Pac-12 Football - Page 15

Kelly Continues to Dodge NFL Questions in Final Press Conference Before Fiesta Bowl

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Oregon football coach Chip Kelly(AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Angela Piazza)
Oregon football coach Chip Kelly
(AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Angela Piazza)

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly spoke to media this morning in Scottsdale one final time before tomorrow night’s Fiesta Bowl matchup against Kansas State.

The NFL questions continued, and of course, Kelly masterfully dodged them. Quotes from the press conference are below.

Here is the full press conference with the always witty coach.

Q: Four BCS bowls in a row.  What have you learned as a coach coaching bowls these last four years?

A: I think you learn really how hard it is to get there.  That’s the one thing I think as a team, as a staff, as a group of players, to not take it for granted.  It’s a truly special thing to be able to play in a BCS game. Some of our freshmen that came in as freshmen four years ago, they think it’s kind of the norm.  We make sure they understand it’s extremely hard to get there and appreciate it and understand what it takes to get there.  And make sure to pass on to the younger guys what it takes to get there.  It’s not a surprise that you made it there.  It’s not luck that you made it there.  It’s about our preparation, always constantly trying to hammer home that issue to our guys.  Don’t take anything for granted.

Q: One of the recent trends in the NFL is more pistol formation.  People are tracing that back to you.  Your thoughts on what seems to be a melding of the NFL and college games.

A: Don’t know.  Haven’t been there.  Don’t run the pistol offense.  That’s not what we do. Chris Ault at Nevada invented the pistol offense.  Just retired.  Great football coach out there. There’s a lot of ways to play football.  Pistol, don’t know that very well.  We’re more of a spread run team.  Trends go one way and the other.  I said this a long time ago, if you weren’t in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else. Any coach is going to learn from other people and see how they can implement it in their system.  Anything you do has to be personnel driven.  You have to adapt to the personnel you have.  There’s a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have.  The key is making sure what you’re doing is giving your people a chance to be successful.

Q: Your name has been thrown around quite a bit for the numerous open NFL jobs.  I’m sure your players hear that.  How do you answer those kind of questions from your players?

A: I’ve never been asked a question by one of my players.  I think one of the tenets of how we do in our program is we don’t like outside influences control our lives.  It’s kind of just noise to us. They’ve never said a word to me.  I’ve never said a word to them.  I always believe that praise and blame is all the same. You can’t, again, be a selective participant and listen to things that are good being said about you and block out bad things being said about you. Our team is extremely focused.  If you get a chance to get inside our team, which is never going to happen, if you ever did get a chance, what we talk about, what we focus on really has nothing to do with what’s going on outside.  That’s the great thing about coaching kids of that age.  They don’t get caught up in it. I don’t think our kids read message boards, newspapers.  They want to hang out with each other, have a good team, excited to get back to position meetings.  We’re getting ready to go play the Fiesta Bowl.  That’s what we’re excited about.

Q: Last year after you ultimately turned down Tampa Bay, you said you’d listen to options to everybody.  Do you expect to do that in the next week?

A: I’m waiting for an offer from you.  I will listen and I am excited if you do want to give me a call.

Q: Do you expect to field some offers here in the next week?

A: I don’t expect anything.  I said this a million times.  I’m never surprised by anything.  I do not know what the future holds.  I do know we have a football game tomorrow night and I’m going to be there.

Q: I know you’re focused on this game.  There’s been a lot of talk about whether your offensive approach would adapt to the NFL.  Have you given any thought to that whatsoever?

A: No.  I get asked the question.  I don’t think anybody knows any answers until someone does it.  The Washington Redskins are doing a pretty good job.  I forgot the name of their quarterback, but I think he’s done a decent job. The kid at Carolina has done a pretty good job. But it depends.  I don’t know.  I’ve never coached in that league.  I visited practices and talked to people about it.  The one thing about that, about everything, you have to have good players.  Sometimes the coaching aspect is way overrated.  We don’t play the game. I think college football is a personnel driven game, so is the NFL.  Your job as a coach very simply is to put your players in positions to make plays, get out of the way and go make them.

Q: A lot of people look at this game and see two very different teams.  What kind of similarities do you see, especially run first on offense, that type of thing?

A: I think we’re a lot more similar than people think.  Offensively we rely on running the football, play?action pass.  They do, as well.  We preach special teams.  They preach special teams.  That’s going to be a huge matchup in the game tomorrow night. We’re a little bit different in our spacing on the defensive side of the ball than they are.  Still the same fundamentals.  They run to the ball extremely well on defense.  We do, as well.  I think we’re more similar than I think people really think when you look at it.

Q: Any interesting stories that happened with you guys this week?

A: We stayed away from the life and death situations.  Here again I thank the Fiesta Bowl people for creating good environment for us.  Although I didn’t go with them when they went and ate at Fogo de Chao.  We had kids the next day that looked like they had meat induced coma.  We didn’t have a case where anybody had to perform the Heimlich like Mark did last year.

Stay tuned for continued Fiesta Bowl coverage from Ducks football beat writers Sean Larson, Conor Armor, and Alex Shoemaker. The crew will be live from University of Phoenix Stadium tomorrow evening to bring you live, up-to-the-minute coverage from the game. For in-game updates, follow Sean (@SeanALarson) and Conor (@ConorArmorUO) on Twitter.

Oregon Ducks Post Practice Quotes 12-29-12

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Another busy day of press conferences featuring Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, Kansas State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes, and select players from both teams. Selected quotes from those interviews are below.

Marcus Mariota(GoDucks.com)
Marcus Mariota
(GoDucks.com)

Marcus Mariota

 

Q: How do you keep yourself so calm as a freshman with all the guys around you?

A: I don’t know.  This is kind of the person I am. I think if I were to ever credit something, it would probably be the way I was raised.  Hawaii, it’s funny.  It’s so slow, relaxing.  I feel that’s kind of taken me to my core.

Q: You talked about your head spinning the first day you stepped on the practice field.  Did you imagine yourself then being where you are now?

