NFL Sunday: Recipients for Week 3 Game Balls

Photo credit: si.com

By Joe Hawkes
SRS Contributor

With the Chicago Bears visiting the Nation’s capitol to take on Washington to close out Week 3 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, Sunday’s games had some big-time performances that stood out to me headlined by a rookie quarterback, a dynamic running back, and a vastly improved defense.

Here are my game ball recipients for Week 3:

Offensive game balls – QB: Daniel Jones, New York Giants; RB: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

The Giants needed a spark after dropping their first two games of the season.

The decision to bench two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning in favor for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones could prove to be the right one that saves the Big Blue’s season.

Jones, the sixth overall pick by the Giants in this year’s NFL draft, threw for 336 and two touchdowns and also ran for two more scores, including the go-ahead score with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter to give New York its much needed first win of the year, 32-31, on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

New York rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit with Jones at the controls of the Giants’ comeback. He scored on a 7-yard run in the second quarter that gave the Giants the lead, then he put New York ahead with another 7-yard run on fourth-and-goal.

As well as he ran the football, it was his arm that Jones really made his mark. Jones would hookup with tight end Evan Engram for a 75-yard TD on New York’s first play of the second half. Then, the former Duke signal-caller would find wide receiver Sterling Shepard for a 7-yard score midway through the fourth quarter.

One word to describe Jones’s demeanor throughout the game: poised.

Jones didn’t let the moment get too big for him in his debut, finishing 23 of 36 passes with no interceptions.

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey racked up a Week 3 high 153 yards on yards on 24 carries, which aided hugely in Carolina’s 38-20 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday without starting quarterback Cam Newton.

Like the Giants earning their first win of the year, the Panthers earned their first win of 2019 behind a strong showing by McCaffrey.

With the Panthers clinging to a 21-20 lead midway in the third quarter, McCaffrey’s 76-yard TD run through the middle of Arizona’s defense kept Carolina in complete control of the game.

Through three games this year, McCaffrey ranks second in rushing behind Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook (375 yards and 4 TDs) with 318 yards and three TDs.

Defensive game ball – The entire San Francisco 49ers defense.

Listen, when your offense committed five turnovers (including three fumbles inside your own 25-yard line), and only allowed six points off those turnovers?

Credit the defense.

San Francisco’s offense gave everything away but the game, committing four turnovers in the first half alone then lost a fumble in the fourth quarter before holding on to a 24-20 win at Levi’s Stadium thanks to its vastly improved defense.

The 49ers spoiled rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph’s first career start in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger for the winless Steelers (0-3). San Francisco limited Pittsburgh to 3 of 12 on third downs and held the Steelers to just 79 yards rushing.

Sure wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (76-yard TD in the third quarter) and Diontae Johnson (39-yard TD in the fourth quarter) stunned the 49ers, but San Francisco’s defense did force two takeaways (an interception and fumble recovery) leading to 14 points by its much maligned offense, including the go-ahead TD from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to wide receiver Dante Pettis with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter.

For the first time since 1998, the 49ers (3-0) are undefeated through the first quarter of the season.

Stanford Cardinal Podcast with Jerry Feitelberg: Stanford dominates Cal 76-58 Pac-12 Tournament; face UCLA this afternoon

Photo credit: @StanfordMBB

On the Stanford Cardinal Podcast with Jerry:

1 Turning to Stanford (17-14) men’s basketball, they played Cal (8-23) last night in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament. The Cardinal dominated all game long.

2 The Cardinal were beaten last time these two teams met and they made sure they weren’t going to lose this time.

3 The Cardinal’s usual offensive core came through with Dorian Pickens, Michael Humphrey, and Reid Travis.

4  Jerod Haase says he believes that Stanford is an NCAA Tournament team.

Jerry Feitelberg does the Stanford Cardinal basketball podcast each Thursday at http://www.sportsradioservice.co

 

 

 

Stanford’s McCaffrey will not play in the Sun Bowl

Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey breaks a tackle on a run for a touchdown during a NCAA football game against the Rice Owls on November 26, 2016 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Tommy LaPorte/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

by Jerry Feitelberg

Stanford’s Alan George released a press release this morning regarding Christian McCaffrey.

//FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE//
December 19, 2016

McCaffrey to Miss Bowl
Running back will begin NFL Draft training

STANFORD, Calif. – Christian McCaffrey will not play in the Sun Bowl, the junior running back announced Monday. McCaffrey will direct his focus and efforts toward training for the 2017 NFL Draft.

“We understand that this was a very difficult decision. For three years Christian has not only been a great player, but a great teammate as well,” said David Shaw, Stanford’s Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “We wish him great success at the next level, as we continue our preparation for the Sun Bowl.”

Stanford makes its 28th all-time — and school-record eighth straight — bowl appearance Dec. 30 when it faces North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. It is the third meeting between the programs and first since 1998. The game will be broadcast on CBS with kickoff set for 11 a.m. PT.

Christian McCaffrey is leaving Stanford

by Jerry Feitelberg

Running back Christian McCaffrey has decided to leave Stanford and enter the NFL draft this spring. McCaffrey, a record-setting running back,  issued this statement, which we received from Alan George.

My Next Step
‘I’ve decided the time is right.’By Christian McCaffrey

Online: http://stanford.io/2gCIyPe

After three incredible years at Stanford, I’ve decided the time is right to enter the NFL Draft.

Since I was 6 years old, I’ve wanted to play in the NFL. It’s been on every list of goals that I’ve ever written. Now, it’s time to take that step. There’s nothing more I can put on film.

I love Stanford more than anything. It will be extremely hard to leave. I feel humbled and inspired every day by the peers who surround me. I came to Stanford because I wanted to be challenged more than I ever have in my life. And that desire is shared by everyone who walks on this campus, by people who literally will change the world.

I plan on getting my communication degree in the future. I don’t know when, but I will finish. As soon as my career takes shape, I’ll figure out a plan. Stanford does a great job of encouraging former players to return and graduate. Many come back and walk the same halls after their football careers are over to earn their degrees. I want to be that example for the next generation.

I’ve talked to many in and out of the game and received advice from people whose opinions I greatly respect, including Toby Gerhart, who was here for a game this season. I took their feedback and came to a conclusion: I’m ready.

I talked to Coach Shaw about everything. He completely agreed. Really, it just made sense. The opportunity is right in front of me.

Simply put, this is the best time to live out my dream.

I wanted to get this out of the way so that it’s not a distraction to the team. I want to focus, and I want my team to focus, on beating North Carolina. I’m thankful for the chance to get to play another game with my teammates and to work as hard as I can to make that victory possible.

I was blessed to have a bunch of guys surrounding me who made playing football so much fun here — going to three bowl games, winning a Rose Bowl and conference championship, and setting individual records are secondary to the friendships I’ve made and the camaraderie we share. That’s what’s kept me going, working hard with everybody on this team to accomplish something, and going to battle together each week. With them, all the 6 a.m. workouts and 7 a.m. runs in the summer made it all worth it.

There are so many people who have influenced me at Stanford, beginning with the Arrillaga family, who provided my scholarship that has allowed me to be in this position. My coaches have made more of an impact than they will ever know, especially Coach Shannon Turley. He’s taught me lessons that I can’t thank him enough for — about football, about life. Our training really does set us up for success because you go through so much that people don’t see, and it’s not easy. Our coaches put an emphasis on not only being great football players, but being great men.

When you turn onto Palm Drive for the first time, you can’t help but think of the possibilities. When you travel that mile past the trees to the middle of campus, that sense of wonder is met with the understanding that you will work hard in the classroom, the meeting room, the weight room, and on the practice field. You also know that the reward — whether it’s an ‘A’ on a project, or a trip to the Rose Bowl — will seem greater because of those efforts.

When we played Rice, I thought it might be my last game at Stanford Stadium. After the locker room cleared out and the field was empty, I stepped out to the Block S at midfield and stood there a while.

