Stanford Starts Pac-12 Tournament with Victory, Moves on to Semi-Finals

By Joe Lami

After a first round bye, the Stanford Cardinal started their weekend in Seattle with a win.  The top-seeded Cardinal beat the Buffaloes of Colorado by the final score of 69-54 on Friday afternoon to move on to the semi-finals in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Buffaloes earned their contest with the Cardinal by beating the UCLA Bruins by the score of 76-65 on Thursday. They came out to play on Friday, as they held the Cardinal to it’s worst scoring first half of the year at 21 points.  The Buffaloes went into halftime leading 23-21, however a strong second half performance for the Cardinal would earned them the victory.  The key difference for Stanford was starting the second half on a 16-2 run, which was good enough for them to hold the lead the rest of the game.

The starters for the Cardinal were extremely impressive, as four of them got into double digits in scoring.  The Pac-12 player of the year, Chiney Ogwumike, paved the way for the Cardinal putting up 19 points and rebounding 11.  This was after Ogwumike was held to only six points in the first half.  Bonnie Samuelson and Lili Thompson each added 15 points.  Mikaela Ruef had another amazing performance and has a double double to show for it, as she scored ten points, and led the team in rebounds, bringing down 16.  After Amber Orrange had one of her most impressive performance of the year this previous Sunday, Friday afternoon was a way different story.  The Junior Point Guard scored three points on four shot attempts.

The Buffaloes were led by Brittany Wilson, who notched 16 points, with 12 of them coming from beyond the three-point line.  Wilson also put up the most shot attempts of any Colorado player, as she went 5 of 20.  11 of the 20 shots came from three-point range.  Haley Smith was the only other Colorado scorer to get into double digits with ten.  Arielle Roberson led all players in rebounds with 17, she would end just two points shy of the double double.

With the win, the Cardinal are unsure of their next opponent, as they will find out in the upcoming hours. They will take on the winner of the contest between Southern California and Arizona State for a chance at the final on Sunday.

Ogwumike Shines in Final Game, Cardinal Beat Cougars to Finish Undefeated at Home

By: Joe Lami

Chiney Ogwumike enjoyed her final regular season game at Maples Pavilion.  As she led her team to victory over the Washington State Cougars by the final score of 84-64.  Ogwumike finished her Cardinal career with a new career high 37 points, 21 of them came in the first half.  Ogwumike also added 13 rebounds to achieve her 22nd double-double of the season.  She also achieved her 30th double figure scoring game of the year and later achieved her 13th 30-point game of the season.  She stated after the game “I really don’t care about points and statistics, all I care is that I do enough for us to win, even if I only score two points.”   She later added on her feelings of Saturday’s game “It just felt like another game.  I just care that we won, and that we are playing better basketball going into the post season.  We are growing as a team and that’s what matters.”

The Cardinal started the first half strong, getting the first five points of the game and forcing Washington State to call an early timeout.  Stanford led the entire first half, but did have struggles shooting from beyond the arc.  Stanford went 3 for 13 from three-point range in the first half with Bonnie Samuelson knocking two of them down.  Brianna Roberson drained the other.

Roberson, a freshman, had her most impressive half of her young Cardinal career.  She finished the first half with eight points, a new career high.  Roberson also added a rebound and an assist in the seven minutes that she played.  She finished the game with eight points, as she didn’t see much playing time in the second half.

The Cardinal shot the lights out from the free throw line, as they finished the first half going 14 of 15, for a 93%.

Stanford came out of the second half strong, as they went on a 10-0 run to start things up in the first 4:47.  The Cardinal defense came to play in the second half only allowing 23 points, forcing the Cougars to shoot a dreaded 28%.

Even though the Cardinal held Washington State to 64 points, three different Cougars got into double figures.  They were led by Lia Galdeira, who finished with 16 points.  Both Tia Presley and Sage Romberg finished the game with ten points each.

Amber Orrange went under the radar once again, but had one of her best performances of the year.  The Junior Point Guard finished just two points shy of her career high, scoring 20 points.  She also finished the game with eight rebounds.  “This was one of Amber’s best nights she’s ever had for us” stated head coach, Tara VanDerveer.  VanDerveer also pulled Orrange aside and congratulated her on a great performance.  The key to Orrange’s night “I was being a lot more aggressive.”