A: That’s hard to say.  I’m not sure.  You kind of dream of this, envision yourself having success like this. To be able to go out there and do it is a whole ‘nother thing. It’s been a fun process.  I’m looking forward to it.

Q: Did you surprise yourself at all in your freshman season, what you were able to do, or did you have those expectations?

A: I hold myself to a high standard; I always have.  Some of the success I’ve been surprised at.  I think it works both ways.

Q: As good as it’s been, could have been even better.  Have you and your teammates let that go or do you think about you could have been in the national title game?

A: We always have a 24 hour policy.  It was a long 24 hours for some of us. To have that loss I think not only helped us grow as a team, but it really kind of built this team up.  We always understand that it’s not one loss, it’s a whole body of what you’ve done. We’re looking forward to this next game.

 
Ryan Clanton(GoDucks.com)
Ryan Clanton
(GoDucks.com)

Ryan Clanton

 

Q: You’re the unsung heroes of this offense.  Everybody else gets the glory.  Talk a little bit about that, how you enjoy what the offense is doing overall.

A:  You don’t want to be part of news or anything.  That’s a bad thing.  You kind of want to stay out of that. We like being the unsung heroes.  There’s no glory in this.  This itself is weird.  It’s fun to get a little attention sometimes.  A pat on the back from Marcus or Kenjon or offline coach is rare because he holds us to a higher standard every week. I’ve had a great time playing on this offense.  I think you haven’t seen the last of these big bowl games.  Guys like Marcus and a lot of young guys are going to take this to a new level.

Q: Are you having fun this week or is it all business?

A: It’s mainly business.  We tend to have fun with that.  It’s not a boring team to play for.  When you think of Oregon, you think of they do some fun stuff as a team.  It’s pretty fun.

Q: Everybody on the O-line is healthy?

A: Yeah, everyone is healthy.  We’ve had a long time to get healthy.  Our guys have done a good job of getting healthy.

Q: Everybody seems to have gotten through this season for the most part.  You haven’t had any real devastating injuries.  Surprising.

A: When Mana Greig went down in Colorado, he was one of our key players, that was devastating.  With Carson getting hurt, stuff like that. They’re all here playing a role.

 
Hroniss Grasu(GoDucks.com)
Hroniss Grasu
(GoDucks.com)

Hroniss Grasu

 

Q: With those experienced seniors leaving, do you feel you now have a bigger leadership role?

A: Yeah.  I felt that a lot during the beginning of the season, even when Carson playing, Ryan, Cody.  The experience I had last year in camp really helped me to be a bigger leader and more experienced.

Q: If there was one thing, the one game that the Oregon offense sputtered on, against Stanford, is there one thing you can take out of the Stanford game and learn from and apply to this game?

A: I’ve been thinking a lot about that Stanford game, what went wrong.  It pretty much went down to who was more physical.  They were more physical than us.  I have a lot of respect for them. We can’t make that mistake again because Kansas State plays very similar.

Q: How badly does your team want this?

A: We want every game really bad.  We look at every game like a Super Bowl.  That’s how we got ready for this game.  When we were in Eugene two weeks ago, our mentality for each practice was as if we were getting ready for a game in three or four days.  I think that’s what made our practices the way they have been.  We’ve been having some pretty good practices.  Really excited about this game.

 
Mark Helfrich(GoDucks.com)
Mark Helfrich
(GoDucks.com)

Mark Helfrich

 

Q: You have been here for a few days.  How has it been practicing two practices and now?

A: I think things are probably where they are expected to be.  We had great practices in Eugene, had an extended holiday break.  Luckily a few of our guys have experience in these types of situations. Our spirit has been good.  A couple dropped balls more than normal and just knocking that stuff off.  But I think our guys are of the right frame of mind.  They’re going in the right vector of getting up to game day, obviously ecstatic to be here.  Been treated great.  The hospitality here has been incredible.  Looking forward to the game.

Q: You mentioned young guys in these new positions.  Marcus was here last year, but now he’s sitting up on the podium.

A: He’s been great.  He practiced really well.  Going back to the dropped balls things, that’s something that can get in a quarterback’s head, especially a young quarterback.  You try to slow down a little bit and catch it for him, but you can’t do that. He’s practiced great, prepared great.  Hopefully he’ll play great.

Q: This kind of offensive explosion, as a young play caller when you were coming up, did you ever envision it getting to this point where you could score this quickly?

A: I guess, yes.  That’s what you’re trying to do.  Our guys have been just phenomenal in their work rate, in their belief.  A lot of people talk about “win the day,” whatever their slogan is.  The key from getting to that self?help slogan to the results is a lot of hard work.  Those guys have paid that investment, put in that time.

 
Tom Hayes(Kansas State)
Tom Hayes
(Kansas State)

Tom Hayes

 

Q: When you took over as coordinator this year, what paid off more, your experience or the experience of the guys you inherited on the defense?

A: Certainly our players did a fabulous job for our defensive team.  We had a lot of senior leadership, as you know.  They stayed steady and consistent.  That’s what I’m so proud of them for, is how consistent they were through the entire 12 game schedule. So that being said, the transition for me, I mean, I’ve been in this role many times, it’s not my first time, so it was easy.

Q: Are you happy with how you came out of the Baylor loss?

A: Absolutely.  With Texas coming up, the way they recruit, Mack is a great friend of mine, he’s done a good job for a long period of time at Texas.  It was one where we had to reexamine ourselves, just go back to what we know and improve from one game to the next, Baylor to Texas, if you will.  We had a couple weeks to do it, which helped I think, certainly.

Q: In terms of what you do, how good was it to have a linebacker in the middle like Arthur?

A: I said at the team banquet what I’ll miss most about Arthur’s play, I’ll miss Arthur, period.  As a person, he’s a tremendous young man. But you watch the tape, and everybody’s blocked on your defense, including him, but he gets unblocked fairly quickly.  The ball is skirting around the wide part of the field, and here comes Arthur like a blur and makes the play.  You go, How did he do that?  That’s just what he does. He has an innate instinct, if you will, a burst of speed that very few linebackers have.  When he sees it, he goes and get it.