I walked to the north end zone and grabbed some turf, just to feel it one last time. I turned back and walked to the south end zone, knelt down and prayed.

I took in the moment without anyone there, and reflected on my teammates and all the great times we shared together on that field. I appreciated how far I’ve come, and how far this program has come.

As I walked off for the last time as a Stanford player, I realized how much I owe this university for how much it’s given me. Stanford has taught me more about overcoming adversity and focusing and finishing than I could ever know, and I will carry those lessons forever.


Alan George | @treeSIDjorge
GoStanford.com | c. 574.340.3977

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Stanford’s McCaffrey wins top academic honor

by Jerry Feitelberg

Received this today from Alan George, Stanford’s PR man for football.

Top Academic Honor
McCaffrey named CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year

STANFORD, Calif. – Junior running back and communication major Christian McCaffrey was named the 2016 Academic All-American of the Year by the College of Sports Information Directors of America on Thursday.

McCaffrey joins Tommy Vardell (1991) and Andrew Luck (2011) as the only Cardinal to earn the nation’s top academic honor. A first-team selection last year, McCaffrey is the sixth Stanford player to earn multiple Academic All-America accolades and first since Justin Armour in 1993 and 1994.

McCaffrey was a National Football Foundation High School National Scholar-Athlete finalist in 2013. The Castle Rock, Colorado, native was also recently named Pac-12 All-Academic for the second straight season, earning first-team honors on Wednesday.

McCaffrey leads the nation with 211.6 all-purpose yards/game and ranks fourth nationally with 145.7 rushing yards/game. His 2,327 all-purpose yards rank second in Stanford history, only bested by his NCAA record of 3,864 last season. Despite missing six quarters this season, his 1,603 rushing yards are tops in the Pac-12 and fourth-most in a single season in school history.

McCaffrey’s father, Ed, was an Academic All-America first team choice with the Cardinal in 1990.

Stanford thumps Rice, finishes regular season with five-game win streak as McCaffrey and Thomas face NFL decisions

thomas-pounces

(Photos courtesy of Eric Taylor/1st String Sports)

By Morris Phillips

After thumping Rice, 41-17, in their season finale, the Stanford Cardinal had a story to tell, it just wasn’t the story the assembled press was prying and probing after.

The Cardinal capped a nine-win season with a dominant performance against the Conference USA Owls, finishing their regular season with a five-game win streak, after the talent-laden team found itself embarrassed by three mid-season losses to the Pac-12’s upper tier.

During that stretch in which Stanford came up short against both Pac-12 Championship Game entrants—Pac-12 South champion Colorado and North winner, Washington–as well as a sobering home loss to Washington State, a whole lot of soul searching went on, and the Cardinal had to rebuild themselves quietly and outside the spotlight of the BCS championship race.

But the young team stocked with inexperienced talent in its freshman and sophomore classes did it, and for that, Coach David Shaw couldn’t be more proud.

“Even when the season wasn’t going the right way, even when we were booted out of the top-25, whatever that means, we still practiced hard,” Shaw recounted.  “We practiced well, we practiced with energy and passion.  That’s what I’m most proud of.  Because it can’t just come from me.”

“It has to come from the team.  You have to have the right group of guys.”

Stanford’s unquestioned best players—Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas—stand right at the top of the list of that “right” group.  The Heisman runner-up last season suffered through an injury-plagued season, missing most of the WSU game and the entirety of the Notre Dame game amid the losing streak.  But once he regained his health, Stanford soared.  McCaffrey outclassed Rice with more than 200 yards all-purpose yardage—his fifth, consecutive such outing and the 19th of his illustrious career.

Thomas was a nightmare for Rice, repeatedly blowing up plays Rice ran to their right and into Thomas’ wheelhouse.  Thomas was in on five tackles on Saturday night, and added a sack of Rice quarterback, Jackson Tyner.  Rice’s freshman quarterback, replacing normal starter Tyler Stehling, had a miserable outing, missing on 27 of his 37 pass attempts, once again illustrating Thomas’ imprint on Stanford’s easy win.