The Cardinal finish the year undefeated at home going into the Pac-12 tournament next week.  They will be ranked the first seed and will get a first round bye, and will play their first game on Friday, March 7.

Upset Over Bruins Bolsters Cardinal Case for Tournament Place

By Matthew Harrington

The wait may finally be over for coach Johnny Dawkins and Stanford. With selection day looming, the Cardinal pieced together a statement win at the right time, beating 23rd-ranked University of California Los Angeles 83-74 at Maples Pavilion Saturday afternoon, the Cardinal’s third win over a ranked opponent this season. The upset, Stanford’s third-straight win and fifth in six games, presents the NCAA tournament selection committee with another reason to move Stanford off the bubble and into the big dance on an at-large bid for the first tournament appearance in six years under Dawkins.

The veterans have led the way of late for Stanford (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12), understanding the importance a strong finish has on their tournament hopes. One game after setting a career-high in rebounds while also moving into first place all-time in school history in blocks, senior Josh Huestis once again forged an amendment to his biography in the programs, netting 22 points to match his single-game best. His 22 points were second only to guard Chasson Randle’s 26 on the day. Randle, a junior, put on a three-point clinic with 7 treys on 10 attempts, the most he’s made in a single game. Fellow junior Anthony Brown pitched in 18 points for Stanford who clicked at an eye-popping 62.2 shooting percentage as a team. Starting guard Norman Powell matched freshman Zach LaVine’s 14 points off the bench to lead UCLA (21-6, 10-4) while Tony Parker chipped in 13 points for the Bruins.

The opening 10 minutes saw both teams refuse to cede an inch of the court, with no team leading by more than three points. Randle potted a shot from downtown with 9:46 left in the half to give Stanford the first five-point lead of the day for either team to make it 23-18 Cardinal before the home team closed the half out on a 15-12 for a 38-30 edge after 20 minutes of play.

The Bruins clawed back into the game, outscoring Stanford 35-33 over the first 15 minutes of the second half then proceeded to make it a two possession game on three LaVine free throws made with 2:48 left to play and Stanford leading 72-68. The Cardinal finished out the game with 11 points to UCLA’s 6 split the two regular season games with its Southern California foes. The Bruins previously routed a vastly Stanford squad vastly different than the one they faced Saturday afternoon 91-74 on January 23rd in Los Angeles. Stanford made 38.6 percent of shots that night and turned the ball over 19 times.

Continuing its march to a potential place in the Madness to come next month, Stanford moves on to the final road trip in Pac-12 play, a trip to Tempe that sees the Cardinal face Arizona State University Wednesday followed by a Sunday showdown in Tucson against fourth-ranked University of Arizona. After that, the Cardinal returns to Maples for one last home game against Colorado March 5th to wrap up Pac-12 play before the conference tournament tips off in Las Vegas.

Stanford Remains Unbeaten at Home

By Joe Lami

Stanford (24-2,13-1) returned to action just two days after one of their most impressive performances of the season, defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils 61-35.  On Sunday, the sixth ranked Cardinal played host to the struggling Arizona Wildcats (5-20, 1-13).  Stanford defeated Arizona 74-48.

Arizona was coming into the contest with just five wins on the season, with a record of 5-19.  Only one of those wins has come in Pac-12 play.  The Wildcats started the game strong as they got the first bucket of the afternoon.  They would be able to keep up with the Cardinal for the first 5:30 of the game.  The game was tied at 11-11 before the Cardinal would take over.  Stanford would go on a ten minute 24-4 run before Arizona would hit their next field goal.  Arizona was only able to mustard up another field goal and two free throws to end the half.  Stanford was on top at the half by the score of 48-19.

Stanford would cruise to victory in the second half.  Arizona outscored the Cardinal in the second half 29-26.  However, Stanford played their reserves for most of the second half.  Chiney Ogwumike, who plays as much time as possible, only saw 22 minutes in the win, being her season low on minutes played this season.  The starter who saw the most minutes played was Amber Orrange, and she capped out at 24 minutes.

Bonnie Samuelson led the Cardinal in scoring with 17 points, 15 of which came from beyond the arc.  Ogwumike finished with 15 points.  Lili Thompson and Orrange both had nine points in the game.  Orrange also had an astonishing nine assists.