 
Ty Zimmerman(Kansas State)
Ty Zimmerman
(Kansas State)

Ty Zimmerman

 

Q: How have you been able to better prepare yourselves, given you get a month to look at this spread offense?

A: It’s kind of hard having such a big time frame in between the next game.  If you’re not careful, you can be lackadaisical, it can turn out to be a bad thing. Coach has done a great job of staying on us, continue to get better in the film room as well as on the practice field.  Hopefully we can put it all together on Saturday.

Q: What stands out to you most about Mariota?

A: His playmaking ability with his arms as well as his legs.  He’s a huge guy, but he can run really well. Watching him on film, he makes a ton of plays.  The pocket breaks down, he scrambles out, gets 20 yards.  We have to do a great job of covering routes, containing him.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve seen an offense somewhat similar?  Do you feel you are ready for that?

A: They show some similarities to a few teams in our league with the high tempo.  They have some tremendous athletes out on the edge, tremendous speed.  It’s going to come down to how well we put our game plan together and execute.

Q: The first name that comes to mind is Kenjon or De’Anthony Thomas.  What impresses you about De’Anthony?

A: He’s very, very quick.  A lot of times, he’ll cut back or out?run him.  They throw him the ball, get him the ball in the backfield, he’s their return guy.  Tremendous athlete.  Going to have to do a great job containing him.

 
Arthur Brown(Kansas State)
Arthur Brown
(Kansas State)

Arthur Brown

 

Q: You’ve faced fast paced teams this year.  Physically, how do you stay with the team?

A: It’s all about preparation throughout the week.  I’m confident in what our coaches have planned for us, that we’ll be ready to play this game at a high level.

Q: Did you go back and watch the Baylor tape a lot?

A:  You know, we definitely focused on what we needed to correct from that game.  Once we got to the point where it was time to move on, we definitely did. There was definitely a lot to learn.  We missed assignments.

Q: How much can you learn from what Stanford did to Oregon?

A: Our coaches did a great job of keeping the game inside the white line, I say, but off the edges, contained them in that manner.  That’s something we take note of.

Q: What do you think your strength is?  What are your strengths?

A:  I would say sideline to sideline having a (indiscernible) pursuit to the ball.  I need to play my own assignments soundly.

Q: When the head coach of the other team says you’re the best linebacker they faced all year…

A:  Playing for Chip Kelly is truly an honor.  It’s something that comes with our preparation.  I have a lot of great support, as well.

 

 

Stay tuned for continued Fiesta Bowl coverage from the EDN Sports crew. Ducks beat writers Sean Larson, Conor Armor, and sports editor Alex Shoemaker will be in Arizona to bring you live, up-to-the-minute coverage from practices, press conferences, and the 42nd annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Kansas State and Oregon on January 3. 

Oregon Post-Practice Quotes, Bill Snyder Introductory Press Conference Quotes

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Lots of action in the Phoenix area on Friday as the Ducks and Wildcats continue their preparation for next Thursday’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. On Friday, head coach Chip Kelly, as well as offensive lineman Kyle Long, linebacker Kiko Alonso, safety Brian Jackson, quarterback Marcus Mariota, and tailback De’Anthony Thomas spoke to media. Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder also spoke to media. Full quotes from the players and coaches are below.

 

timthumb.phpOregon Coach Chip Kelly:

 

Q: How does it help a head coach to keep his staff together for as long as you have?

A: “It always helps. Our meetings are a lot shorter; we’re all on the same page. Everybody understands the vision we have for this football program, and it makes things go a lot smoother.”

Q: Who are a couple of defensive players who have improved since the beginning of the year?

A: “I think a lot of them have. Dion Jordan, Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso, Taylor Hart, Troy Hill, Terrence Mitchell, Brian Jackson, Erick Dargan – I mean, there’s a whole ton of them. That’s why we’ve played really well on the defensive side of the ball.”

Q: Who are a couple of offensive players who have improved since the beginning of the year?

A: “Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner, Colt Lyerla, Tyler Johnstone, Kyle Long, Hroniss Grasu…a good list.”

Kyle Long(GoDucks.com)
Kyle Long
(GoDucks.com)
 

Kyle Long

 

Q: What’s it like to finish your career on a team that has had a season like this?

A: “Being a part of something like this is very rare. You look around the locker room and I love every one of these guys. Those two guys over there, Tyler (Johnstone) and Marcus (Mariota), are great examples of just great teammates, great people, guys you want to go out there and execute for and with. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I’ve really loved it here, playing under Coach Kelly.”

Q: How has the experience of the bowl been so far?

A: “I was really giddy about it the first few days. The first day we got here, running around, but you kind of settle in. This is my first bowl game. But for a lot of these guys, they’re vets when it comes to this. You just try to look to the older guys like Dion (Jordan) and Isaac Remington, and you lean on those guys for guidance and kind of look to see where they’re going, what they’re doing, and you follow suit.”

Q: Are they all business right from the start?

A: “Oh yeah. Guys like Dion and Isaac are 100 percent business.”

 
Kiko Alonso(GoDucks.com)
Kiko Alonso
(GoDucks.com)

Kiko Alonso

 

Q: How much have you matured?

A: “I think I matured a lot, just going through things, going through experiences like playing games, off-the-field stuff, on-the-field stuff, it just helps you mature as you get older.”

Q: What are you majoring in?

A: Sociology.

Q: What are you planning to do after football?

A: “I haven’t really thought about it, but I was planning on moving to Puerto Rico. That’s where my family lives, on my dad’s side, so I’m going to go move over there. Maybe open up a gym. That would be my dream after football.”

 
Brian Jackson(GoDucks.com)
Brian Jackson
(GoDucks.com)

Brian Jackson

 

Q: (Inaudible.)

A: “The circumstances are a little different, but it all feels very similar, and it’s a lot of fun, especially going back to the same practice field. I remember certain spots where I was in that field just doing certain plays during practice, and I feel like when I step out on that other field, when the game comes, I’ll have a couple of flashbacks, a little bit of déjà vu. It’s been great just to have that familiar presence, and I definitely felt comfortable as soon as I got here.”

Q: What did you see in the Baylor game as far as a defense stopping K-State?

