This year’s Mountain West Football Championship Game was a battle between the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the Boise State Broncos at Albertsons Stadium on Saturday. For Hawaii, this was their first appearance in the title game, and for Boise State, this was their third consecutive and fourth overall appearance in the title game.
BSU won the toss and elected to receive. The UH defense had a strong start forcing a 3 and out, while its offense took the field with the Rainbow Warriors junior quarterback Cole McDonald behind center.
UH got on the board first, thanks to a 47-yard field goal from Ryan Meskell. The score was 3-0 Rainbow Warriors with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
BSU responded with a 34-yard field goal from Eric Sachse. The Broncos evened the score 3-3 with 30 seconds left in the first. The game was tied 3-3 at the end of the first.
Broncos redshirt senior quarterback Jaylon Henderson threw a 36-yard pass to Khalil Shakir, who ran for the go-ahead touchdown. Eric Sachse kicked the extra point. The Broncos took a 10-3 lead with 1:07 left in the second quarter.
Jaylon Henderson then threw a 36-yard pass to John Hightower, who ran for the touchdown. Eric Sachse kicked the extra point. The Broncos made it a 17-3 game with 14 seconds left in the second. The Broncos carried a 17-3 lead to the locker room at halftime.
BSU put the game out of reach. Khalil Shakir ran for a 4-yard touchdown and Eric Sachse kicked the extra point for a commanding 24-3 lead with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
BSU added to its lead. Jaylon Henderson ran for a 5-yard touchdown and Eric Sachse kicked the extra point to make it 31-3 with just 18 seconds left in the third. The Broncos led 31-3 after three.
UH refused to let the game slip away, but it was too little, too late. Just moments after the rain started pouring in Boise, Idaho, Miles Reed ran for a 21-yard touchdown and Ryan Meskell kicked in the extra point to cut the deficit 31-10 at the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Ryan Meskell attempted a 21-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, but it was no good. The score stood at 31-10 in favor of the Broncos. The final play of the game was declared a false start, but it didn’t matter to the Broncos, who became conference championships with a 31-10 win over the Rainbow Warriors.
With the win, BSU improved to 12-1, 9-0 MW. The Broncos are still in the running for a New Years 6 Bowl bid.
With the loss, UH fell to 9-5, 5-4 MW. The Rainbow Warriors are awaiting their bowl game destination.
San Jose State senior quarterback Josh Love, who had one of the best regular seasons by a FBS quarterback in 2019, was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, the conference’s premier passer on the league’s 30-player first-team, and was one of seven Spartans honored with All-Mountain West honors.
Wide receivers Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither, offensive linemen Troy Kowalski and Jack Snyder, linebacker Ethan Aguayo and placekicker Matt Mercurio joined Love as All-Mountain West honorees.
“I am so excited about the All-Mountain West honors our players received. These players worked so hard here at San Jose State and for the conference to recognize them is extremely exciting for them individually and also for us as a program. ‘Spartan Up!” said SJSU football head coach Brent Brennan in response to the conference awards announcement.
Brennan, the 11 other Mountain West head coaches, and a panel of media members cast votes for the conference awards.
Love completed 60.9% of his passes with only eight interceptions for 3,923 yards and 22 touchdowns as the Spartans recorded a 5-7 win-loss record, four more wins than in 2018. All of his season totals were personal bests for the one-time walk-on from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High.
Love became only the third quarterback in conference history to throw for 400 or more yards five games in a season. His six career 400-yard passing games ranks second on the all-time Mountain West list behind Oakland Raiders and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who had 11 in two seasons. His 3,923 passing yards are #6 on the Mountain West’s single-season list and ranks third nationally this season in games played through November 30. He’s also sixth nationally in total offense at 319.6 yards per game.
The numbers complement a year in which the co-captain led the Spartans to game-winning touchdown drives with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of 75 yards at Arkansas for SJSU’s first win in school history against a SEC opponent and 83 yards vs. Fresno State to conclude the season.
Love’s the first Spartan to receive a Mountain West “superlative” postseason award since 2013 when wide receiver Tyler Winston was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year; the first SJSU player to be named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year; the first Spartan quarterback since Mike Perez in 1987 to be named a conference Offensive Player of the Year; and the first San Jose State signal caller since Ralph Martini in 1990 to be named a first-team all-conference quarterback.
