NCAA

Fiesta finale for Stanford, Luck

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Fiesta finale for Stanford, Luck

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Fiesta Bowl has just about everything you could ask for from a bowl game: two of the nation's best teams, most explosive offenses and underrated defenses, ready-for-the-NFL quarterbacks and this year's best case for changing the BCS.

OK, so maybe there's no national title on the line. LSU and Alabama get that honor under the current BCS format.

Still, when No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Stanford play Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, it figures to be one of those can't-miss shows, the kind that leaves fans asking "Did you see that?" the next day.

"This is about as good as it gets right here," Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. "I'm pretty sure everybody around the country will be watching."

Might as well start with the quarterbacks. They are, after all, two of the most intelligent, mature and prolific ones out there.

PREVIEW: No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State

Stanford's Andrew Luck has been projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft almost since his days at Stratford High in Houston. Last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, he made it two straight just misses after returning for a stellar senior season.

Prototypically sized, deceptively agile and mature beyond his years, Luck tore through Stanford's record book almost as often as he did opposing defenses and improved his NFL-ready resume by calling some of his own plays this season.

"There is a reason why he is going to be the first player picked in the draft, because he is very good at what he does and he's had a lot of success the last couple years," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.

Gundy's quarterback is no slouch.

Weeden won't challenge Luck for the No. 1 pick, but he certainly could give the big Cardinal a run in the Fiesta Bowl.

Agile and accurate with a big right arm, Weeden came seemingly out of nowhere to pile up yards and touchdowns as a junior and continued it this season, putting together one of the most impressive two-year runs in Oklahoma State history.

He forced people across the country to learn how to spell his last name - it ends with "en," not "on" -- with his prodigious numbers and throws.

Weeden isn't mature beyond his years like Luck, though. He's just mature; a 28-year-old former professional baseball player who's married and doesn't get caught up by trivialities that might slip up younger players.

"He is great. He has put up numbers. He has done it winning," Stanford co-defensive coordinator Derek Mason said. "Any time you can do that, you put yourself in an elite category of quarterbacks. That's what he is."

Led by their two quarterbacks, Oklahoma State and Stanford have the kind of offenses that turn defensive coordinators inside-out at night trying to figure ways of slowing them down.

The Cowboys have arguably the most dynamic player in college football in Justin Blackmon, only the second two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver.

Oklahoma State also has a big, powerful offensive line and good balance, with running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith combining for over 1,800 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns. The Cowboys were second nationally in scoring offense at nearly 50 points per game and third in total offense with 557 yards per game.

So many weapons, but stopping the Cowboys begins with stopping their best player.

"You start with Blackmon," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "He is the best receiver in the nation. He is great after the catch. He is a big, physical kid. He makes tough catches look easy. As soon as his feet hit the ground to jump up to make a catch, he is at full speed. He is a difference maker. He is a game changer."

Luck makes the difference across the field, but the ironic thing is that for all the attention he gets, the danger in Stanford's offense is its ability to run teams over.

Behind a moving wall of an offensive line, the Cardinal have one of the best ground games in the country, averaging 207 yards per game. Stepfan Taylor was the team's leading rusher, becoming the third player in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in consecutive season with 1,153 this season, and there are four others with the ability to churn out yards, including the deceptively agile Luck.

Stanford ran the ball 54 percent of the time this season and had 2,495 yards rushing, third-most in school history, setting up Luck and the passing game.

"They never get tackled for the loss. They continue to drive their feet and move the pile,"

Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "They are a very patient offense from the standpoint if they can make 2 or 3 yards, they will try to get 3 or 4 more on second down, and then they will hit you with a play-action pass when you are sucking it up to play the run too much."

The final bit of intrigue is the it-could-be-us argument from a pair of teams that finished 11-1 -- the same record as Alabama, which earned the No. 2 spot in the Bowl Championship Series.

The Cardinal's lone loss was Nov. 12 to Oregon, which won the Pac-12 and is playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl earlier Monday. Stanford wasn't close to Alabama in the final BCS rankings, but could make a case for a spot in the title game if the system was different.
Oklahoma State can make an argument either way.

The Cowboys' loss, to Iowa State on Nov. 18, wasn't a particularly good one, but there were extenuating circumstances: The team was still reeling from the death of Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna in a plane crash the day before.

The computers don't look at why a team lost, only who it lost to, so the Cowboys finished third in the BCS, an agonizingly close .0086 behind the Crimson Tide.

"The system is in place. It worked out. We came up little bit short," Weeden said. "If you looked back and you said before the year started we wanted to go to the national championship, you probably thought we were crazy. But our goal was to go to a BCS game."

The Cowboys got there -- and it could be a doozy.

WNBA All-Star sues Cal over alleged sexual assault

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AP

WNBA All-Star sues Cal over alleged sexual assault

BERKELEY — Former California women’s basketball player and current WNBA All-Star guard Layshia Clarendon has filed a lawsuit against Cal claiming she was sexually assaulted by a longtime member of the athletic department.

The school acknowledged the lawsuit Wednesday night and said the staff member, Mohamed Muqtar, had recently been placed on paid leave. The assistant director of student services, Muqtar has been working for the university for just more than 25 years, the school said. An e-mail to Muqtar’s Cal email account was not immediately returned.

Cal said in a statement “the University is aware of the complaint, but has not received a copy of the lawsuit nor had the benefit of reviewing the allegations.”

Clarendon, who plays for the Atlanta Dream and was at Cal from 2009-13, posted on Twitter her thoughts about the lawsuit.