A: “You’ve got to take into account what all the teams have done. I mean, just because Baylor won the game, that doesn’t mean they’re the only team that was successful on defense. We have quite a few games that we have that we can watch, and of course Baylor’s one of those that we should take a look at…There’s a lot of things that you’ve really got to watch. All teams played Kansas State differently, so when we think about certain defenses that we’ll run, we’ll watch this certain team. It’s never just one team that you should watch to get a full understanding of how to beat someone else.”

Q: No magic formula then?

A: “There’s never a magic formula. You have things that you can look at to help, but it really boils down to how will you perform when you’re in that situation?”

Q: Beyond the game, is there anything else about being out here (inaudible)?

A: “I know for a fact that I really want to go back to Fogo De Chao. I had a lot of fun there. Other than that, I thought the mall was pretty cool. But besides that, it’s been a lot of fun just to be back here, period. I like this place a lot. There’s a lot of open space. You can walk around, just hang out in the sun. I’ve had a good time here so far.”

 
Marcus Mariota(GoDucks.com)
Marcus Mariota
(GoDucks.com)

Marcus Mariota

 

Q: Talk about the big stage of the BCS?

A: When we come in, it’s 100 percent football when we’re out on the field. It’s just the time also to enjoy a little of this. Not a lot of guys get to go through this, but for me, this is my first time playing in it and I’m just really excited. I really can’t wait. But I can’t get overanxious because I’ll play outside of my game. My focus is just to go out there and to play my game.”

Q: Does K-State resemble any teams you played this year?

A: “They’re very disciplined. That’s one thing that stands out to me. They’re a good defense. They all hustle to the ball. It’s all the minor things that they’re really good at. They like to funnel their stuff to Arthur Brown. He’s one of those guys who’s an All-American. He’s one of those guys that really just makes a lot of plays for them.”

 
De'Anthony Thomas(GoDucks.com)
De’Anthony Thomas
(GoDucks.com)

De’Anthony Thomas

 

Q: Does anything stand out on film of K-State’s defense?

A: “They’re a very physical team, very disciplined. Our offense is great, so we’ve just got to do what we do and make plays and we should get the win.”

Q: Do you look at the Baylor game (a 52-24 victory over K-State)?

A: “Not really. I don’t really watch too many other teams. I only focus on the Oregon Ducks.”

Q: What was it like getting back to practice after holiday break?

A: “This is our second day. I feel like everyone’s getting their motors back. It’s great. I just feel like we’ve got to get better and better every day when we’re out here.”

 

 

snyder2Bill Snyder Opening Statement

 

“Thank you very much and thanks to all the yellow jackets here. We’ve experienced this a few times before and I’m sure that this time will be no different than it has been before in the past. We’ve had a wonderful reception and people have been so very, very gracious to each and every one of us. Our entire travel party appreciates that. I know that that is a high priority on their list and they do it very well. We do appreciate it immensely. We are honored to be here. We will take a forfeit, but that wouldn’t draw very many fans so I guess we will have to play the game.”

“The University of Oregon is a tremendously talented, very exceptional football team. They are a very quality football team. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to compete against them. I think our young people are certainly looking forward to that opportunity and I know they are looking forward to a wonderful stay here in this great, great community.”

How is your team as they face the end of the season

“With a 2:15 flight and you have 130 18, 19 and 20 year olds and you have them up in the air, everything is going to be fine. Now that they are on the ground, the problems may begin. I have a great deal of confidence in these young guys. They’ve been really a special group of young people. They are very caring people, they are good teammates, they take good care of themselves and I certainly would hope and reflect that that would be the case while they are here. They’re going to enjoy the time.

Anything you can take away from the last four bowl experiences

“I think every ball game is a unique experience in its own right, throughout the few hundred that we’ve had. I can’t tell you that I have an answer why we’ve been unsuccessful the last few years in terms of winning and losing. Will we try and do anything different? i can’t tell you I’m smart enough to try and figure that out. Probably not. We like the way we try to prepare and we certainly will try to do it that way.”

Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas runs with blazing speed(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)
Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas runs with blazing speed
(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Can you prepare for Oregon’s speed in practice?

“I don’t know that anybody really can. Not in the way that you’re thinking. There’s certainly some things that you do that would attempt to replicate the kind of speed and the tempo of the game that you see. They are going to snap the ball every 16 or 17 seconds, sometimes faster than that. Just to be able to get lined back up on defense is not an easy task. You have your routine in practice and you’ll run two offenses at your defense. You can replicate that time to a certain degree, but not with the same people.”

Describe your bowl prep and will it change now that you are in Arizona

“Our practice routine here will replicate what we would do during the course of a regular season week. We have a Monday routine, a Tuesday routine, etc. The practices up to this point in time have been varied in texture and tenure. For the most part, there’s just an awful lot of variety that lends itself to trying to help develop younger players in the program and at the same time put in an appropriate amount of preparation time for the likes of the University of Oregon. It’s been a mixture of things. They had to have some Christmas time off, which they did. They came back, we went four days without workouts, then two days in shorts so we could transport (equipment). We can’t afford two sets of uniforms, so they had to go in shorts for two days. Today we will be in pads. We got them all transported.”

What would a Fiesta Bowl victory mean to the program?

“I think it would be very special, particularly for the seniors in our program. The 27 young guys who have invested a great deal in the program, invested in the improvement of the program. Their tenure here has gradually gotten a little bit better year in and year out and this would be very special. It’s a very special opportunity for them. A reward of a victory would certainly be very special to them as well.”

Former Oregon running back Lache Seastrunk torched the KSU defense in a huge upset victory for Baylor
Former Oregon running back Lache Seastrunk torched the KSU defense in a huge upset victory for Baylor

Did you learn anything from the Baylor game that can help you against Oregon?

“You can’t stand around against a team that moves awful fast. We did that. That was a ball game that we learned a lot. I think we learned a lot about how we reacted or responded to the preparation during the course of the week. We learned a lot about who was willing to make the immense sacrifices that it takes to compete against a team like that. As you saw last night (in the Holiday Bowl), (Baylor) is a for-real team. There is a great deal of similarity between the two teams. They are two offensive football teams and not to be denied is the fact that they are very good on defense. Baylor was against us, they were against UCLA and Oregon has been good on defense on all year round. Their defense goes somewhat unnoticed because of the tremendous scoring power of their offense.”