But for both McCaffrey and Thomas it started at practice, as Shaw described, repetition after repetition without a bunch of verbal stuff, and filled with selfless acts.

“Solomon Thomas is a leader, pure and simple,” safety Justin Reid said.  “The way he plays, his enthusiasm, his effort, his leadership, everything about him just screams a leader to this team.  And he makes huge plays for us, comes up big in the red zone, and in third downs and with the sacks that he’s made.”

Both Thomas and McCaffrey face decisions to turn pro, or return to Stanford for their senior seasons.  Both project as first or second round picks so big money factors into their decisions.  The fortunes of the team—stacked with younger talent, an emerging quarterback in Keller Chryst, and the stability provided by Shaw, who continues to reject offers from other programs and the NFL—hinge on their decisions.

So what will the pair do, especially McCaffrey who prompted all the initial questions, asked in varied and creative ways, during the postgame presser?

“Hope springs eternal,” Shaw said, when asked about McCaffrey and the possibility he would return when there’s very little new for him to accomplish as a collegian.  “Hasn’t crossed my plate yet.”

McCaffrey spoke as well, saying he has not yet decided.  In fact, his roommate, Chryst, swore that the pair haven’t even casually discussed the tailback’s pro prospects.  But that all adds up, given McCaffrey’s team first attitude.

“I’ve just been focusing on the season now,” McCaffrey said.  “I have people and mentors in my life that I trust that I’ll go to.  But at the end of the day it is my decision and I’ll make whatever’s best for me.”

Among those mentors, McCaffrey’s father Ed, has a place on the wall at Stanford Stadium where the program’s previous All-American’s are pictured and honored.  Christian will soon join his father there, as well as his mom, Lisa, in the pantheon of great athletes to come through Stanford.  Undoubtedly, it will be tough for McCaffrey to leave, but again, he’s done it all, and other challenges await.

GAME NOTES: McCaffrey has 30 rush attempts for 205 yards against Rice, one week after he crushed Cal with 30 carries, 284 yards.  Fully healthy, the junior won’t face many questions about durability after carrying the ball 60 times in what could be his final two regular season games at Stanford.

“We knew coming in here, you had to tackle Christian, and not let him have a big game,” Rice coach David Bailiff said.  “We didn’t do that.  Not a lot of people have done that.”

“Every time he touched the ball there was a collective gasp to see what he’s going to do next,” Shaw said.

Bryce Love, the emerging back behind McCaffrey, had 114 yards rushing on seven carries, including a blazing reverse that went 50 yards for a touchdown in third quarter.

Chryst finished 11 for 16 for 154 yards and joins a short list of Stanford quarterbacks that have won their first four, career starts.  In those four starts, Chryst has thrown nine touchdown passes and only one interception.

Kicker Conrad Ukropina capped his Stanford career with a pair of made field goals, from 28 and 23 yards, despite the persistent rain and muddy field.

The Cardinal are expected to accept a bowl invitation to the December 28 Foster Farms Bowl at Santa Clara or the December 30 Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas.  The Las Vegas Bowl on December 17 also remains a possibility.

Cal no match for healthy McCaffrey and Stanford in 45-31 Big Game loss

big-mac

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–On a nasty, snarly day of weather, filled with emotion for the occasion of the 119th Big Game, in front of a sellout crowd itching for surprise, the last thing the Cal Bears could afford was for their opponent to be comfortable as if on a routine, cross-bay, business trip.

But that’s exactly what the Bears got as soon as Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey arrived and opened his ample briefcase.

McCaffrey made the spectacular look ordinary, rushing for a school-record 284 yards as Stanford ran past Cal, 45-31, and captured the Axe for the seventh, consecutive year.    Throughout, last season’s Heisman Trophy runner-up dipped, ducked, leapt and sprinted through and around the Bears as if he was performing a tightly-choreographed routine.

“He’s as good as advertised,” Coach Sonny Dykes admitted.