Only six Wildcats played for Arizona.  Candice Warthen, Kama Griffitts and Keyahndra Cannon all played 40 minutes.  LaBrittney Jones led the team in scoring with 11 points.  She was the only Wildcat to get into double digits in scoring.

The Cardinal will finish off the road portion of their schedule next weekend as they travel to Los Angeles to take on USC on Friday and UCLA on Sunday.

Stanford Shuts Down Sun Devils

By: Joe Lami

The Stanford Cardinal (23-2,12-1) returned to Maples Pavilion on Friday night, just five days after their disappointing loss in Seattle, to Washington on Sunday.  The Cardinal made up for it with a dominating performance over the Arizona State Sun Devils (20-5,9-4) with a 61-34 victory.

The Cardinal held the Sun Devils to one of the lowest scoring totals in Pac-12 history, with Arizona escaping that mark by one point.  The Cardinal’s impressive defense started early, as they held Arizona State to without a field goal until eight minutes into the first half.  This gave Stanford 14-3 lead, following a field goal and a free throw. “They had great defensive energy early, we never got into the flow of the game” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

The dominance continued as Stanford went into halftime leading the Sun Devils 32-12.  This is the 2nd time in Pac-12 history that Stanford has held an opponent to the least amount of points scored in a first half.  Arizona State shot 17% from the field in the first half, and it didn’t get much better from the charity strike, as they went two of seven from the line.

The second half wasn’t much better for the Sun Devils, as they continued to struggle shooting 30% from the field for a total game percentage of 24%.  The Sun Devils also finished the game shooting 8% from beyond the arc, as they only hit one shot in the 12 shots attempted.  It was an overall great defensive performance for the Cardinal, especially coming off of only their second loss of the season.  “We haven’t been this excited to play defense in a long time, and I’m excited that we are again” said star Chiney Ogwumike.

The Stanford defense kept the Sun Devil players from getting into double digits, as both Promise Amukamara and Sophie Brunner led Arizona State in scoring with nine points.  The leading scorer for the Sun Devils in the first meeting between these two top 15 opponents, Quinn Dornstauder, was held to only six points.

The offense was no slouch either for the Cardinal, as they had an impressive game on that side of the ball as well.  Stanford finished the game shooting 54% from the field.  Ogwumike led all scorers with 20 points in only 27 minutes of playing time, as she sat on the bench for the final 13 minutes of the game.  The player of the year candidate also finished with 13 rebounds, all of which came in the first half.  Amber Orrange had another amazing performance, as she finished the game with 14 points, five steals, three rebounds and three assists. “Amber took it upon herself to be the engine of the train” praised head coach, Tara VanDerveer, on Orrange’s performance.

The minutes were passed around equally for one of the first times this season, as 14 different players got into the game.  Out of those 14 players that saw time, ten of them got onto the scoring sheet.

With Friday’s game being one of the best performances of the season, there was still some criticism that came out of it.  One of which was the fact that Stanford had 17 turnovers.  “We have to play better, we have to take care of the ball better” commented VanDerveer.  Another problem that has been reoccurring all season is that Stanford has been giving up way too many offensive rebounds.  That trend would continue on Friday, as Arizona State had 12 offensive boards.   Of the 12 offensive rebounds, Arizona State was able to have eight second-chance points off of them.

Both teams struggled from beyond the arc, Arizona State more so than Stanford.  The Sun Devils shots one of 12 from three.   Stanford finished scoreless, but only had four attempts.  The three-pointer was not in the game plan mentioned VanDerveer after the game.

Stanford bounced back great, as they up their record to 23-2, 12-1.  Thus almost clinching the Pac-12 regular season title.  As long as they don’t fall off of the wagon, they will get the title.  Stanford looks to make it once step closer towards the regular season title, as they host the Wildcats of Arizona.

Stanford blows away Washington St

By Jeremy Harness

 

STANFORD – The tail end of Wednesday night’s game proved one critical fact that in big-time college basketball, you don’t have a chance of winning when only two players score almost all of your points.

 

Washington State found this out the hard way against a much more balanced Stanford team that was coming off a big win at No. 13 Oregon on Sunday. After a pitched battle in the first half, the Cardinal raced away and never looked back in a 80-48 win at Maples Pavilion.