Do some of the Big 12 offenses help you in your preparation?

“Well it does help to a certain degree. However, it’s not all about the X’s and O’s on the chalkboard, it’s who happens to represent those X’s and O’s on the field. You’re probably looking at a greater amount of collective speed in addition to the fast tempo that (Oregon) uses. Not that the other team’s we’ve played didn’t have quickness and speed, but it seems to permeate the Oregon program.”

Nine Defining Plays of 2012 Season: #2 The Kick

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4. The Kick (November 17, vs. Stanford, Overtime)

 
The Play: On 4th down and 9, Alejandro Maldonado misses a 41-yard field goal attempt.
 

MaldonadoScott Norwood. Kyle Brotzman. Gerry Thomas. Do these names ring a bell? Most likely, you don’t remember these kickers for the kicks they made. Their legacies belong to the kicks they missed.

Norwood’s 47-yard miss cost the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl XXV. Brotzman’s 26-yard attempt against Nevada would have put undefeated Boise State in position to compete in a BCS bowl game, but he pushed it right, and the Wolf Pack upset the Broncos in overtime after Brotzman misfired again – this time from 29 yards. Florida State’s Gerry Thomas’s 34-yard miss against Miami in 1991, known as “Wide Right I”, cost the Seminoles a victory in a crucial late-season rivalry game.

Last season, two Pac-12 kickers earned infamy with ill-timed shanks. First, with the Ducks having pulled within 3 points of USC in a furious comeback, Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado pulled a 37-yarder wide left as time expired – crushing aspirations for a BCS National Championship berth.

Then, a month and a half later, Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson missed a 35-yard attempt that would have won the Cardinal the Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma State. Instead, the game went to overtime, in which Williamson missed a 43-yarder, opening the door for Oklahoma State to win 41-38.

The bright side? Williamson was just a freshman. Maldonado, a sophomore. Somewhere down the line, both would have a chance at redemption. Those chances just so happened to come within moments of each other a season later, on a frigid November night in Eugene, with the Pac-12 North title on the line, as well as yet another chance at a national championship berth for the Ducks.

Having been stymied by Stanford’s swarming rush defense and atypical inaccuracy from quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks’ offense went three-and-out on their overtime-opening drive, and out came Maldonado to attempt a 41-yarder.

The cliché goes: the home crowd went silent after the kicker missed. Really though, the stadium was already dead quiet as Maldonado lined up for his attempt. In a season that had seen the Ducks barely challenged, let alone taken to overtime, the team’s fate rested once again on the much-maligned sophomore placekicker.

And so came the snap, the hold, and the kick – slowly sailing left, then clanking off of the upright. Once again, if Oregon was to lose this game, its kicker would be the scapegoat.

SONY DSCOf course, placing blame directly on Maldonado’s shoulders is unfair. In a close game, one can point to numerous “could’ve been, should’ve been” moments. There was De’Anthony Thomas, mindlessly running downfield alongside Marcus Mariota on a first quarter burst, and failing to supply a block that would have allowed Mariota to score. There was Chip Kelly’s playcalling in the final minute of regulation, in which he called for conservative run plays.

There was the miscommunication between Mariota and receiver Josh Huff on the play preceding the missed kick, in which Huff broke his route off in the opposite direction of Mariota’s pass. There was Zach Ertz’s game-tying touchdown reception, in which it appeared his shoulder may have hit the ground out-of-bounds. Even after the kick, there was Michael Clay’s inability to corral a Stanford fumble that, if recovered, would have sent the game to a second overtime.

But no. This loss will always be remembered for Maldonado’s missed field goal. From here, you know how the story went. Williamson, unlike Maldonado, found redemption, sending his 37-yard field goal through the uprights and the visiting Stanford crowd into a raucous celebration, heard beyond the stunned silence of the Oregon faithful.

And so goes the nature of being the kicker. You may be nearly anonymous, a sort of sideshow to the game your teammates play – until you’re not, in either the best way, or the worst. There’s little room for an in-between. On November 17, 2012, Williamson’s legacy became that of a hero. Maldonado’s, that of a goat.

Chip Kelly Post-Practice Quotes, 12/27/12

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260825828001_736130296001_vs-736123287001The Oregon Ducks football team is back to work, as Thursday marked the first practice in Arizona for Chip Kelly‘s squad. Team practices will continue throughout the week. Tomorrow, Kansas State arrives just before noon at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where head coach Bill Snyder will address the media. Oregon’s practice Friday morning will be open to media for the first 15 minutes, marking the first time an Oregon practice hasn’t been closed all season. Kansas State will host their first practice Friday afternoon. The practice will be closed to the media.

On Saturday, Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, along with select offensive players including Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota will be available to the media. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, and select defensive players including Michael Clay and Dion Jordan will be available to media on Sunday.

Both teams will host their media day on December 21. All coaches and players will be in attendance.

After practice, Kelly spoke to reporters about preparing to face Heisman finalist Collin Klein, the Kansas State defense, and the winning culture that he has helped create at Oregon.

Q: How did the first practice in Arizona go?

A: “It was good to get back out on the field. I thought our guys were real attentive. We’ve been together for a while. They know how to practice. They know what’s expected of them and I was real impressed with them for the first day back after a couple of days off.”

Q: How do you prepare for Kansas State QB Collin Klein? Do you use a tight end to simulate Klein’s size and running ability?

A: “Jake Rodrigues is doing a good job for us imitating Collin as good as he can. I think if you just put a tight end in there then you’re not going to be able to throw the ball the way you want to throw the ball, because he can do it both, and that’s what makes him such a dangerous player.”

Q: What impresses you about K-State’s defense?

A: “How well they tackle in space. They get off of blocks and they tackle extremely well in space. They don’t miss many tackles, and again they are extremely fundamentally sound. You’re really, really impressed when you watch how well they tackle in space.”

