Jordan Williamson

Mistakes define first half between No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 14 Stanford

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During a wet and sometimes wild first half, Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson proved to be the difference in the game for all the wrong reasons.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are tied 7-7 with the Stanford Cardinal after two quarters of play. Both team left points on the field due to mistakes.

Golson, in particular, had a profound effect on the score. After four turnovers last week against the Syracuse Orange, the Fighting Irish quarterback already turned the ball over twice. The first was a fumble on a designed run at Notre Dame’s 12-yard line. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan capitalized on the fantastic field position with a 10-yard draw into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.

At the start of the second quarter, the Fighting Irish were finally driving on offense, but Golson was intercepted at the 1-yard line by Stanford safety Jordan Richards.

Hogan didn’t fare any better than Golson. The Stanford signal-caller was 8-of-18 passing for 67 yards and a touchdown.

But Golson redeemed himself to a degree with a late drive before halftime. The quarterback sprayed the ball all over the field, but he eventually connected a key 17-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Brown for the game’s tying score.

Both teams also had miscues on special teams.

Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza missed a field goal after a botched snap, while Stanford’s Jordan Williamson didn’t even get to attempt a field goal after the snap flew over the holder’s head.

It continues to rain heavily in South Bend, and the weather will have a dramatic effect on the second half.

Both teams play reliable defense, but Stanford’s plodding offense is far more suited to these conditions than Notre Dame’s. A strong running game along with solid defensive play will determine which team claims the victory in the second half.

Defense again carries No. 16 Stanford, beats Washington 20-13

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Through one third of its 2014 season, Stanford’s defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns. As long as that continues, No. 16 Stanford will contend for the Pac-12 North championship and beyond. The moment that changes, though, so will Stanford’s fortunes.

The Cardinal defense, somehow, has gotten better than the outstanding units that preceded it. Washington touched the ball 13 times throughout its 20-13 loss on Saturday, and 12 times it left the field scoreless. The Huskies did mount one impressive drive, moving 75 yards in seven plays, capped by a 25-yard scoring strike from Cyler Miles to Jaydon Mickens. The other dozen possessions amounted to 139 yards on 61 plays – 2.27 yards per snap. No other drive moved further than 37 yards, and eight drives moved 10 yards or less.

Despite that, though, Washington was still in possession of the ball with a chance to tie the game inside the final minute. This is where the Stanford offense comes in. The Cardinal scored 20 points, a 17-yard pass from Kevin Hogan to Ty Montgomery, a 5-yard Hogan run and two Jordan Williamson field goals, but gave Washington its second touchdown in the form of a 32-yard Shaq Thompson fumble return.

The numbers look decent enough, 178 passing yards on 19-of-26 throwing, 186 rushing yards at nearly five yards a pop, 22 first downs. But Stanford turned it over three times, and twice by Hogan. He was intercepted in the third quarter, and most critically fumbled at the Washington 10 early in the fourth quarter. In addition, Stanford was also 3-0f-12 on third down.

That type of production works so long as Stanford’s defense remains an impenetrable cardinal wall.

The end of the game had the Husky Stadium crowd salty after an intentional grounding call turned a potential 3rd-and-10 situation, trailing 20-13, at the Stanford 28 with 42 seconds remaining into a 3rd-and-22 at the Stanford 40 with 32 ticks left. Stanford allowed a four-yard completion on 3rd-and-22, and forced Miles into accepting a five-yard rush on 4th-and-18. That, essentially, was the game.

Stanford (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) heads to South Bend next week for a juicy game with No. 8 Notre Dame, while Washington (4-1, 0-1 Pac-12) takes next week off and then visits Cal on Oct. 11.

 

USC overcomes multiple miscues to defeat Stanford

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Neither the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal nor the No. 14 USC Trojans played to the level of their national rankings Saturday in Palo Alto. The teams didn’t even look like  contenders in the Pac-12 Conference.

The game was sloppy and mistake-filled. The two teams combined for 18 penalties for 155 lost yards. In the end, USC’s senior kicker, Andrei Heidari, was the star in the Trojans’ 13-10 victory. Heidari was 2-for-2 in field goal attempts, including a career-long kick of 53 yards with 2:30 remaining.

Despite USC’s win, this game was lost by the Cardinal.

Stanford held a decided advantage in total yards and time of possession. But the Cardinal’s offense couldn’t convert despite regularly moving the football into USC territory.

Stanford was able to get into USC territory a ninth time as the fourth quarter waned. The team was in field goal position when USC senior J.R. Tavai burst off the edge, sacked Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan and stripped the signal caller of the football. USC recovered to secure the victory.

The Cardinal wouldn’t even be in the position if their kicker, Jordan Williamson, hadn’t missed a pair of field goals earlier in the contest. The decision to try and throw the ball late in the game instead of playing for overtime indicated the Cardinal’s lack of confidence in the kicker.

Plus, the Cardinal had a touchdown called back due to a chop block. All of these mistakes could have been avoided to easily win the game, and Stanford simply came up short.

USC didn’t play much better. The Trojans committed 10 penalties. Their defensive leader, Hayes Pullard, was ejected from the game for an illegal hit. And multiple drives stalled as the team’s new up-tempo offense couldn’t get on track.

This victory is important for USC as it attempts to rebuild its reputation and status under new head coach Steve Sarkisian. But it shouldn’t be viewed as a season-defining win due to the nature of how they won. Stanford simply didn’t play good football.

Lou Groza Award watch list headlined by FSU’s Aguayo

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Award watch list season continued Wednesday with a nod to the kicking game. The watch lists for the Lou Groza Award and Ray Guy Award were on the agenda for the day, giving special teams players their day in the sun. First up is the Lou Groza Award, which is awarded to the best place-kicker in the country by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.