She said in three separate tweets:

— “Regarding the news today: I want the shame to not be my own anymore, because it’s not my shame to carry, but it’s something that I’ve had to carry. It’s a horrible thing to live in silence, to carry that pain and that weight and the guilt.”

— “My biggest hope is that he never does this to anyone else. That no one else has to suffer under his hand, or him violating their bodies again. That this would be the end of him assaulting people. #TimesUp.”

— “It feels there is a big level of responsibility there for me, to make sure this doesn’t continue. And he doesn’t continue to harm other people.”

Cal explained in its statement that this case goes beyond the athletic department for investigation.

The statement reads: “Our department policy states that once anyone in Cal Athletics is made aware of any instance or allegation of a violation of University policy involving a coach, staff member or student-athlete, those matters are referred to the appropriate departments on campus responsible for investigating them. Athletics does not have its own specific conduct process nor does it investigate allegations or cases on its own, but follows the University’s policy and works in concert with campus professionals who are responsible for those areas. All university staff are also required to complete sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training, and those programs have increased in recent years. Cal Athletics is and will always be committed to fostering a culture where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected. We encourage anyone who is feeling distressed or troubled to contact the PATH to Care Center and other campus resources.

“Layshia holds a special place in our history for her contributions to Cal women’s basketball both on and off the court and we are saddened to hear of the allegations that are coming to light today.”

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT

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AP

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- To add another championship to the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen, Alabama turned to its quarterback of the future, and Tua Tagovailoa proved that his time is now.

The freshman quarterback, who had played mostly mop-up duty this season, came off the bench to spark a comeback and threw a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith that gave No. 4 Alabama a 26-23 overtime victory against No. 3 Georgia on Monday night for the College Football Playoff national championship.

Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.

"He just stepped in and did his thing," Hurts said. "He's built for stuff like this. I'm so happy for him." The Tide might have a quarterback controversy ahead of it but first Alabama will celebrate another national title.

For the third straight season, Alabama played in a classic CFP final. The Tide split two with Clemson, losing last season on touchdown with a second left.

What was Saban thinking as the winning pass soared this time?

"I could not believe it," he said. "There's lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, `Don't waste the feeling.' They sure didn't, the way they played tonight."

Smith streaked into the end zone and moments later confetti rained and even Saban seemed almost giddy after watching maybe the most improbably victory of his unmatched career.

After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won it for the Tide (13-1) in the final seconds of regulation , Georgia (13-2) took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime.

Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama's first play of overtime, losing 16 yards. On the next play he found Smith, another freshman, and hit him in stride for the national championship.

Tagovailoa was brilliant at times, though he had a few freshman moments. He threw an interception when he tried to pass on a running play and all his receivers were blocking. He also darted away from the pass rushers and made some impeccable throws, showing the poise of a veteran. Facing fourth-and-goal from 7, down seven, the left-hander moved to his left and zipped a pass through traffic that hit Calvin Ridley in the numbers for the tying score with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter.

He finished 14 for 24 for 166 yards. The winning play was, basically, four receivers going deep.

"After the sack, we just got up and took it to the next play," Tagovailoa said. "I looked back out, and he was wide open. Smitty was wide open." Freshmen were everywhere for the Alabama offense: Najee Harris at running back, Henry Ruggs III at receiver, Alex Leatherwood at left tackle after All-American Jonah Williams was hurt. It's a testament to the relentless machine Saban has built.

But this game will be remembered most for his decision to change quarterbacks trailing 13-0.

"I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did," Saban said. "He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I'm so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable."

Saban now has six major poll national championships, including one at LSU, matching the record set by the man who led Alabama's last dynasty, coach Paul Bear Bryant.

This was nothing like the others.

With President Trump in attendance, the all-Southeastern Conference matchup was all Georgia in the first half before Saban pulled Hurts and the five-star recruit from Hawaii entered. The president watched the second half from Air Force One.

"I don't know how Coach Saban found me all the way in Hawaii from Alabama," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God he found me and we're here right now."

The Tide trailed 20-7 in the third quarter after Georgia's freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard touchdown pass that had the Georgia fans feeling good about ending a national title drought that dates back to 1980.

Fromm threw for 232 yards for a while it looked as if he was going to be the freshman star for the game, the first to true freshman to lead his team to a national title season since Jamelle Holieway for Oklahoma in 1985.

"I mean, if you want to find out about Jake Fromm, go ask those guys on the other side of the ball, and they'll tell you because that's a really good defense he just went against," Smart said.

A little less than a year after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, there was more pain for many of the local fans. Two years ago, Georgia brought in Saban's top lieutenant, Kirby Smart, to coach the Bulldogs and bring to his alma mater a dose of Alabama's Process.

Smart, who spent 11 seasons with Saban - eight as his defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa - quickly built `Bama East. It was Georgia that won the SEC this season. Alabama had to slip into the playoff without even winning its own division.

With the title game being held 70 miles from Georgia's campus in Athens, Dawg fans packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it turned out to be sweet home for Alabama and now Saban is 12-0 against his former assistants.

But not without angst.

Alabama drove into the red zone in the final minute and Saban started playing for a field goal that would end the game and win it for the Tide. A nervous quiet gripped the crowd of 77,430 as `Bama burned the clock. With the ball centered in the middle of the field, Pappanastos lined up for a kick to win the national championship. The snap and hold looked fine, but the kicked missed badly to the left.

For the second straight week, Georgia was going to overtime. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in a wild Rose Bowl in double overtime to get here, and after Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa for a big loss on the first play, Alabama was in trouble - second-and-26.

Not for long. Tagovailoa looked off the safety and threw the biggest touchdown pass in the history of Alabama football.