Q: Does the winning culture you’ve created at Oregon increase the number of players willing to take on leadership roles?

A: “That’s a good question. I’ve never thought of that. No, but I think the culture we created from a leadership standpoint encourages leadership amongst the group. I think winning is just a byproduct of a good culture, but I don’t think it’s just because you’re winning it creates that.”

Stay tuned for continued Fiesta Bowl coverage from the EDN Sports crew. Ducks beat writers Sean Larson, Conor Armor, and sports editor Alex Shoemaker will be in Arizona to bring you live, up-to-the-minute coverage from practices, press conferences, and the 42nd annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Kansas State and Oregon on January 3.  

9 Defining Plays of 2012 Season – #3 The Return

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3. The Return (October 27, vs. Colorado, 2nd quarter)

 

The Play: On 4th and 11, De’Anthony Thomas receives punter Darragh O’Neill’s kick and returns it 73 yards for a touchdown.

If you’ve been reading this series of articles, you may have sensed a common theme: the nine defining plays of the Oregon Ducks’ 2012 football season were chosen for more than how many jaws they dropped at the time, or how sharply they shifted the momentum in a given game.

For the most part, I’ve chosen these plays because of how they represent the season as a whole. Remember: defining, not coolest. However, there is a case that a play is so spectacular, so logic-defying, so “what on earth just happened” inducing, that I could not possibly shun it from the list.

And that would be what De’Anthony Thomas did to the Colorado Buffaloes. Oh, those poor, poor Buffaloes.

See, the game was already an absolute bloodbath. The listless Buffs entered Autzen Stadium 1-6 on the season, and really, they were even worse than the record indicated. Just over two minutes into the second quarter, Oregon already led 35-0, and Colorado, after an all-too-common three-and-out, punted the ball away, with Thomas deep.

Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas runs with blazing speed(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)
Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas runs with blazing speed
(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

All season long, opponents had often avoided giving Thomas a chance to return kicks and punts. However, in a game that had quickly become more of a learning experience than a competitive game, punter Darragh O’Neill kicked straight to Thomas.

First mistake.

The ball landed just past the Ducks’ 40-yard line, some 5 yards in front of a forward-charging Thomas. The ball skipped past Thomas, often a cue for the returner to back away from the ball and let the kicking team down it. Not De’Anthony. Just out of the reach of a Buffalo gunner, Thomas gathered the bouncing ball at the Oregon 27, and took a few more steps in the direction of his own end-zone before attempting to reverse field.

At the Oregon 18, the “Black Momba” stiff-armed a tackler clasped onto his legs, and broke free, sprinting to the opposite side of the field. By the time he paused to survey the field ahead, Thomas was at the Oregon 15, some 25 yards past where the ball had initially landed.

And then the fun really began.

Thomas cut right, then left, then forward to evade three Buffalo defenders with the help of his blockers, then actually started to sprint in the direction of the Colorado end-zone. Novel concept, eh?

From then on, it became a dead sprint to pay dirt. And nobody on the Colorado punt coverage team had any chance of outrunning the Momba. Thomas ran parallel to the right sideline for 70 yards, going untouched with the help of some voracious blocking.

Now, there’s no cheering in the press box. There is however, no rule against dropping one’s jaw – I sure did, as did just about everyone else in the box – as well as Autzen Stadium as a whole, and the city of Eugene, and the city of Boulder. By the time SportsCenter aired that night, you can rest assured that jaws across the country fell to the floor.

Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas walks down the sidelines(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)
Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas walks down the sidelines
(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

There is no logical reason Thomas should have scored that touchdown. By my estimate, he had to have run nearly 150 yards, including all his backwards and sideways travels. So, I could use the rest of this article to reflect on how Thomas’s return represents the athleticism of the Oregon team, or its creativity, or its sheer will to score.

But I won’t. Instead, I’ll just link the video of the return itself, when for some fifteen seconds, De’Anthony Thomas did something I have never seen on a football field – and likely will never see again.

Complete Chip Kelly Fiesta Bowl Press Conference

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Chip Kelly(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)
Chip Kelly
(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

With Christmas behind them, the Oregon Ducks arrived in Arizona on Wednesday afternoon to begin final preparations for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl next week.

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly spoke with media after arriving, addressing topics such as the rumors surrounding Kelly leaving for the NFL after this season, the Stanford loss and how the team has recovered, and bowl preparation.

Opening Statement:

“Our players got an opportunity, like our coaches at times, to go home for Christmas, so we’ve been off since the 22nd. I actually had an opportunity to go home, so it was pretty good. We tell our players every year, our goal is to spend Thanksgiving together, Christmas with our families and New Year’s together. So for the fourth year in a row they’ve done it. We’re excited to be here. There’s a familiarity for us as a group. About 50 of our players and our entire coaching staff was here two years ago (for the 2011 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game). Had a great experience. We’re practicing at the same high school, we’re staying at the same hotel, so I think that part of it will give us a little bit of an understanding of what’s going on. We know where everything is a! nd can point the younger guys in the right direction. We’re excited to get going. We’ll have a brief team meeting tonight and we start back in earnest tomorrow.”

Q: Has the team rebounded from the loss to Stanford?

A: “There’s not much you can do about the past. If you’re still thinking about what happened when we played Stanford, and we got beat by a real good team in overtime. We all know the rules of engagement when this thing started, and we’ve talked about it. If you lose in the regular season, there’s an opportunity that you’re not going to get there. We lost. We understand it. We make our own beds. We lie in them. We got ready to go. I think the way our kids responded and played the next week, in our next game, really told you what this team was all about. I think on that Monday after the Stanford game our kids understood what was at stake.”

Q: On whether he is interested in an NFL job?

A: “I’m coaching the Fiesta Bowl, and that’s where my sole attention is. That’s all I’ve always had my plan to do. I’m going to coach this team, and that’s it.”

Q: Are the rumors (about NFL jobs) distracting?

A: “It doesn’t bother me. It gives you guys stuff to write about, so I think you’re entertained by it. But because I don’t read it, it doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Q: Do you have NFL ambitions?