Since 1970 when SJSU aligned itself in a football-playing conference, Steve DeBerg (1976–Pacific Coast Athletic Association), Ed Luther (1979–PCAA), Perez (1986–PCAA and 1987–Big West) and Love (2019–Mountain West) are the four Spartan quarterbacks to garner conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Walker, a junior from Los Angeles’ Narbonne High, joined Love as a first-team All-Mountain West honoree. He led the Mountain West in receptions per game and receiving yards per game in the regular season with 79 catches for 1,161 yards and two touchdowns. He currently ranks fifth nationally in receptions per game (7.9) and third in the FBS in receiving yards per game (116.1). Three times, Walker had 10 or more catches in a game and in six games, he had at least 100 yards in pass receptions, many of them from passes by Love.
Aguayo, a senior from Mission Viejo, Calif., and a graduate of JSerra High, was San Jose State’s one second-team All-Mountain West honoree. He led the conference and was fourth nationally in tackles per game at 11.3 in the regular season. For the second consecutive season, he was credited with more than 100 tackles and his 345 career stops is among the top-10 totals by an active FBS player.
Gaither, a senior from Paso Robles, Calif.; Mercurio, a freshman from Salinas, Calif.; and Kowalski, a senior from Glendale, Ariz., and Snyder, a junior from Kentfield, Calif., received honorable mention All-Mountain West honors.
Gaither had personal single season bests of 52 receptions for 812 yards and six touchdowns – one each in six consecutive games to set a school record. Mercurio led the Spartans in scoring with 97 points, was tied for 10th nationally in field made per game converting 20 out of 24 attempts, and was tied for 24th in the FBS for field goal percentage at the end of the regular season (83.3%).
Kowalski and Snyder comprised the left side of the offensive line that was one of the top pass protection quintets in college football. In the regular season, SJSU was tied for eighth nationally yielding just 14 sacks in 12 games, but were third nationally behind Georgia and Clemson for pass attempts (35.6 to 1) per sacks of the quarterback.
Just moments after Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football David Shaw thanked his fifth-year and departing seniors for their fight and leadership–players, coaches and staff applauding twice–fifth-year senior outside linebacker Casey Toohill urged his teammates to let the disappointment of the year fuel them going forward.
“Nobody did enough,” Toohill said passionately.
The message from Toohill resonated after Stanford’s season-ending 45-24 defeat to #15 Notre Dame (10-2) on Saturday at chilly, breezy and sometimes rainy Stanford Stadium. Playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, the Cardinal finished 4-8, the program’s first losing record since 2008.
“Any team that goes through a season like this never wants to feel this way again,” sophomore defensive end Thomas Booker said. “I know I don’t. Whenever I’m lifting or thinking about putting in extra work, it’s going to be on my mind.”
Junior tight end and team captain Colby Parkinson felt the same.
“If you’re able to brush this off, you don’t care,” Parkinson said. “We are all more than football players and we have lives outside of football. At the same time, if you don’t care about the football game you just lost and think about it, you have some issues. I don’t think we have any of those guys in here. Different things didn’t go our way, but we’ll use it as motivation.”
Stanford stated strong again on both sides of the ball against Notre Dame, claiming leads of 7-0 and 17-7. But miscues–including the first blocked punt since 2014–and missed opportunities, did in the Cardinal, who was outscored 24-7 in the second half.
“You can say a lot of things about this year, the injuries and all that,” said Booker. “But that’s not an excuse and we know that. When the offense and defense are clicking, we can get it going and I think the first half showed that. It’s about sustained effort. When we put all that together in the offseason and get it right, it’s going to be a beautiful thing.”
Coming off a close and emotional loss to Cal last week, Parkinson never doubted players would respond on Senior Day.
“If we had packed it in, that would be a big culture change we had to make in the offseason,” Parkinson said. “But we still have guys who are fighters and giving it their best every play. There’s definitely room for growth, but it was good to see some fire in this game.”
Booker praised the seniors for leadership, attention to detail and resiliency.
“Everyone knows this wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but I can’t be more proud of the senior class,” Booker said.
