Bryce Love

Associated Press

Defense leads McCaffrey-less No. 18 Stanford past North Carolina in Sun Bowl

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Who needs Christian McCaffrey? Or a starting quarterback for that matter? Playing without its regular backfield battery, No. 18 Stanford used a standout effort from running back Bryce Love and a relentless defense to hold off North Carolina 25-23 in an overcast Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

Keller Chryst started the game at quarterback and, after a three-and-out and a UNC touchdown to open the game, put Stanford on the board with a 49-yard snatch-and-dash toss to Love. After a Tar Heels punt, Chryst maneuvered Stanford to within scoring territory before he was forced to leave the game after injuring his right knee on an 8-yard scramble. Conrad Ukropina put Stanford on top with a 44-yard field goal with 14:13 to play in the first half.

The Cardinal eventually pushed the lead to 16-7 thanks to a defense that stifled North Carolina’s offense. Playing in perhaps his final college game before a possible first-round selection in this spring’s NFL Draft, Stanford forced Mitch Trubisky into an interception inside his own territory and a fumble inside his own red zone. Nick Weiler, hero of the Florida State win, added to the misery when he missed a 51-yard field goal, leading to Ukropina’s third field goal of the game (with one miss mixed in) to push the Cardinal lead to nine.

North Carolina responded with its best offensive stretch of the day, moving a combined 123 yards over 17 plays to secure a 37-yard Weiler field goal and a 5-yard Jordon Brown rush, staking the Heels to a 17-16 lead with 2:09 to play in the third quarter. But Stanford got Trubisky one last time, taking as Dallas Lloyd claimed his second interception of the day and returned it untouched for a 19-yard pick-six at the 14:13 mark of the fourth quarter. Ryan Burns, playing for Chryst, saw his 2-point pass fall incomplete, forcing Stanford to live with a 22-17 lead. Burns managed the offense and produced just enough points for the win, completing 6-of-11 passes for 86 yards without a turnover. (Chryst left the game with 86 passing yards, 14 rushing yards and a touchdown.) Love rushed 22 times for a game-high 115 yards with a 49-yard touchdown reception.

The Heels moved 35 yards on a would-be go-ahead possession before punting, and Stanford put together a vintage Stanford (10-3) drive, consuming more than seven minutes to run 12 plays. But Stanford, un-Stanford-like fashion, could not push the ball across the goal line, settling for Ukropina’s fourth field goal of the day instead.

North Carolina (8-5) took the field at its own 25 with an eternity — 3:23, to be exact — and all three of its timeouts, needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to force a 25-25 tie, but could not gain a first down. Trubisky completed a pass to Ryan Switzer for no gain on first down, threw incomplete on second down and was sacked by Solomon Thomas on third down, forcing a punt with exactly two minutes remaining.

The Cardinal killed only ten seconds on three Love runs — with a third down one puzzlingly going out of bounds — but a 56-yard Jake Bailey punt pinned North Carolina at its own three with 1:34 and one timeout remaining. That inability to cross the line once, either to score the game-winning touchdown or a game-ending first down one drive later, proved costly. Given new life, Trubisky moved North Carolina 97 yards in one minute, as Trubisky scrambled to his right and found Bug Howard opened in the left side of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown that traveled about 40 through the air.

Needing a 2-point conversion to extend the game, Trubisky again scrambled to his right but was swallowed by Thomas and a host of Cardinal defenders.

Stanford recovered the ensuing onside kick and expired the final 25 seconds to hold on for the win. In what may be his final on-field audition for the NFL, Trubisky finished 23-of-39 passing for 280 yards with two touchdowns and three turnovers (one a pick-six).

With the win, the first of the post-Christian McCaffrey era on the Farm, Stanford secured its second consecutive 10-win season and top-20 season, its fifth such season in six tries under David Shaw and its sixth double-digit, top-20 season in the last seven years dating back to the Jim Harbaugh era.

Stanford down a QB but leading North Carolina in Sun Bowl

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Without Christian McCaffrey and starting quarterback Keller Chryst going down to injury, No. 18 Stanford still holds a 13-7 lead over North Carolina halfway through the Sun Bowl.

North Carolina opened the scoring by moving 71 yards in 10 plays on its first possession, capped by a 19-yard strike from Mitch Trubisky to Ryan Switzer. After a three-and-out to open the game, Stanford answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive of its own, the final 49 yards coming on a pass from Chryst to McCaffrey-less starting running back Bryce Love.

The Cardinal forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and moved deep into North Carolina territory when Chryst was forced to leave the game after injuring his knee on an 8-yard scramble. Ryan Burns entered the game and led the Cardinal to a 44-yard Conrad Ukropina field goal, handing Stanford its first lead at the 14:13 mark of the second quarter.

North Carolina moved into Stanford territory on its next touch, but Dallas Lloyd stepped in front of a Trubisky passed and raced it 45 yards to the UNC 20-yard line. Ukropina, however, missed his 36-yard field goal three plays later.

Stanford’s defense continued its vice-grip hold on the UNC offense, though, forcing a four-and-out and a Trubisky fumble at his own 18. Ukropina converted this miscue into points, knocking in a 32-yard field goal with 32 seconds left before the break.

Burns hit 3-of-7 passes for 35 yards, while Chryst will finish with a line of 3-of-6 passing for 68 yards and a touchdown plus 14 rushing yards on two carries. Love has rushed 10 times for 37 yards with a 49-yard touchdown reception.

Trubisky started hot but finished 11-of-17 for 83 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a fumble while rushing five times for 20 yards. T.J. Logan has also carried five times for 20 yards, but the Heels trail the rushing battle, 46-43.

North Carolina will receive to open the second half.

Status uncertain for Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey vs. Colorado

AP Photo/Tony Avelar
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After being ruled out for last week’s road game at Notre Dame, Stanford’s electric star Christian McCaffrey may or may not be available this week against Colorado.

Stanford head coach David Shaw addressed McCaffrey’s status on Tuesday, saying the running back could be cleared to return to practice on Wednesday. McCaffrey is being sidelined by an undisclosed injury, and it stands to reason Stanford wants to take every precaution to make sure McCaffrey is as healthy as he can be before putting him back on the field.

”We’ll get him on the field to do some things today but probably won’t get him a chance to practice, if he can practice, until maybe a little bit tomorrow if he feels good today,” Shaw said. ”If not, then we’ll do like last week and see if he can go on Friday.”

So it appears to be a wait-and-see plan for Stanford and McCaffrey. Bryce Love has been taking on the bulk of the carries with McCaffrey out of action. Love carried the football 23 times last week and rushed for 129 yards.

Stanford managed to pick up a win last week against Notre Dame without McCaffrey available, but having him back for Colorado would be a plus if possible. Colorado is entering the game 5-2, and Stanford is about as vulnerable as they have been in quite some time.

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame as Jimmy Clausen takes aim at Brian Kelly

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Stanford (4-2) scored 17 straight points and pitched a shutout in the second half to stun Notre Dame (2-5) in Notre Dame Stadium, winning by a score of 17-10. It was a night that was led by the Stanford defense, which came up with nine points and had to be won by the Cardinal without Christian McCaffrey, who was out of action with an injury nagging from last week.

Stanford took its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter on a bizarre sequence at the end of an 11-play drive. Stanford running back Bryce Love (129 yards) rumbled toward the goal line but fumbled the football into the endzone. After a scrum, Stanford was awarded the go-ahead touchdown when it was determined Jesse Burkett recovered the fumble.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly pulled his starting quarterback, DeShone Kizer, from the game early in the second half after tossing two interceptions on Notre Dame’s first two possessions of the second half, despite still leading at the time. The first interception was returned for a Stanford touchdown by Quenton Meeks from midfield. Kizer’s second interception came at the end of a 10-play drive on fourth down from the Stanford 38-yard line. Dallas Lloyd returned the interception to the Notre Dame 47-yard line, but the Cardinal would turn the ball right back over to the Irish when Ryan Burns fumbled the football while being sacked by Jonathan Jones. Jamir Jones jumped on the loose ball for the Irish.

Replacing Kizer was Malik Zaire, who showed some signs of bench rust in his first series. Zaire failed to complete either of the two pass attempts he passed, and he picked up just three rushing yards on three rushing attempts. There was certainly no spark there for Notre Dame. Eventually, Kizer returned to the field to lead the offense, and he led the Irish to a late offensive scoring threat with the game on the line.

Former Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen was firing off some fire about the decision to pull Kizer on Twitter, suggesting Kizer should strongly consider leaving Notre Dame for the NFL Draft next season if Kelly doesn’t trust him.

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Apparently, Kelly had a bit of an outburst on the field after the game, as Notre Dame’s final drive was ended on a fourth down attempt for a game-ending turnover on downs.

Notre Dame will get a week off to regroup and figure some things out with their offense. The next time Notre Dame takes the field will be in two weeks back in Notre Dame Stadium when the Miami Hurricanes travel to South Bend. The Hurricanes cracked the top 10 in the polls this season but have now lost two straight game sin ACC play, to Florida State and North Carolina. Miami does play next week, with a Thursday night road trip to Virginia Tech.

Stanford will look to pick up a much-needed win in Pac-12 play next week when they host the surprising Colorado Buffaloes next Saturday in Palo Alto.

Notre Dame pitching shutout against Stanford, leads 10-0 at half

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Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer ran for an eight-yard touchdown to give the Irish a 7-0 lead in the first quarter against Stanford. With the Cardinal playing without an injured Christian McCaffrey, Stanford looks to climb a steep hill in the second half as they trail Notre Dame 10-0 at halftime in South Bend.

Kizer’s touchdown run was his seventh of the season. He also is the game’s leading rusher at the end of the first half with 75 yards. Stanford, as a team, has rushed for just 64 yards, with Bryce Love accounted for 50 of the team’s 78 rushing yards.

Neither team has found a groove in the passing game. Kizer has completed six of 11 pass attempts for 79 yards. Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns has completed seven of 13 passes for 56 yards, with a late interception in the final minute of the first half. Stanford has also been a tad undisciplined with one turnover and four penalties for 30 yards in the first half.