A: “My whole thing since I’ve been here is that I’m going to do the best job I can every single day. If that’s good enough that other people look at you sometimes, I don’t really care about that. I think too many people live in the future. We live in the moment. Our football team lives in the moment. I think how you’ve watch us play over the last four years, we’ve always lived in the moment. The only thing we can control is today. I’m always worried about today, always concerned about today. I’m going to get up tomorrow and try to replicate that again. Our whole thing about our football team is about being consistent, so if my approach was to look at what’s going to happen five years down the road, ten years down the road…it’s never been my philosophy, never will be my philosophy. I’m excited about a team meeting we’re going to have ! here in about an hour and a half, and that’s about it…My heart is to win the day, and that’s it. I know everybody wants to hear a different answer, and I know at times when I don’t give you guys the answer you guys want, then I’m being evasive. I’m not being evasive. My job is to coach the University of Oregon football team, and I love doing it. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

Q: Why arrive more than a week before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl?

A: “Because we gave them such a break at Christmas, we felt like this was what we had to do, because we weren’t going to fly everybody back to Eugene and then relocate for a day and then come back…I thought it was really important for our guys to get home for an extended period of time because we’ve had them since August 6. These kids haven’t had a break at all. Went through Thanksgiving. So we felt it was important for them to get the break that we gave them over Christmas.”

Q: Does your bowl prep stay the same every year?

A: “We’re pretty consistent…Our game plan’s been implemented, offense, defense, special teams, so now it’s just refining it, getting back. I don’t anticipate having any rust. They didn’t have enough time off to get it…We’ve been pretty consistent with this being our fourth BCS game.”

Q: Do your players take BCS games for granted?

A: “That’s never been our mentality, because we’re always a positive-looking operation and going forward. I don’t sense that from our guys, the kids that we coach. There’s still a youthful enthusiasm to this team. There’s 65 freshmen and sophomores that weren’t here two years ago. The one thing that I think is unique, especially in college football, is it’s turned over every year. There’s a bunch of guys coming in, so there’ll be a bunch of new faces…It’s a good mix. You never know, but I don’t think in anything in life you can take for granted. That’s the one thing you’ve got to really realize, and we try to teach as a teachable moment, is that these opportunities aren’t given to anybody. You’ve got to earn them, and I think our players understand that. They understand the pain after ! we lost to Stanford but know that we had a great chance to go to something else if we go out and played well against Oregon State, and I was really proud of how they played that week, so I don’t think they take it for granted.”

Stay tuned for continued Fiesta Bowl coverage from the EDN sports crew throughout the week as the Ducks prepare to take on the Kansas State Wildcats.

Pac 12 Preview and Predictions Week 11

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Last week Oregon and UCLA showed the nation why the Pac-12 title game could be a thriller if these two teams win out and face each other at Autzen stadium in December.

UCLA, USC, Oregon State, and Stanford all have a shot at playing in the Rose Bowl.

Arizona, Washington, and Arizona State are all 5-4 and a win this weekend would send them to the postseason. The Utah Utes, sitting at 4-5, must win two of their last three games against Washington, Arizona, and Colorado if they want to go bowling.

My predictions record (records begin in week 2 after the Utah vs. Utah State game)
Last week 5-1
Season 42-17

Ted Miller’s (ESPN) Record
Last week 4-2
Season 40-19

Oregon 69 Cal 13
The Ducks fly to Berkley to give the Cal Bears a beat down this week. In past years Cal has given the Ducks problems, but this is the worst Cal team of the Tedford era. Don’t expect this team to win any more games. There’s a good chance we won’t be seeing Tedford in the Pac-12 next year.

 

 

Oregon State 38 Stanford 27
Both of these teams have switched QBs. OSU has turned to Cody Vaz while Stanford has turned to Freshman Kevin Hogan. Hogan performed well last week against Colorado, but the Buffs are nothing like the Beavs. Cody Vaz’s QB resume is much more impressive than Hogan’s, and Vaz will lead the Beavers to victory in Palo Alto. This game will be close at first, but the Beavers will pull away in the second half.

 

USC 45 Arizona State 30
Both of these teams are in a downward spiral, but the Trojans are much better. The Sun Devils won’t be able to defend Marqise Lee and Robert woods. They don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Trojans either. The Sun Devil’s only hope is that USC comes out on the field moping after two tough losses. In the end the Barkley-Woods connection will win the game for the Trojans.

 

UCLA 65 Washington State 14
The Cougars host the red-hot Bruins in a game that is sure to help UCLA reach the Pac-12 title game. Washington State seems to be regressing and UCLA should be more motivated than ever to win big after thrashing the Wildcats. Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin will have a field day in Pullman.

 

Utah 30 Washington 21
This was a tough decision. Both teams are riding 2 game winning streaks, and both teams have their eyes on the postseason. Utah has the better coach, though, and I expect Kyle Whittingham to have his Utes ready for battle on Saturday. Washington’s offense has failed to score more than 21-points in FBS play, and the trend will continue against Utah, whose offense has scored 49 in their last-two match-ups.

 

Arizona 50 Colorado 10
The gods of Football have smiled upon the Wildcats and offered the Colorado Buffaloes as a sacrifice. Arizona was obliterated by UCLA last week, but the lowly Buffaloes provide an easy win. Arizona will use this game to regain their confidence, gain bowl eligibility, and tune up for a trip to Utah next week.

Pac 12 Preview and Predictions Week 10

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Oregon controls its own destiny. If they treat every game like a Super Bowl they’ll be competing in the BCS National Championship.

Last week Colorado became the first Pac-12 team to be bowl ineligible (you must be at least .500 by seasons end. This week Cal and Washington State are on the cliffs edge; one loss and they’re not eligible for a bowl game. I’m calling losses for both teams.

Last week Arizona pulled off big a big upset over USC (ya, I called it) and the race for the Pac-12 South division is wide open. Arizona, ASU, USC, and UCLA all have shot at the Pac-12 South title. This week both ASU and Arizona can insure their trip to the post season with a win.