Prior to the game, the following seniors were introduced: inside linebacker Ryan Beecher; wide receiver Isaiah Brandt-Sims; quarterback K.J. Costello; tight end Scooter Harrington; running back Dorian Maddox; long snapper Richard McNitzky; inside linebacker Andrew Pryts; punter/kicker Colin Riccitelli; quarterback Jack Richardson; running back Cameron Scarlett; defensive end Thomas Schaffer; wide receiver Harry Schwartz; wide receiver Donald Stewart; defensive end Jovan Swann; Toohill; outside linebacker Anthony Trinh; and defensive tackle Michael Williams.
Scarlett ran 13 times for 43 yards, but his last carry was memorable. With 3:12 remaining in the game, he broke tackles up the middle and dove into the end zone to complete a nine-yard scoring burst, his seventh touchdown of the season.
“I saw the opening backside and knew my carries were coming to a close, so I wanted to make sure I finished in the end zone one more time,” Scarlett said.
Scarlett and sophomore wide receiver Simi Fehoko had a friendly competition all season on who would score more touchdowns and were tied coming into the contest.
“So it was a good way to end it,” said Scarlett.
Scarlett finished his Stanford career with 1,676 rushing yards, No. 18 on the school’s all-time list. Scarlett now ranks eighth in program history with 24 rushing touchdowns.
“Every game I was bringing my hard hat,” Scarlett said. “Didn’t matter what linemen were playing, weren’t playing, I came in with the mindset I was going to give it my all every game. And that’s something that was instilled in me from players before. Stanford football is really just a bunch of grimy guys who like to get after it and play good football.”
Scarlett predicts big things for the Cardinal next season.
“Next year’s team is going to be so deep,” Scarlett said. “We weren’t really able to showcase everything we had because we had so many injuries and it’s nothing we can complain about. But we were a really dangerous team coming into that first game and it wasn’t in God’s plan for us to all stay healthy.
“Next year I can tell they’re going to be a dominant unit up front once everybody gets healthy. And the run game is going to be nasty with those two young running backs (freshmen Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat). And then with the pass game, Davis Mills is a special talent and I think he’s going to show if off next year.”
Scarlett didn’t mention Stanford’s receiving group, which came on strong in the second half of the season. Junior Connor Wedington returns, as do sophomores Michael Wilson, Fehoko and Brycen Tremayne and junior Osiris St. Brown.
Wilson caught a career-high 10 passes for 94 yards on Saturday, including a 27-yard touchdown. Fehoko grabbed a personal-best six for 63 and St. Brown caught three.
Fehoko finished with 24 receptions for 566 yards and established a new school record by averaging 23.58 yards per catch, breaking the old mark of 22.93 set by Devon Cajuste in 2013.
Tremayne had three receptions this season and all resulted in touchdowns. He hauled in a 5-yarder from Mills in the first quarter against Notre Dame.
Earlier this season, Tremayne recovered a blocked punt for a score.
In just his sixth collegiate start, Mills completed 28 of 46 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. The junior started fast, hitting his first six attempts and 10 of his first 12. Mills was also victimized by several drops.
Mills showed good mobility, running seven times for 36 yards.
HANG IN THERE
Despite the final score, the Stanford defense kept the game within reach until the fourth quarter. In the second and third stanzas, the unit forced three consecutive punts. Notre Dame scored 10 points off turnovers.
“We played great defense in big, long spurts,” said Shaw. “And then a couple of big plays shift the balance. But that’s a really good football team and they made plays at the end of the game.”
Twenty true freshmen saw game action this season, with 12 playing more than four games and using a year of eligibility.
Counting punter/kicker Ryan Sanborn, eight true freshmen started at least one game, tied for the fourth-most in the country.
In all, 38 Cardinal players started at least one game, 18 for the first time in their college careers.
Once again, three true freshmen–left tackle Walter Rouse, left guard Barrett Miller and right guard Jake Hornibrook–started on the offensive line and held their own against a veteran defensive front.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said junior center Drew Dalman. “I don’t think a lot of people know the mental aspect of the game to kind of get yourself up to speed so you can play in a game like this as an offensive lineman. They got better every week.”
So did Dalman. He was the only offensive lineman to start every game and did an admirable job coordinating the group at the line of scrimmage and tutoring and encouraging the younger players.