 

Stanford (11-5, 2-2 Pac-12) pretty much got whatever they wanted on offense, shooting 58 percent from the floor, which included 40 percent from 3-point range. Washington State, on the other hand, shot just 37 percent after going 44 percent in the first half.

 

Anthony Brown and Josh Huestis, who recently trimmed his trademark mini-Afro and sported the look for the first time Wednesday, each led the Cardinal with 15 points while two others, Dwight Powell and Marcus Allen, also scored in double figures.

 

Meanwhile, only two Cougars hit double figures, with Que Johnson putting up 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting while Royce Woolridge had 13 and made six of his 13 shots.

 

That was good enough for Washington State (8-9, 1-4 Pac-12) to hang around in the first half, as Stanford could not contain Johnson at all in the first half. The redshirt freshman diced up the Cardinal in the 15 minutes that he played in the opening stanza, scoring 15 points and connecting on all but one of his seven shots, including his draining each of his three 3-point attempts.

 

Stanford and Washington State traded baskets – and the lead – while Johnson was on the floor. After he took a seat at the 3:57 mark of the first half with Stanford holding a two-point lead, the Cardinal began to distance themselves from the Cougars to take a 40-29 halftime lead.

 

To say the least, the scoring was much more balanced for the Cardinal than it was for Washington State. Seven different guys scored for Stanford, with Anthony Brown leading the way with 12. Meanwhile, Royce Woolridge had 11 first-half points, but besides he and Johnson, Dexter Kernich-Drew was the only other Cougar to score with three.

 

The onslaught only increased for the Cardinal, as their lead swelled to 25 points by the midway point of the second half.

 

Washington State did not get its first bench points of the game until the midway point of the second half, when Ike Iroegbu made a layup to narrow Stanford’s lead to 27.

 

Stanford will host Washington Saturday night before heading down to Southern California to face USC and UCLA.

Ogwumike Makes History in Stanford Win

Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford players celebrate after a score during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By: Joe Lami

Friday night marked the first game of the Pac-12 season for the Stanford Cardinal, and it was one to remember for Chiney Ogwumike.  Ogwumike became the all-time Stanford and Pac-12 rebound leader, as she surpassed Kayla Pederson with career rebound 1,267.

The Senior All-American was quite humble afterwards as she said “Records are great headlines, but I’m more excited about Bonnie (Samuelson) going 6 of 9 from three, Amber with eight assists and the contribution of the Freshman.” Samuelson added that it makes things a lot easier when you have the best player in the country on your team, and Ogwumike smirked and rolled her eyes in a joking sort of way.

Even though that there was a major record that was broken on Friday, there was still a game of basketball that was played, and a great one as the Oregon Ducks came into town.  Oregon came into the contest with a record of 9-2, with losses to Sacramento State and number one Connecticut.  Oregon was riding a seven-game winning streak and was ranked number one in the country in points scored per game, averaging over 105.

Stanford had put a stop to this holding the Ducks to 66 points, in what head coach, Paul Westhead, called “a joke” in the 96-66 Stanford win.

Stanford played all-around great defense, as it was something that Tara VanDerveer praised about all of the game.  The key was holding, Chrisae Rowe, a freshman guard averaging nearly 25 points per game to only 11.  “They tagged Rowe really well, that’s one of Stanford’s strengths” said Westhead.

The Cardinal were of course led by Ogwumike who scored 33, and had 14 rebounds.  Bonnie Samuelson hit a career high 21 points, 18 of them came from beyond the arc, as she was lights out.  Production was great for the Cardinal, as all but three players that saw playing time scored.  Mikaela Ruef was strong once again, with eight points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals.  Freshman, Karlie Samuelson played 13 minutes, scoring three on a three-pointer and she had one assist that came on a three made by her sister.

Stanford was lights out from beyond the arc as well, as they shot 50%, 12 of 24, “something that I’d take any night” said VanDerveer.  The first half was even more impressive, as it seemed like they couldn’t miss going 9 of 16 from downtown.  With the three starting to fall for the Cardinal, it relieved pressure off of Ogwumike and allowed her to work inside.