Luckily for Dykes, his Bears were better than expected as well, scoring on their initial, offensive play of the afternoon—a perfectly-executed screen that saw Chad Hansen catch a short pass and turn it into a 70-yard touchdown run.   In the second quarter, the Bears were even with double-digit favorite Stanford, 14 apiece, just a bit of the surprise Cal was hoping to hatch.

But ultimately, the Bears were undone by their Pac-12 worst defense and the fleet feet of McCaffrey.

Midway through the second quarter, the Bears appeared poised to answer Stanford’s tying score, driving to the Cardinal’s 21-yard line where they faced third-and-two.  But Khalfani Muhammad was thrown for a one-yard loss by Stanford’s Peter Kalambayi, forcing Dykes to forgo an opportunity to take a seven-point lead, instead settling for a 39-yard Matt Anderson field goal try.

But the normally sure-footed Anderson watched his kick sail wide right.

After an exchange of punts, Stanford took the lead for good right before halftime.  Quarterback Keller Chryst led the Cardinal on a 10-play drive culminating in Conrad Ukropina’s 40-yard field goal and a 17-14 Stanford lead.

McCaffrey, already a huge factor with a combined 147 yards rushing and receiving, then took his game to another level after halftime.  On second down from the Stanford 10, McCaffrey took a handoff, jabbed hard to his left, then again to his right.  McCaffrey’s quick change of direction left Cal’s Devante Downs and Jaylinn Hawkins lunging for air, while the junior tailback took off straight up the middle for a 90-yard touchdown run.   Equal parts athletic brilliance, and functional speed, McCaffrey’s big run put Stanford in the driver’s seat.

“At that point, Stanford had the momentum and we never seemed to get it back,” Dykes admitted.

Stanford Coach David Shaw also saw McCaffrey’s run as a game changer, but the rarely effusive Shaw had seen it before.

“I don’t know what else I can say.  Two years, I’ve kind of run out of words,” Shaw said.  “The bottom line is, he’s not the biggest guy but you can’t tell him that.  He runs like a big back.  He’s going to run in between the tackles, he’s going to make people miss and he has the speed in the open to finish the runs in the end zone.”

With Stanford comfortably ahead, Cal needed big plays, and initially, they came up with them.  Matt Anderson’s 43-yard field goal capped a 12-play drive to get the Bears within a touchdown.  Then after McCaffrey’s second touchdown run, Davis Webb led Cal on a 13-play touchdown drive that drew the Bears within 31-24.

But without a lick of defense, Cal was left grasping for straws.  Stanford scored touchdowns on two of their first three possessions of the fourth quarter to put the game away.  Webb’s second touchdown pass to Hansen with 3:01 remaining closed the scoring but had little impact on the result.

With athletic director Michael Williams watching intently, Dykes’ press conference played like a state of the union address as he patiently explained that the culture of his program is positive, and with some defensive stops, discipline and patience, the losing streak—now four straight under Dykes’ watch—to Stanford might soon come to an end.

“You can’t give up 350 rushing yards against anybody and expect to have a chance to win,” Dykes explained.  “That’s clearly something we need to get fixed.  That puts a lot of pressure on you offensively.  You feel like you have to score every possession and you can’t do that against a good defensive football team.”

The Bears’ aspirations to qualify for a bowl game for a second straight season came to end with the loss.  Once 4-4 after alternating wins and losses over their first eight games, the Bears have dropped four straight, and they failed to capitalize on their post-season rallying call that punctuated their week of preparation for the Big Game.

“We haven’t beaten UCLA in a while either, so it’s a great opportunity for our team, and we look forward to getting back to work tomorrow and finishing the season the way it should be,” Webb said.

LONG TIME CAL BROADCASTER STARKEY HONORED: Now in his 42nd year of broadcasting of Cal football, radio voice Joe Starkey was honored in a pre-game ceremony in which his broadcast booth was renamed in his honor.

Announcing his 483rd Cal football game on Saturday, and for the first time from the renamed Joe Starkey Broadcast Booth, Starkey is—for most Cal fans—the only voice they’ve ever known.

The Chicago native also enjoyed long stints as the voice of the 49ers and the former California Golden Seals NHL team.