Shaw had special praise for the efforts of Rouse, Sanborn and freshman cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly.
“I would be shocked if we didn’t have three first-team freshmen All-Americans,” Shaw said. “What our punter (Sanborn) did this year as a true freshman is unbelievable. What Kyu Kelly did this entire year is unbelievable. What Walter Rouse did, starting at Game 2 at USC and playing the entire season at left tackle; I want to say maybe gave up two sacks on the year? It’s unreal.”
Shaw met with Costello on Friday and they will convene again to discuss his future. Hampered by injuries all season, Costello played in only five games and has one year of eligibility remaining.
“I just told him that I love him,” said Shaw. “And this entire year, I’ve just felt for him. The aspirations that he had, difficult when you can’t attain them. We’ll see how it goes over the next couple weeks. One thing about K.J., you never question his heart.”
The loss snapped a streak of 22 consecutive non-conference home wins and was the first under Shaw (12-1) … The last setback came against Notre Dame in 2007 … Junior strong safety Stuart Head matched his career-high with eight tackles … Stanford recorded eight tackles for loss, 2.5 by junior outside linebacker Gabe Reid … Stanford finished the decade with 98 victories, tied for the eighth-most in college football, and went to nine bowl games … Half of Stanford’s opponents this season finished with seven or more wins … Stanford scored points on its opening possession in eight of 12 games this season (four touchdowns and four field goals) and in seven of its final nine contests … Former Stanford great Toby Gerhart ’10 was recognized as part of the program’s 125-year anniversary of Stanford football. He ran for 3,522 yards, the fifth-most in school history, and his 44 rushing touchdowns rank No. 1. In 2009, Gerhart led the nation in rushing, won the Doak Walker Award and was a unanimous All-American. He played in the NFL for six years and now attends the Stanford Graduate School of Business … Michael McFaul ’86, MA ’86 and a Professor of Political Science at Stanford since 1995, served as the team’s honorary captain. A Rhodes Scholar, he served as Ambassador to Russia for the U.S. State Department from 2012-14 and has been Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute since 2005.
photo from sfgate.com: California tight end Gavin Reinwald, right, makes a catch as UCLA defensive back Darnay Holmes defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif.
On the Cal Bears podcast with Morris:
#1 A huge way to close the 2019 season with a win on the road at UCLA as the Cal Bears defeat the UCLA Bruins 28-18.
#2 Cal quarterback Chase Garbers threw 17 times out of 29 attempts for 230 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
#3 Cal head coach Justin Wilcox says the defense was a huge factor in keeping the Bruins in check.
#4 Also coach Wilcox said it was a great win for the Bears saying it’s tough to win in the Pac-12 and he’s proud the Bears found a way to win.
#5 What will be some of coach Wilcox’s plans for the Bears in the bowl game?
photo from usatoday.com file photo: Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence calls out the audibles against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl in 2018.
On the NCAA podcast with Michelle Richardson:
#1 The Clemson Tigers (12-0) didn’t hold back in this one on Saturday taking out the South Carolina Gamecocks and early with a 38-3 win. Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw 26 for 36 for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
#2 What will become of the Michigan Wolverines (9-3) head coach Jim Harbaugh? The Wolves took a tough loss in a landslide 56-27 getting knocked by the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes scored two touchdowns in each of their four quarters.
#3 Georgia Bulldogs (11-1) Jake Fromm went 14-29 and threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns in the Bulldogs laugher over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 52-7. The Yellow Jackets avoided getting shutout when Brian Herrien rushed for a touchdown in the second quarter.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — For the San Jose State football team, Saturday night was a little bit more about celebrating 18 seniors on Senior Night. Those seniors were Chandler Hawkins, Zamore Zigler, Sailosi Latu, Jesse Osuna, Brandon Ezell, Josh Love, DeJon Packer, Ethan Aguayo, Christian Webb, Lionell Wiggins, Korey Mariboho, Deano Motes, Troy Kowalski, Bailey Gaither, Brett Foley, Duane Tuatasi, Alex Galland, and Quinn Oseland.