Oregon was held to their lowest scoring total of the season with 66.  Leading the way for them was Jillian Alleyne, the second highest scorer on the team going into the night.  Alleyne scored 26, and “took the most over her opportunities, as she was open down low, after we guarded the 3-point line” said VanDerveer.  Alleyne also finished the double-double adding 13 rebounds.  Starters, Ariel Thompson and Rowe both had 11.

The Ducks fall to 9-3, with a 0-1 record in Pac-12 play.  Oregon next travels to Berkley, to take on the number 23 ranked Bears Sunday to finish off their first weekend of Pac-12 play. The Bears won their opening game on Friday as well, which should make traveling through the Bay Area a tough trip this season.

“It was a good first game for our team to start off Pac-12 play” said VanDerveer, as the Cardinal improve their record to 12-1 and their conference record to 1-0.  The other team from Oregon is up next for Stanford, as the Oregon State Beavers take on the Cardinal on Sunday at Maples.  Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

It’s game time. And I got to play, too!!

By Jeremy Harness

PASADENA – Now this is what I signed up for.

On Wednesday afternoon, I witnessed the Rose Bowl Game for the first time, and I will say this: It was much more than I expected it to be for many reasons. After Montsy, Angelita and I stayed up eating take-out pizza until 2:30 am the night before, New Year’s Day started a tad earlier than the previous day.

After quickly wolfing down a few eggs and some bacon at the hotel, I board the 9 am shuttle to the Rose Bowl stadium, a shuttle which is led by a police escort. This certainly made me feel like a celebrity, as if I didn’t feel like one since the moment I checked into the hotel here in SoCal.

After cranking out a pre-game breakdown piece for this site, it was time for me and my newfound partner in crime, ESPN Radio 100.9 FM’s Chance McBride, to take care of some unfinished business. Since both of us now had the needed game-day credentials and had allotted ourselves enough time to take in the atmosphere, we could now get on the field and snap some pictures.

For instances such as this, thank goodness for modern technology, particularly Facebook and Instagram. In a related note, I’ll be hard-pressed to find a period of time that I have used social media as frequently as these past four days.

At the end of the game, which Michigan State came out on top by a 24-20 score, the most encouraging thing that I saw was when the Stanford band played in the corner of the end zone. Yes, there were a good deal of otherwise-downtrodden Cardinal fans, but there were also a few Michigan State fans who were enjoying the band’s performance.

Not that watching this fierce matchup in my first-ever Rose Bowl wasn’t great, but the fun was about to pick up. After my post-game work was done, Chance mentioned that he needed to get out of the press box and grab some fresh air, and I saw an opportunity of a lifetime, even more so than watching the Rose Bowl in person.

See, ever since I was a kid growing up playing football up until the present day, I’ve had dreams of returning a kickoff or an interception down the sideline into the end zone. Since I had seen other folks running around on the field after it had cleared out following the post-game celebration by Michigan State, this was a chance that I simply could not walk – in this case, run – away from.

All that was needed was the permission from the security still remaining on the field level to go back onto the field, which was granted.

Lights. Camera. Action.

Standing two yards deep in my own end zone, using my cell phone and my wallet as a makeshift football, I gently toss them in the air simultaneously as in to field a kickoff. I make one cut to the right toward the middle of the field at around the 10-yard line before dashing back to the left toward the sideline at the 30 and then straighten out as I near the left sideline at midfield.

This is where I start to run away from the coverage guys, so I kick it into high gear with the end zone – and sure glory – in plain sight, and only slow down as I get inside the 10. As I get to about the 2-yard line, I somersault over the goal line and into the end zone, a la 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s game-winning, playoff berth-clinching pick-six against Atlanta two weeks ago.

Before I have a chance to celebrate, however, an official in the form of a TV reporter working on his own post-game report, had a ruling on the field.

“You stepped out right here,” he said, pointing to the opposing 41-yard line. This meant that a re-do was effectively in order.

Fielding my second imaginary kickoff two yards deep in the end zone, I make the same cuts that I made on the first one but make absolutely sure that I stay inbounds this time – which was ruled that I did – and then make the same dive into the end zone before getting up and slapping hands with imaginary fans in the back of the end zone.

Mission accomplished. That is, until I hear something approximately 50 yards away.

“Do it again!”

