NCAA

Stanford TEs Ertz, Toilolo to enter NFL draft

Stanford TEs Ertz, Toilolo to enter NFL draft

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Tight End University is graduating two more of its finest.

All-American Zach Ertz and fellow redshirt junior Levine Toilolo announced Monday that they would forego their final year of eligibility at Stanford to enter the NFL draft.

While the moves had been somewhat expected, the Cardinal's recent run of success - and the emergence of quarterback Kevin Hogan - made both consider returning for one more run at a national title.

``Kevin's special, man. All those guys coming back on defense, I think they're going to be one of the best teams in the country next year,'' Ertz said by phone. ``They're going to be really good. But at the same time, I have to do what's best for me and my family at this time. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.''

Luke Kaumatule and Devon Cajuste will be in the mix to replace both next season. Standout fullback Ryan Hewitt also has played tight end sparingly, and Stanford coach David Shaw said last week that tight ends have been his biggest focus in recruiting.

After all, the two are the latest Cardinal tight ends to head to the NFL.

Coby Fleener was drafted 34th overall by the Indianapolis Colts last year. Jim Dray (2010) is playing for the Arizona Cardinals and Konrad Reuland (2011) for the New York Jets.

``Stanford's had a lot of great tight ends for sure,'' Ertz said. ``Guys like Jim and Konrad really started it lately, and I'm just thankful to have been a part of it.''

Ertz submitted paperwork to the NFL to gauge where he could be selected. He's expected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick in April.

After playing in the Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl the previous two years, Ertz had a team-best 69 receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns while leading No. 8 Stanford (12-2) to the Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The Cardinal had not won the Rose Bowl since 1972.

Ertz delivered in the biggest moments of the year, too. He caught the tying touchdown to force overtime in a win at top-ranked Oregon, the winning score against No. 2 Southern California and a 17-yard reception on fourth-and-9 on the final drive of regulation against Arizona to rally Stanford from a two-touchdown deficit for an overtime victory.

The 6-foot-6, 252-pound Ertz starred at nearby Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif., where coaches convinced him to leave basketball behind and focus on football. Former San Francisco 49ers standout and four-time Pro Bowl tight end Brent Jones also helped mentor and mold Ertz into an elite blocker and receiver.

Back in seventh grade, Ertz hated football so much he wanted to quit. Instead, his mother, Lisa, convinced him to give the sport a chance- if nothing else just so he could see his full potential.

``I'd say it worked out all right,'' Ertz said.

Ertz plans to take the winter quarter off before finishing his degree in management science and engineering in June. He will train at California Strength in San Ramon, Calif., the same facility where former Stanford receivers Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu worked out before they headed to the NFL.

Toilolo's departure is based more on his potential than production.

He had 24 receptions for 393 yards and four touchdowns last season. He's not nearly as polished as Ertz, but at 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds, Toilolo's size is enough to make scouts salivate.

A native of La Mesa, Calif., Toilolo majored in science, technology and society. Toilolo, who also is on pace to earn his degree in June, released a statement thanking his coaches, teammates and professors for helping him reach his goals.

``To all of my teammates, I wish you all the best of luck next season,'' Toilolo said, ``and I look forward to being able to cheer for you guys during the National Championship Game!''

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.