With that said, SJSU had their game faces on when the Fresno State Bulldogs were in town. Senior quarterback Josh Love and the Spartan offense opened the game with the ball. But the Bulldogs struck first as senior quarterback Jorge Reyna threw a 38-yard pass to tight end Jared Rice, who ran for the opening touchdown, and Cesar Silva kicked in the extra point. It was 7-0 Bulldogs with 7:49 left in the first quarter.
Fresno State made it a 14-0 game just 2:41 later. Ronnie Rivers rushed for a 5-yard rushing touchdown and Silva kicked in the extra point.
Junior center Kyle Hoppe suffered an injury and didn’t return. However, SJSU got on the board first as Matt Mercurio kicked a 22-yard field goal to reduce the deficit to 14-3 with 1:13 left in the first. The Bulldogs led 14-3 at the end of the first.
The second quarter looked better for the Spartans. Jay Lenard snagged an interception–his second interception of the season–for the first turnover of the game late in the second.
Just minutes after Cade Hall showed some moves with the strip sack, Justin Rice kicked a 10-yard field goal to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 16-3 with 5:27 left in the second. The Bulldogs led 16-3 at halftime.
SJSU pulled within six to cut the deficit to 16-10 with 9:43 left in the third quarter. Love rushed for a 2-yard rushing touchdown and Mercurio kicked in the extra point. The Spartans continued to trail 16-10 after the third.
DeJon Packer saved the night for the Spartans. Packer rushed for a 10-yard rushing touchdown to put the Spartans up 17-16 with 2:11 left in the fourth quarter. Packer’s touchdown was all the Spartans needed to beat Fresno State 17-16 and keep the Valley Trophy for the first time since 2016.
With the win, SJSU finished the regular season 5-7, 2-6 Mountain West. Fresno State wrapped up the season 4-8, 2-6 Mountain West.
Follow me on Twitter @AnaKieu for San Jose State football offseason updates.
STANFORD — On a cold, windy, rainy day, the Stanford Cardinal met the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the final game of the 2019 season.
The 15-ranked Irish fell behind early in the game 17-7. The Cardinal dominated in all phases of the game for the first 26 minutes of the game. They led in time of possession. They led in yards passing and yards rushing. It appeared that Stanford quarterback Davis Mills would lead his squad to an upset. Everything changed late in the first half when the Irish blocked a Ryan Sanborn punt. Notre Dame scored, and from that point on until late in the fourth quarter, the dominated the Cardinal. They scored 31 unanswered points to lead 38-17. The Cardinal scored with just 1:54 left in the game. With 41 seconds left to play, the Irish stripped Davis Mills of the ball in the end zone. The Irish recovered for the score to win 45-24.
The Cardinal dominated play until late in the first half. Stanford scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game. They went on a 75-yard drive in 3 minutes and 34 seconds to go-ahead 7-0. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish responded with a touchdown of their own. The Irish went 80 yards in five plays to tie the game 7-7. The essential play was a 16-yard pass from Ian Book to Micah Jones for the score.
Stanford went on a long 82-yard drive that consumed 8 minutes and 15 seconds, and all they could come up with was a field goal. They had first, and goal from the two-yard line but could not get the ball across the goal line. Ryan Sanborn made the field goal, and the Cardinal led 17-7. Things were looking good for Stanford until late in the first half. The Irish defense forced the Cardinal to kick, and Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey blocked Sanborn’s put. The ball was recovered on the one-yard line. The ball was moved back to the sixth when the Irish were called for a false start. Quarterback Ian Book connected with tight end Tommy Tremble for the score. The Irish now trailed by three 17-14 with 3:01 left to play in the half.
The momentum had shifted to Notre Dame. The Irish forced Stanford to punt again. They got the ball on their own 24-yard line. Notre Dame went 76-yards in just 21 seconds to score their third touchdown of the game and now led the Cardinal 21-17. The key play was a 41-yard throw from Book to Chase Claypool for the score.
In the second half, the Irish dominated. With the ball on the 7-yard line, they went on a 93-yard drive to up the lead to 28-17. The essential play was a 43-yard pass play from Book to Braden Lenzy. The score came on an 8-yard pass from Book to Claypoole for the score. That was the only score in the third quarter. Just before the quarter ended, Stanford forced the Irish to punt from deep in their territory. Michael Wilson fumbled the catch, and Notre Dame recovered. They cashed in to start the fourth quarter with a 42-yard field goal to go ahead 31-17.
