graduate assistant Cassius Sendish, a former Jayhawks team captain and defensive back, would be taking over as the team’s new safeties coach to complete the staff for 2018.

“I am honored and proud to represent the University of Kansas football program,” said Sendish in a statement. “I hold this place near and dear to my heart and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work at my alma mater. I can’t thank Coach Beaty and the rest of the football staff enough for allowing me to come aboard and be a part of something special.”

Sendish replaces Todd Bradford on the staff after he made the rather head-turning move to leave coaching and take a new job in the oil industry. Recently hired Bill Miller will continue to coach linebackers while the newest hire will team up with defensive coordinator Clint Bowen to handle the secondary.

There will be plenty of time for everybody to settle into their new on-field roles as the Jayhawks will open up spring practice on March 31st.