Sans Skov, Stanford out to stop UCLA


Sans Skov, Stanford out to stop UCLA

STANFORD (AP) -- Stanford leads the nation in rushing defense, but maintaining that level of play could be difficult without star linebacker Shayne Skov.

The sixth-ranked Cardinal will be back in action Saturday night for the first time since losing Skov as they host UCLA in search of their 12th straight victory.

Skov is out for the season with a knee injury suffered in the second quarter of a 37-10 victory at Arizona on Sept. 17. Wildcats receiver Juron Criner was tackled and knocked into Skov's leg on the play.

The junior led Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) with 84 tackles last season to go with 7 12 sacks and was considered a potential high NFL draft pick.

"He's the emotional leader of the defense. You can't replace that," safety Michael Thomas said.

The loss of Skov is the first major challenge in front of first-year coach David Shaw, whose defense has allowed an average of 36.0 rushing yards through three games.

"It's a big loss for our football team, but we have great leadership on defense from players such as Michael Thomas, Delano Howell and Chase Thomas," Shaw said. "We've also recruited very well recently and now it is time for guys to step up."

Stanford should be tested Saturday since UCLA (2-2, 1-0) ranks second in the conference with 214.0 yards per game on the ground. The Bruins are the only school with two rushers in the Pac-12's top 10, with Johnathan Franklin averaging 75.8 yards and Derrick Coleman 74.8.

Any defensive shortcomings can be partially alleviated by Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck and an offense that has produced an average of 481.3 yards. Luck has eight touchdowns, one interception and 786 yards passing.

The Cardinal lost five straight meetings to the Bruins before Luck guided them to victories in his first two seasons. He has not needed to throw for big yardage in either contest, completing 11 of 24 passes for 151 yards and two scores in last year's 35-0 rout.

Despite that lopsided score, Franklin rushed for 73 yards on 11 carries for UCLA and has a 5.2 career yards-per-carry average in two games against the Cardinal.

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said that Luck is "unquestionably the best quarterback in the country."

Neuheisel was encouraged by his team's 27-19 road win at Oregon State in its Pac-12 opener last Saturday. Coleman rushed for 100 yards, and three other Bruins scored touchdowns on the ground.

"I know there are people who will say it wasn't this and wasn't that, but ultimately when you come away with a victory, you just feel like more is possible," Neuheisel added. "Our guys are energized. They're looking forward to this week of practice. There will be a bounce in their step. It doesn't mean any extra points on Saturday, but you can feel good things are on the horizon."

Neuheisel worked alongside Shaw in 2005 with the Baltimore Ravens, and recruited against Shaw's father, Willie, from 1989-91 while Neuheisel was a young UCLA assistant and Willie Shaw was Stanford's defensive coordinator.

"I battled his father years ago when I first broke into this business, and now I'm battling his son," Neuheisel said. "David has earned this opportunity, and I'm certainly pulling for him ... but not this week."

The Bruins have split their last eight games against top 10 opponents, including a stunning upset of then-No. 7 Texas on the road last year.

A hidden matchup to watch in this game could take place in special teams. Stanford's Drew Terrell is third in the Pac-12 in punt return average at 15.7 yards, while UCLA is yielding a conference-worst 19.2 yards per punt return.

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”

Kings look to get healthy with opener just days away


Kings look to get healthy with opener just days away

SACRAMENTO - All hands on deck. The Sacramento Kings open the 2017-18 schedule Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets at Golden 1 Center and it looks like they might do so with a full arsenal of players at their disposal.

Point guard De’Aaron Fox returned to practice on Sunday and then participated in the team’s annual Fanfest. If his dance moves are any indication, the 19-year-old’s back is feeling just fine.

Veteran George Hill tweaked his groin Friday against the Golden State Warriors, leaving his availability for opening night in question. Hill, 31, who has a history of groin injuries, was on the court Monday practicing and said he is ready to play.

“Everything is feeling good right now,” Hill said Monday following practice.

The only player who didn’t practice on Monday is rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic, who sprained his right ankle against the Warriors. According to head coach Dave Joerger,  the team is hopeful that the Serbian sharpshooter will return in time for Game 1.

“We’re still shooting for Wednesday for both of them,” Joerger said of Hill and Bogdanovic.

New look Rockets

The Rockets went 55-27 last season under head coach Mike D’Antoni, but that didn’t stop them from going all in during the offseason. With MVP runner-up James Harden already manning the backcourt, Houston added nine-time All-Star Chris Paul as their new starting point guard.

“Leadership, he’s a floor general,” Hill said about Paul. “Anywhere he goes, he’ll make a team better. We know they were already a good team without him, coming in with him is going to be a bigger task.”

It’s a new look roster and the expectations are huge for the Rockets. Houston averaged 115.3 points per game last season and led the league in both 3-point attempts and makes. This season, they also added two strong perimeter defenders in P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute.

It’s a huge test coming out of the gate for Sacramento. Following the contest against the Rockets, the Kings hit the road for three straight before returning to Golden 1 next Thursday to face DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Camp notes

With the season just around the corner, the Sacramento Kings made their final roster cuts on Sunday afternoon. David Stockton, Matt Jones and Reggie Hearn were waived, leaving the Kings with 15 rostered players and two two-way players in Jack Cooley and JaKarr Sampson.

Stockton, Jones and Hearn are all expected to join the Reno Bighorns of the NBA’s G-League.