The Irish continued to pour it on. The Irish put another 7 points on the board with a 10-play 72-yard drive to lead 38-17. The Cardinal finally scored when Cameron Scarlett scored on a 9-yard run with 1:54 left in the game. The Irish added another touchdown when they stripped Davis Mills of the ball in the end zone and recovered the fumble for the score. The Irish won 45-24.
Game Notes: With the loss, Stanford drops to 4-8 for the year. It was the first losing season for head coach David Shaw. Notre Dame improved to 10-2.
Total yardage for Notre Dame was 455 yards. Ian Book was 17-for-30 good for 255 yards and four touchdowns. They rushed for 190 yards. Stanford produced 394 yards of total offense. Quarterback Davis Mills was 28-for 46 good for 276 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Cardinal rushed for 118 yards.
Attendance at Stanford Stadium was sparse due to the weather. The stadium was about half full with Stanford fans. There was a large contingent of rabid and noisy Notre Dame fans in the north end of the stadium. They went home very happy as their team will be playing in a bowl game again this year.
When Ryan Beecher runs out of the tunnel into Stanford Stadium on Saturday for the last time, he’ll be met by water works.
It’s Senior Day against No. 15 Notre Dame, so Cardinal players will be recognized before the game and greeted by their families on the field. Emotional, but even more so for Jim and Julie Beecher, and their other children, Annabelle (’17) and Holden.
In December 2017, the night before the team was flying to the Alamo Bowl, Ryan was packing at his home in Fresno, Calif. when he received a phone call from Stanford Hospital. A pathology report had come back about a lump under his armpit and a biopsy revealed he had tested positive for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Scared and uncertain about his future, Ryan stayed home and sought an immediate diagnosis. Steve Schwartz, the father of teammate Harry Schwartz, arranged an appointment with a lymphoma specialist at UCLA. The family was told he had a treatable strain.
“The days before Ryan was officially diagnosed were some of the hardest days of my life,” said Julie. “Suddenly, my young, healthy son had this terrifying word, cancer, hanging over his head and we had no idea what that would mean for him.”
Teammates quickly rallied around Beecher. They signed his No. 43 game jersey and wrote messages, and it arrived at his home the day before the game. On game day against TCU, Beecher wore the jersey and watched the game on television with his family. Many Stanford players wrote his number on their arms and JJ Arcega-Whiteside pointed to it after catching a touchdown pass.
“From Week 1, it was just an overwhelming amount of love and support,” Beecher said. “I will always be thankful to them.”
The official diagnosis was a rare form of lymphoma called “ALK-positive.” Beecher underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, lost his hair and considerable weight off his 6-1, 230-pound frame.
“The eyebrows took some getting used to,” Beecher said.
Teammate Lewis Burik cooked a big dinner for Beecher and his friends before his first round of chemotherapy. Kaden Smith helped him shave his head.
Beecher was unsure about his football future and missed spring practice and two quarters of school. He never complained and told his mom he wanted to climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
“Right before the Spring Game that year, Ryan was at a low point,” said Julie. “It was hard to get him to go because he was completely bald and pretty run down from months of chemotherapy. He decided to go, and as he was walking into the game, Coach (David) Shaw approached him and told him he was being put on scholarship. When Ryan told us after the game, it an was incredible moment. It still makes me cry to think about it.”
Beecher was cleared to participate in fall camp in the summer of 2018 and hasn’t missed a beat.
“Getting back out on the field was a goal and dream of mine once it got taken away,” Beecher said. “Football was a huge motivator in the sense that it taught me a lot of mechanisms to respond to that type of adversity. I give a lot of credit to our training staff and coaches for instilling in us the sense of reacting to adversity and staying positive.”
Beecher was initially told to take it easy, especially during wind sprints, but he tuned out the strength and conditioning coach.
“I’m a stubborn guy and didn’t listen as much as I should have,” Beecher said. “I was pretty exhausted after that first workout. But let me tell you, it was so relieving after months and months — the doctors didn’t want me to go into any gym and expose myself to germs — being back. There’s a certain type of energy you get working out, especially with a group of guys you love.”