Big-time athletes don’t check out when they’re tired – my legs were definitely feeling the weight, most likely due to the fact that I hadn’t worked out since Christmas Eve and had not even stretched before my own kickoff – and I wasn’t about to, either.

So I make the identical pattern for my third return – hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? – and upon my somersault into the end zone, I decide to stay put in that end zone, flat on my back and not in a huge hurry to get back up. Now, my destination has been reached, and all parties present for this journey were satisfied.

Meanwhile, Chance was taking a panoramic picture in the middle of the field with his fancy smart phone – which is now on my wish list for that very purpose – and just so happened to take a picture of Jeremy Harness, the kick returner.

No worries, though, as neither I nor Stanford head coach David Shaw have any immediate plans of my replacing Ty Montgomery on kickoff returns.

I thought this was the best possible ending to this Rose Bowl night, but I was wrong. Chance had found a leftover rose from the long-vacated interview room, which still had several such roses that were otherwise going to be thrown out. With that in mind, I grabbed three of them for Montsy, Bertha and Angelita.

As I returned to the hotel with flowers in hand, each of them were greatly appreciative and made this the perfect finish to this night as well as this journey.

Michigan St., Stanford fans different but come together in the end

By Chance McBride and Jeremy Harness

PASADENA – Anytime a big game is played, particularly at a neutral site, there are bound to be differences – some more subtle than others – between the teams. Since these teams most often come from different parts of the country, the fans will tend to be a little different from each other as well.

As was the case with the 100th Rose Bowl Game, which took place Wednesday afternoon and was won by No. 4 Michigan State over No. 5 Stanford, 24-20. A total of 95,173 fans crammed Rose Bowl Stadium, and the fan base appeared to be split right down the middle.

However, the way that the fans were spread out couldn’t have been any different, nor was the manner in which those fans tailgated before walking in through the gates.

Michigan State’s fans traveled in congregations, resembling huge seas of green. Stanford’s supporters, on the other hand, were considerably more spread apart and pretty much fit in with whoever happened to be around them.

The seating arrangement inside the stadium as game time arrived also mirrored this.

These two teams have an incredibly large amount of on-the-field attributes in common. Off the field, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Both teams were equally represented Wednesday, as the stadium was littered with Cardinal red to go along with MSU’s trademark forest green colors.

The West Coast attitude and influence on the culture of Stanford is plain to see. From the happy-go-lucky nature of the band all the way to the demeanor of the fans. Stanford is by no means lazy nor a pushover, but they simply have a particular way and speed of doing things.

Cardinal fans across the stadium were easily equal to the Spartans in sheer numbers, but they carried a slightly more quiet confidence about them. One aspect that is incredibly endearing about both sides. but specifically Stanford, was how friendly they were while still remaining stoic and strong at the same time.

Meanwhile, Spartan fans are very strong and boisterous in their presence. Their unmistakable aura renders the actual number of fans – whether it be 10 Spartans or even 300 – pointless. With a plethora of various chants and war calls at their disposal, Spartan fans are an undeniable presence wherever they go.

In addition, one would be hard-pressed to find a school that could get nearly 45,000 people to fly to California on such short notice. When the fans did arrive, they traveled in huge packs where the classic “Go Green! Go White!” echoed throughout the stadium and areas surrounding the game.

In a way, this was a microcosm of the cultural differences of the different parts of the country that these two schools represent. People from the Midwest tend to stick together much more and show an interdependent trait. Californians, on the other hand, are much more likely to march to the beat of their own drummer while adopting the “I’ll see ya when I see ya” mentality.

Which makes everything come full circle is the fact that – at least for this Rose Bowl – the two sides of fans come together at the end of the game, just as the Stanford and Michigan State players did. The Stanford band played in one corner of the Cardinal end zone, which cheered up a good deal of its dejected fans. Among those moving to the upbeat music that the band produced were a handful of fans wearing green and white.

That tells us one thing: No matter how hard, or how long, we fight each other, we’re all on the same team in the end.

Chance McBride is reporter for ESPN 100.9 FM based in Michigan while Jeremy Harness is a regular contributor to SportsRadioService.com.