As for Utah, their late season campaign to go bowling relies on the weakness of their remaining schedule. Utah must win at least 3 of its last 4 games (WSU, Washington, Arizona, Colorado) to go bowling. Since 3 of Washington’s last 4 games are on the road they have to learn to play football on the road if they want to go bowling.

My record
Last week 4-2
Season 37-16

Ted Miller’s (ESPN) record
Last week 2-4
Season 36-17

Oregon 56 USC 23
Oregon beat Arizona 49-0 and Arizona beat USC 39-36. Oregon’s defense is incredible and USC’s is mediocre at best. Matt Barkley has been inconsistant all season and Marcus Mariota gets better every week. Oregon has some of the best running backs in college football, while USC’s running backs are not producing. Oregon will dominate USC in every phase of the game. The men of Troy fall hard. Ducks win.

 

Oregon State 33 Arizona State 20
Both these teams need this win badly. ASU is on a downward spiral following the Oregon game and the Beavers still have a shot at the Rose Bowl, which they haven’t played in since 1965, if they can right the ship. Cody Vaz will be starting for the Beavers because of Mannion’s rusty and horrible performance last week. Both teams will play well, and Vaz will lead the Beavs to victory.

 

Arizona 40 UCLA 33
A blowout win over Washington, and a come from behind win against USC has the Wildcats hot right now. Can they sustain the heat? They’ve played incredibly well since their embarrassing game at Autzen. UCLA seems to have peaked in its thrilling win versus Nebraska. Can they regain their swagger? Not against Zona.

 

Washinton 30 Cal 14
Washington still hasn’t had a W on the road, but Cal is imploding. The Huskies got their best win of the year last week when they ruined the Beavers’ BCS hopes. They have the momentum and they’ve proved they can beat good teams. If they beat Cal on the road the Huskies could have an 8-win season. The one thing you can count on the Cal Bears for is lose to a team who hasn’t won on the road yet.

Utah 45 Washington State 21
Utah played one of it’s best games of the season last week and they need to bring momentum and their continual improvements to this matchup. Utah can’t slip up against a feisty Cougars team who made Stanford work for their victory. Utah’s home field advantage and growing talent will be too much for the cougars in the end.

 

Stanford 50 Colorado 21
ASU, USC, and Oregon have all scored at least 50 points on the lowly Buffaloes. Now the beleaguered Buffs return home to play Stanford, who will put 50 more on them. Stanford let WSU get a little too close last week (they only beat the Cougs by 7). Expect the Cardinal to be ready. Colorado should just skip preparing for Stanford and Arizona (next week) and get ready for a home game with Washington who hasn’t played well on the road.

Pac 12 Preview and Predictions Week 9

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All 12 teams will be playing this Saturday, and as the season marches towards bowl season you can expect to see the intensity and quality of the football games pick up. Right now only Oregon, OSU, and USC are bowl eligible. There is a good chance two of these teams could end up in BCS bowls.

Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State are all 5-2 and 1 game away from bowl eligibility, while Arizona (4-3) could still get to a bowl game with relative ease. Washington (3-5) and Utah (2-5) both have five losses, but their schedules have plenty of winnable games at the end of the year and they could still go bowling if they play hard.

Washington State, Cal, and Colorado have no chance of making it into a bowl game (Cal is 3-5 but they have to play both Oregon teams still, and they aren’t pulling any upsets). These teams will either implode or try and build momentum for next season with an upset or two.

My predictions record
Last week 4-1
Season 33-14 (starting week 2 without Utah vs. Utah State)

Ted Miller’s (ESPN) Record
Last Week 4-1
Season 34-13 (starting week 2 without Utah vs. Utah State)

Oregon 75 Colorado 6
I feel sorry for the Buffaloes. First USC at The Coliseum and now the Ducks at Autzen. Last week we saw Mariota run wild against ASU, but I don’t think Chip will want Mariota to risk his body against the lowly Buffs. This week Brian Bennett will finally put some scores up when he plays cleanup, after all, he led the Ducks to a blowout victory in Boulder last year.

 

Oregon State 45 Washington 27
In 2000 the Beavers’ only loss was a road game against the Huskies. It’s hard to believe that the Huskies could win this game, though. Although Washington plays much better football at home, the Beavers are a much better team than Washington. Period. The Beavs have proved themselves on the road at Arizona and BYU, and their offense is firing on all cylinders. The Huskies don’t stand a chance.

 

Arizona State 28 UCLA 24
This game is more important for ASU to win than UCLA. Last year, after getting beasted by the Ducks, ASU beat Colorado then lost the rest of their games. How will they react to last week’s humiliating loss to the Ducks? UCLA is a formidable foe who needs this win to make bowl eligibility. I expect Todd Graham to have his team ready for the Bruins, and the home field advantage will carry the Sun Devils to victory.

 

Arizona 38 USC 35
Can you say trap game? Next week is that showdown we’ve all been waiting for between the Ducks and the Trojans. The Trojans are coming off an easy win against the soft and cuddly Buffaloes. This week the Trojans travel to Tuscon to play the Wildcats. Did I mention the Trojans don’t look so great on the road? Although the Wildcats are 4-3, two of those losses came down to the wire against OSU and Stanford. Arizona leads the Pac-12 in total offense and Matt Scott is looking great at QB. I’m calling the upset.

 

Utah 35 Cal 27
Utah hosts the Cal Bears this weekend, who have been inconsistent all year. Who will show up? The Cal team that destroyed UCLA and nearly beat Ohio State, or the one that got beat up by Stanford? I like Utah in this game. Last week they had more offense than the Beavers, but they killed themselves with turnovers. Cal’s defense is nothing like OSU’s and I expect Utah to play much better this week.

 

Stanford 38 Washington State 10
It’s safe to say that Wazzu has no hope in this game. Stanford has played very well since losing to Washington (no shame in losing at Notre Dame). Josh Nunes is developing as a quarterback and the defense is stout. As for Wazzu there isn’t much good to say about them. They haven’t won a game since they beat a 1-win UNLV team. I’m sure coach Leach is excited for his senior class to graduate and shew them out of the locker room. Rebuilding WSU’s program has proven to be a formidable challenge. Stanford wins easily.

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