Cardinal team captain Casey Toohill said Beecher’s attitude and determination inspired everyone.
“The thing that impressed me the most was when he came back for summer runs after just doing the chemo, he made all the times, which is unheard of, because people miss the times anyway,” Toohill said.
Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, wasn’t surprised Beecher sold out.
“Being through something similar with my brother the last couple of years, the appreciation of life is powerful,” said Shaw. “To come back from cancer and say all I have to do is run gassers? That’s it? I’m not going to pull back and I’m going to go as hard as I can and know my body is going to respond.”
Beecher, a former walk-on and now a fifth-year senior, played on special teams in 13 games in 2017 and 2018. This season, he has appeared in every contest and earned his first start against Colorado, collecting a career-high five tackles. Beecher has 16 total stops, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
“To play as well as he’s played, stepping up and contributing at inside linebacker, it’s been amazing to watch,” Toohill said. “I’m just proud to be his friend.”
Shaw said, “He’s a tough guy. And tough guys like being around tough guys. To see a guy fight through what he fought through and be able to get in there and grind with his brothers on the field makes you feel like you’re around someone special.”
Beecher isn’t the biggest, strongest or fastest player on the team. If you walked by him on campus, he looks more like a history major — which he is — than a football player.
Looks can be deceiving. Beecher started 32 consecutive varsity games at San Joaquin Memorial High School and made 232 tackles, leading the league in 2013.
“All he thinks about is his job and what he can do,” said Shaw. “His teammates appreciate that. Every time he makes a tackle or a play, the sideline goes crazy. They’re always cheering and rooting for him. To be able to coach a guy like Ryan Beecher makes you feel good about what you do on a daily basis.”
Beecher is cancer-free, but will need follow up scans for the rest of his life.
“Going through something like that, you take things a little more serious now,” Beecher said. “Definitely happier and more thankful for everything … my family, my friends and everyone who was in my corner supporting me. It’s just really easy when you have a bad day to kick yourself out of it because you’ve had worse days for sure.”
Connor Wedington, K.J. Costello, Paulson Adebo and Malik Antoine will not play against Notre Dame.
PERSEVERANCE LEADS TO PROMINENCE
Donald Stewart caught his first career touchdown pass last week against Cal, and it was a feel-good moment for everyone. He has overcome injuries, dipped on the depth chart and has spent much of the season working with the scout team. He never complained, went full speed, remained positive and stepped up last week when Connor Wedington was injured on the opening kickoff.
“Donald has had the entire college football experience from playing early, playing well, from not playing much, playing more and making big catches,” Shaw said. “He’s probably grown as much as anybody on the football team.”
Shaw continued to remind him that nothing is set in stone. If you put in the work, it’ll pay off.
“I commend Donald for trusting us,” Shaw said. “We put him back in the rotation and for the last month, Donald has been ready. It was great in a big moment in a Big Game for him to be open and that was a tough catch. Great to see that for him and guys celebrating for him.”
Davis Mills will make his sixth career start at quarterback against the Fighting Irish (9-2). Due to injuries, he didn’t play in 2017 and saw brief action in one game last season.
“Technically, in my book, you’re still a freshman until you play 12 games,” said Shaw. “We’re still technically in Davis’ freshman year. He’s capable of extreme highs.
SHAW ON HIS DEFENSE
“We’ve had outstanding effort and consistent play from a handful of guys, led by Casey Toohill,” Shaw said about the unit’s showing against Cal. “The guy just pours his heart out every single play. Everybody that stepped out on the field played well.”
Shaw also praised the efforts of Andrew Pryts, Curtis Robinson, Thomas Booker and Jovan Swann.
“As injured as we are, we have the guys on the field that can make the plays,” said Shaw. “And now it’s when we make those plays. If it’s late fourth quarter, we make to make those plays. The same thing about us offensively.”
Containing mobile quarterbacks remains a challenge. Stanford will encounter another quick, athletic and explosive player in Ian Book on Saturday.
“That’s been a difficult thing the entire year, understanding the integrity of where you need to be,” Shaw said. “The rush lanes containing the quarterback are vital. We’ve struggled with that and must improve.”
Shaw commended the leadership of his seniors for never letting down this season.
