Ray Ratto

Stanford must go on, knowing Oregon is better

587000.jpg

Stanford must go on, knowing Oregon is better

Andrew Luck in the Fiesta Bowl sounds a little anticlimactic, given the fantasies of those who worked so hard to contrive scenarii by which the Stanfords could play in the BCS championship game.

But based on what Oregon did to the Cardinal in its 53-30 kneecapping, the Fiesta Bowl is just and fair and . . . well, theres nobody to complain about it, anyway.

The Ducks did what they do, the way they do it, and in doing it just that way against the Cardinal in the verdant pasturelands of Stanford Stadium Saturday night, they showed the difference between aspirations and destinations.

Thats the thing about Oregon, head coach David Shaw said with the first sick smile of his head coaching career. You beat them when you make them do things they dont want to do, and to do that, you have to get up on them early, and you cant make mistakes.

They scored early, we made some mistakes tackling them on a couple of our long runs, and then after halftime, well, Chip (Kelly) is probably the best coach in the country at making a lot of subtle little halftime adjustments, and if youre behind, it just makes that much harder.

Put in more mathematical terms, Oregon won the first half, 22-16, and the second, 31-14. In short, the Ducks did what they do they got better. Their speed exposed Stanfords comparative deficiencies on the flanks, their power rush showed itself as Stanford was forced out of its running game, and Luck was belted and bounced as his receivers flailed against Oregons coverages.

This was, put simply, last years game. Oregon trailed, 31-24, at the half, made the Kelly adjustments, and scored four unanswered scores after the bands cleared to win by a strikingly similar score, 52-31. In short, Oregon was a point better this year, and Stanford was a point worse.

The damage to Lucks Heisman Trophy candidacy can not be measured, except by people who have no idea how much damage was actually done. It isnt like the field has raced up to meet him, and his inability to beat Oregon singlehanded should not be held unduly against him. True, he had only one tackle and no pass receptions, but theres only so many positions a man can play.

And thats the lesson that arches over this game. There is only so much anyone can do when someone else is faster, does better halftimes, and never trails. You sometimes have to take your beating with a grimace and dream of that parallel universe where those things are not necessarily true.

There were slight variables between the 2010 and 2011 games, of course, but the central theme was the same. Oregon may be the best second-half team in the country, and proved it against Jim Harbaugh a year ago and again against Shaw Saturday night.

Not even Luck, who threw for three scores but also threw two picks, one for Oregons last touchdown, could do what-ifs very convincingly. Or really, much of any remarks. Even when he said, It was obviously my worst game of the year, he was speaking accurately but also taking on a level of blame that wasnt his.

Luck was not going to beat Oregon by himself; for that, he would need running back Stepfan Taylor at his very best, but after 20 carries for 87 yards in the first half, he got the ball three times in the second because the game situations removed him from relevance. In the battle of tactical wills between the two teams, the Ducks had all the best of it, because they never trailed at any point, and forced Stanford to become the one-dimensional team Shaw was trying to make the Ducks.

Of such basic calculations are games won and lost, and with two full games of evidence in the books, we can say that this would be the outcome seven of 10 times, maybe even eight. Even with full health on both sides, Oregons gifts are more comprehensive, and it isnt just Kellys brain, but the arms, legs and torsos of his players.

So Stanfords season of dreams is now over. They cannot reasonably expect to win the Pac-12 North, are not likely to make the Rose Bowl, and will have find their bliss against California next week and Notre Dame the week after. Then maybe they get to play for, with all due deference to Brent Musburger, all the Tostitos.

Well, all the kind of old, crumbly, bottom-of-the-bag Tostitos. There will be no national championship game for the Cardinal, and that is the just result. Oregon proved it is better, twice, and under eerily similar circumstances. To be the king, you have to beat the king, and Stanford is not yet ready to be the king. The Cardinal can throw a hell of a party, but they will go from here to the end of their season knowing someone else will throw a better one.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

dray-ap.jpg
AP

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
 
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
 
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
 
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
 
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
 
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
 
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”