Last year’s Lou Groza Award went to Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo. He headlines this year’s watch list as he looks to become the first player since Sebastian Janikowski, also from Florida State, to win the award in consecutive seasons. Janikowski won the award in 1998 and 1999. No school has more Lou Groza Award winners than Florida State. In addition to Janikowski and Aguayo, Graham Gano won the award in 2008. Joining Aguayo on the watch list is 2013 Lou Groza Award finalist Marvin Kloss of USF.

Semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award will be announced November 6 and the finalists will be unveiled on November 24. The winner will be named at the award’s banquet on December 9.

Here is this year’s Lou Groza Award watch list:

Roberto Aguayo, Florida State

Kyle Brindza, Notre Dame

Ryan Bustin, Texas Tech

Jack Cantele, Kansas State

Will Conant, Air Force

Brad Craddick, Maryland

Colby Delahoussaye, LSU

Jeremiah Detmer, Toledo

Jake Elliott, Memphis

Kyle Fischer, Louisiana Tech

Elliott Fry, South Carolina

Michael Geiger, Michigan State

Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State

Dan Goodale, Boise State

Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

Maxwell Johnson, New Mexico State

Marvin Kloss, USF

Austin Lopez, San Jose State

Shawn Moffitt, UCF

Marshall Morgan, Georgia

Jaden Oberkrom, TCU

Will Oliver, Colorado

Andy Phillips, Utah

Jared Roberts, Colorado State

Niklas Sade, North Carolina State

Carl Salazar, Tulsa

Tyler Tate, Bowling Green

John Wallace, Louisville

Jordan Williamson, Stanford

Josiah Yazdani, Ohio


Catch up on your watch lists released this week:

Maxwell Award (best player)

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)

Hornung Award (most versatile player)

Mackey Award (best tight end)

Rimington Trophy (best center)

Rose Bowl champions? Sparty yes! Michigan State holds off Stanford, 24-20

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In a game full of defensive talent, it was only fitting that the deciding play in the Rose Bowl turned out to be a 4th and 1 in the final minutes of the game. The Spartans came up with the big stop as No. 5 Stanford (11-3, 7-2 Pac 12) was down four points with the game on the line. With defenders leaping over a pile at the Stanford 34-yard line, No. 4 Michigan State  (13-1, 8-0 Big Ten) stuffed fullback Ryan Hewitt for no gain, allowing the Spartans offense to run out the clock for the fourth Rose Bowl championship in program history. Michigan State held on for a 24-20 win in Pasadena.

The game was everything it was expected to be, with defenses coming up with big plays, but in this one the Michigan State offense took control of the game. Michigan State rolled up 400 yards of offense and went on a 17-0 run to come from behind and carry all of the momentum in the second half. Michigan State dug an early 10-0 hole, but Connor Cook never gave in and passed for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Stanford’s defense. Cook’s fourth quarter pass to Tony Lippett from 25 yards proved to be the game winner. At the time it broke a 17-17 tie, so the game was placed in the hands of the Spartans defense, a comfortable feeling for Michigan State for sure.

Stanford looked to catch Michigan State off guard when a field goal attempt seemed to fall apart and the Cardinal completed a roll out pass for a first down, but the officials threw a flag for an illegal formation with an ineligible receiver down field amid the confusion on the play. Rather than seizing momentum and having a chance to tie things up, Stanford settled for a 39-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson to cut Michigan State’s lead to 24-20.

The Cardinal then forced the Spartans to go three-and-out with just over three minutes to play. With one last chance, the Cardinal were stopped on a fourth down with one yard to go to keep the game alive. With no timeouts, there was nothing Stanford could do but watch as Michigan State allowed the seconds to tick all the way down to triple zeros.

The win for Michigan State is just the second by a Big Ten team since 2000. Ohio State defeated Oregon in the 2010 game. The Big Ten may have suffered a 1-2 mark earlier in the day against SEC opponents, but the conference has a chance to end the bowl season on a high note if Ohio State can take down Clemson in the Orange Bowl. A pair of BCS bowl victories would help to overshadow a losing bowl season regardless of what happens. Michigan State has now also proven to be worthy of playing on the big stage, but will they be able to keep this momentum going in 2014 as the College Football Playoff era is christened?

Michigan State will enter the 2014 season as the outright defending Big Ten champions for the first time since 1988. They will do so in a new division as well. With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers next year the Big Ten is re-organizing the division line-up. Michigan State will be in the Big Ten’s East division, along with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. The Spartans will geta  rematch with the Buckeyes on November 8, 2014 and also travel to Oregon in mid-September. Michigan State will also renew their end-of-the-year series with Penn State. Like Stanford, Michigan State will have three offensive linemen moving on but the significant players on the offense will be in tact at the skill positions. The defense will have six senior starters to replace but the Spartans should continue being tough on defense. The good news is Mark Dantonio and his staff will be getting a nice pay upgrade, so the Spartans will have some continuity working for them.

Stanford will have some changes to work through when the Cardinal move in to 2014. The offensive line will have at least three starters to replace in addition to running back Tyler Gaffney and fullback Ryan Hewitt. The defense will also be looking for new leadership after losing a good handful of players to graduation, including linebacker Shayne Skov. The backbone of Stanford’s success the last few years has been a punishing ground game and a stiff defense (yeah, Andrew Luck was a nice asset as well), so look for David Shaw to continue with that typical formula as the Pac 12 North continues to catch up. The Pac 12 North may still be Stanford’s or Oregon’s to lose in 2014, but Washington adding Chris Petersen as a head coach should lead to the Huskies improving as well. The Cardinal will get USC at home next season but will take to the road to play Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington in addition to a non-conference match-up in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame.