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No. 7 Stanford storms back to beat No. 20 Oregon in OT and make huge Pac-12 statement at Autzen

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The faces may change through the years but whenever Oregon and Stanford get together in the Pac-12 era, a classic tends to break out. Such was certainly the case once again on Saturday night in Eugene.

The No. 7 Cardinal had an incredible turnaround starting in the third quarter and stormed back to beat No. 20 Oregon 38-31 in overtime and send a statement to the Pac-12 and the rest of the country that they’re still among the elite in the sport.

Despite Oregon controlling the game convincingly early, Stanford found late life in the third quarter thanks to their defense. After a replay took a touchdown off the board, the Ducks were at their one yard line when they were set to punch the ball in… but fumbled the snap. Linebacker Joey Alfieri scooped-and-scored from 80 yards out to quiet the rambunctious crowd in Eugene and a three-and-out followed. The Cardinal continued to make things interesting after that incredible swing of momentum as Bryce Love then punched it in from 22 yards out to complete the 21-point swing.

While it looked like the Ducks had regained control of things with a 70-yard touchdown drive, the visitors from the Farm would not give up. They answered with a score in less than 90 seconds and then incredibly forced a fumble on the ensuing possession. After some big time passes down the field, Jet Toner knocked home a 32-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime and the team secured an interception to seal the deal in the extra frame.

Love (89 yards) was generally held in check outside of that one scoring run as the Stanford offense mostly had to move the ball through the air. Signal-caller K.J. Costello made several big throws down the field and finished with 327 yards passing. He also threw for three touchdowns, two of which went not surprisingly to jump ball machine JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Tight end Kaden Smith chipped in with six catches for 95 yards and Coby Parkinson found the end zone from 23 yards out in OT for the game-winner.

The stunning comeback ruined what should have been a momentous day for Mario Cristobal at Oregon. Quarterback Justin Herbert managed to insert himself into the Heisman conversation by playing nearly perfect, throwing for 346 yards with just seven incompletions, a touchdown and a pick. He also ran for 35 yards for good measure and his scrambles to keep plays alive were key to sustaining drives throughout the game.

CJ Verdell led the way for the Ducks on the ground with 115 yards rushing and a touchdown but his fumble trying to ice the game was the critical mistake that seemed to doom the team. It also spoiled big play machine Dillon Mitchell‘s huge performance as the junior wideout finished the night with a whopping 14 catches for 239 yards — the most at the school since 2003.

The loss not only sets Oregon back in the Pac-12 North race (with rivals Washington coming to town in three weeks), but also hampers their good start to the year against weaker competition. While there’s plenty of season left to go, defeats like that are never easy to get over and Cristobal in particular still has plenty to prove to the fan base that he was the right choice to replace Willie Taggart last December.

As for Stanford, they will likely tick up some in the polls and can now legitimately enter the College Football Playoff conversation. That clash against Notre Dame in South Bend next week on NBC is one of the biggest games of the young season so far and both teams are no stranger from hard-fought battles over the years themselves. While that will have more national implications going forward, the Cardinal already made an impressive statement in Pac-12 play on Saturday night as they look more and more like the class of the league after quieting the crowd and stunning Oregon at Autzen.

QB Justin Herbert, No. 20 Oregon sharp in jumping out to halftime lead against No. 7 Stanford

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After playing three lackluster opponents to open the season, just about everybody in the country was wondering just how good undefeated and No. 20 Oregon was this season. Turns out, pretty good.

The Ducks struck early and never looked back in their huge Pac-12 showdown against No. 7 Stanford, taking a 24-7 lead into the halftime break and looking every bit like the better team on both sides of the ball so far at Autzen Stadium.

In his first big impression for Heisman voters this year, Oregon QB Justin Herbert was nearly perfect through the air with 170 yards, a touchdown and just a single incompletion. He hit several big plays between the hashes and also chipped in by showing off his mobility with 42 yards on the ground as well. Dillon Mitchell hauled in a 53-yard pass on his way to triple figures (126) receiving while tight end Jacob Breeland found the end zone on one of his two catches. CJ Verdell chipped in with 75 yards and a score running the ball too.

The Cardinal offense was not nearly as explosive in the first half. Tailback Bryce Love was mostly held in check with just 41 yards rushing while K.J. Costello powered offense down the field with several big throws on his way to 114 yards. He also tossed a touchdown pass which came, not surprisingly, on a jump ball in the end zone to JJ Arcega-Whiteside from 13 yards out.

We’ll see how this one will play out but the two Pac-12 North rivals have staged some incredible second half battles over the years and that could be the case once again. Defensive adjustments for Stanford will prove key to making things interesting because the Ducks are certainly proving to be better than advertised just two quarters into their season actually getting underway.