Longshot LB stops Stanford cold in Rose Bowl

By Jeremy Harness

PASADENA – Kyler Elsworth entered college weighing 180 pounds, looking nothing like a linebacker. He immediately faced long odds as a walk-on of being a contributor for Michigan State’s football team.

Fast forward five years – and 45 pounds of solid muscle – and Elsworth was still fighting an uphill battle going into the 100th Rose Bowl Game. The fifth-year senior was thrust into a huge role in replacing All-American linebacker Max Bullough, and he came up with the decisive stop by stuffing fullback Ryan Hewitt on 4th-and-1 with 1:43 remaining to give his No. 4 Spartans a 24-20 win over No. 5 Stanford in front of 95,173 fans.

“Opportunities come for other players, and they have an opportunity to make good on it,” Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio said. “Kyler Elsworth got a chance to make a play, (and he) makes the play of the game.”

Stanford held a distinct advantage in the first quarter and held a 17-14 halftime lead, but Michigan State seized momentum in the second half, particularly on defense.

Gaffney finished with 91 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, but gained only 22 yards for the final three quarters. Particularly in the second half, the Spartans plugged up every single lane that Gaffney was able to run through in the first quarter, which significantly slowed down Stanford’s offense and resulted in increased three-and-outs and allowed the Michigan State offense to stay in rhythm.

“I told the guys (that) we had a heck of a year and got beat today,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said. “They played better. They made more plays. That’s the bottom line.”

Stanford, however, also didn’t help itself in certain areas. Although they only turned the ball over once – as did Michigan State – the Cardinal dropped two sure interceptions and committed eight penalties, one of which negated a Jordan Richards interception while several others kept drives alive for Michigan State.

Early on, however, Stanford looked like the fundamentally-sound team that took the Pac-12 title. The advantage that it appeared to have following Bullough’s suspension showed up on the very first drive, as the Cardinal sliced through Michigan State’s defense for 77 yards, a drive that was aided by Michael Rector’s 43-yard pass from Kevin Hogan.

Stanford picked up several first downs until Tyler Gaffney broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and rumbled 16 yards to give the Cardinal a 7-0 lead.

Both teams got away with a turnover in the first quarter. Hogan coughed up the ball after being uprooted on a bootleg play in Michigan State territory, with two Spartan defenders having clear shots at the recovery.

However, neither came up with the ball, and Stanford recovered and continued the drive, which was capped off by Jordan Williamson’s 34-yard field goal.

On the ensuing possession, Stanford linebacker Kevin Anderson had an interception bounce off his chest and end up into the hands of flanker Macgarrett Kings, Jr. for a first down to keep that drive going. The Spartans parlayed that, along with a pass-interference penalty in the end zone, into a touchdown that cut Stanford’s lead to 10-7.

Anderson got another chance to redeem himself when quarterback Connor Cook committed the cardinal sin by backpedaling and throwing a desperation pass into the middle of the field. Anderson converted the gift into an easy 40-yard pick-six.

Cook, however, responded by taking his offense down the field and hit Trevon Pendleton on a 2-yard touchdown pass to again cut Stanford’s lead to three at halftime.

Besides a Michigan State turnover deep in Stanford territory, the Spartans controlled the third quarter and tied the game with a 31-yard field goal by Michael Geiger.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal picked up only two first downs in the third quarter and did absolutely nothing to even change the field position immediately following it. Michigan State got the ball back on the Stanford 27 to early in the fourth quarter and exclaimed the drive when Cook found Tony Lippett, who beat cornerback Wayne Lyons for a 25-yard scoring strike to give MSU a 24-17 lead.

Meanwhile, Lyons, who had two interceptions in the fourth quarter to seal Stanford’s win over Notre Dame in November, had a nightmare of a game. He was beaten several times on long pass plays and, like Anderson earlier, had a sure interception bounce off his chest in the third quarter.

It was a bitter end to the last game of the college careers of Stanford’s seniors, a class that includes Gaffney, linebackers  A.J. Tarpley and Shayne Skov – who made several big tackles and had an overall great game – as well as kicker Jordan Williamson.

“Our group of seniors (is) the most accomplished group of football players to ever go through Stanford University,” Shaw said. “Regardless of (Wednesday’s) outcome, that’s just the truth. When you talk about the best teams of the BCS era, you have to mention Stanford University.”