“Even after a couple tough losses, the guys come out and are flying around, practicing hard and pushing each other in a positive way,” said Shaw. “That credit doesn’t go to our coaches; that credit goes to our seniors and our leaders.
“These guys have been outstanding in a year when most people are understandably talking about the record and it’s not what we want it to be. But there have been some moments this year at any point in time where these guys could have packed it in, and their teammates wouldn’t allow them to.”
Lynn Swann grew up in Michigan and is not a Notre Dame fan. That being said, he respects what the program has accomplished and knows they are benchmark for success.
“It means a lot to strap up and go against a team like that,” Swann said. “People have dislike for them because they are such a great program. I just happened to be born in Michigan.
“I think they’re a great team and we have a great challenge ahead of us and I’m excited to play against them because when you make plays against teams like that it shows you are a real team and can compete against some of the best in the nation. And I think that’s our mentality this week to play to the best of our ability.”
“Growing pains are called growing pains because they hurt.” — David Shaw on using 20 freshmen this season.
On the Stanford Cardinal podcast with Jerry Feitelberg:
#1 Jerry, talk about the Big Game last Saturday against Cal at Stanford Stadium. For Cardinal quarterback David Mills, he gave it his best, but Stanford fell in a very narrow game.
#2 Cal was able to play successfully on both sides of the football and come up with two touchdowns in the four quarter to get by Stanford by four points in one for the ages as Cal has not won in Stanford since 2009.
#3 In Stanford men’s basketball: A tough loss for Stanford men’s (7-1) fall in their first loss of the season after winning seven straight games to the Butler Bulldogs (7-0) 68-67, a one-point loss.
#4 It seems like Butler can beat up on the big schools with a perfect record so far. Is it fair to say look for them in March?
#5 UNC Wilmington (5-3) is next to face the Cardinal on Sunday at Maples Pavilion. Jerry talks about how he sees this game.
The Stanford Cardinal football team will host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a battle for the Legends Trophy. The Legends Trophy is awarded to the winner. It is named in honor of the 1925 Rose Bowl meeting, which was said by sportswriters to contain more legends on one field than had ever played the game. The trophy was created by the Notre Dame Club of San Francisco Bay Area, appropriately from Northern California redwood with an Irish crystal bowl.
Stanford will take the field for the final time this decade, a decade which saw them post 98 wins (to date), tied for the eighth-most in college football. The Cardinal’s 98 wins are tied for the most in the Pac-12 Conference this decade. After winning just 47 games and making two bowl appearances in the previous 10 years (2000-09), Stanford went to three Rose Bowls, an Orange Bowl and a Fiesta Bowl, in addition to the Sun Bowl (2), Foster Farms Bowl (1) and Alamo Bowl (1) this decade.
Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, David Shaw, is in his ninth season as the Stanford head coach. His 86 wins make him the winningest coach in program history. In the 15 seasons prior to Shaw taking over as head coach, Stanford won just 82 games.
Stanford is 17-0 at home under Shaw in nonconference games. The Cardinal has won its past 22 home nonconference games, with the last loss in 2007 against Notre Dame.
Twenty true freshmen have made their first career appearances so far this season: Bradley Archer, Branson Bragg, Aeneas DiCosmo, Stephen Herron, Elijah Higgins, Jake Hornibrook, Austin Jones, Brock Jones, Spencer Jorgensen, Kyu Blu Kelly, Zahran Manley, Jonathan McGill, Barrett Miller, Drake Nugent, Joshua Pakola, Nathaniel Peat, Walter Rouse, Ryan Sanborn, Tristan Sinclair and Nicolas Toomer. While 20 total true freshmen have played in 132 combined games, a staggering 12 have played in more than four games.
A total of 18 Cardinal have made their first career starts so far: Ryan Beecher, Branson Bragg, Henry Hattis, Stuart Head, Houston Heimuli, Elijah Higgins, Jake Hornibrook, Kyu Blu Kelly, Jonathan McGill, Barrett Miller, Davis Mills, J.J. Parson, Andrew Pryts, Curtis Robinson, Walter Rouse, Foster Sarell, Osiris St. Brown and Jack West. 38 different Cardinal have started at least one game for Stanford this season.
By the way, Stanford ranks fourth nationally and first in the Pac-12 with four blocked kicks this season.