Bryce Love bottled up but No. 13 Stanford still runs past San Diego State

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Last season, Bryce Love rushed for 184 yards and two scores but his Stanford team was upset by San Diego State in a truly surprising result. This season, things went a lot differently for the Heisman front-runner, both on the ground and on the scoreboard.

Love was bottled up to the tune of just 29 yards by a feisty Aztecs defense but the No. 13 Cardinal managed to still run away with a 31-10 victory and start 2018 on the right note to go 1-0.

It was not for lack of effort from the Stanford tailback, who broke off numerous runs of 50+ yards a year ago and was fed early and often with carries on Friday night. SDSU not only loaded the box with defenders but did a great job in pursuit and never did seem to allow much daylight for Love to run through.

That did, however, open things up quite a bit for the Stanford passing game. Quarterback K.J. Costello threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns (one interception) to lead the way after a bit of a slow start, doing well to stay  in the pocket and deliver quite a few strikes downfield. His favorite target was undoubtedly JJ Arcega-Whitesidewho had no problem taking over from Love as the highlight machine. The lengthy wideout finished the evening with 226 yards and a trio of touchdowns — adding a two-point conversion off a jump ball for good measure as well.

If there was a running back in the game who turned heads, it might just have been SDSU’s Juwan Washington. Looking like the next in an incredible line of incredible backs at the school, the junior ran for a career-high 158 yards and a touchdown as the team’s lone source of consistent offense.

Quarterback Christian Chapman never could get the passing game going to take the pressure of his tailback and finished with 113 yards through the air while taking five sacks. Perhaps the signal-caller’s most memorable (or unmemorable) moment came in the first half when he was trying to escape a sack in the end zone but ended up trying to fumble the ball forward. It was called for grounding and resulted in a safety for the Cardinal defense.

Though there was a bit of a slow start to the game, in the end Stanford showed why they were labeled by some as a trendy dark horse in both the Pac-12 and College Football Playoff races. On an off night for their Heisman-favorite, it was an encouraging sign for David Shaw and company to see other parts of the offense spring to life and the defense look a little more stout than initially expected.

Things will be much tougher next week as rival USC comes to the Farm but just about everybody around the program will be happy with the way things went on Friday night. Even with the sub par numbers, that likely includes Love as well even if it did him no favors in trying to get back to New York at the end of the year.

Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

No. 15 TCU mounts another Alamo Bowl rally in the second half to beat No. 13 Stanford

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TCU sure doesn’t like the first half of the Alamo Bowl… but they most certainly enjoy what happens when the second half kicks off.

Two years after completing an improbable 31 point comeback in the same setting, the Horned Frogs capped off another in San Antonio by rallying from down a dozen to beat No. 13 Stanford 39-37 on Thursday night.

Gary Patterson’s 15th-ranked squad didn’t hold back in the postseason appearance either. TCU faked a punt on their first drive of the game, broke out the old man-lying-down-in-the-end-zone trick kick return (both failed) and had gadget plays galore in search of a spark offensively. After an uneven start to the game, quarterback Kenny Hill settled down as the game unfolded and managed to score a touchdown via rush, pass and reception for the second time this season. He did throw two interceptions (one on a Hail Mary) but finished with 314 yards through the air and another 6o on the ground as he closed out his college career in as crazy a fashion as it began.

That included a 93 yard pass to Jalen Reagor down the stretch, with most of the work being done by the young wideout as he ran a time down the sidelines that might have placed him on the medal stand of the Texas Relays. It would have been the easy pick for the biggest play of the fourth quarter had it not been for Desmon White’s 76 yard punt return for a touchdown that game the Horned Frogs the lead for the first time in the game.

The Cardinal would not go quietly into the Texas night though and briefly re-took the lead after JJ Arcega-Whiteside caught a go-ahead touchdown — his third of the game — on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone that is becoming rather routine for the lengthy wideout who is as good as they come boxing out a defensive back. He was unquestionably the favorite quarterback K.J. Costello, who had an otherwise nice night against Patterson’s defense with 212 yards and the trio of touchdowns but his interception in the final minutes sealed the loss.

That spoiled yet another incredible outing by Heisman runner-up Bryce Love — who looked healthy for the first time in months after the long postseason layoff. He totaled 145 yards and two scores on the ground, including a 69-yarder that set a new FBS record with his 13th run of 50+yards this season and was the longest allowed by TCU’s defense all season. However he injured his thumb late in the game and was bleeding to the point that he had to go to the team’s medical tent on the sidelines and missed the final two drives as Stanford ends 2017 with back-to-back losses.

While he would have certainly made a difference down the stretch, not even the incredible running ability of the nation’s best running back could have spoiled the comeback mojo that TCU seems to have in this bowl game. Though the 11 point halftime deficit they overcame was barely a third of the 31 points they came back from against Oregon in this game two years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find a team who remembers the Alamo quite like the Horned Frogs do.