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Shaw: Stanford's renaissance has only just begun

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Shaw: Stanford's renaissance has only just begun

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) As David Shaw addressed his Stanford players for the final time this season, a sense of sadness started to circulate around the room.

No more games. No more trophy celebrations. No more upsets, comebacks or any of the other thrilling moments that took place during the most sensational season in 40 years on The Farm.

``It was almost like, `Gosh, we want to play another game,''' Shaw said. ``These guys were such a joy to be with. We almost didn't want the season to end. Even though it ended in the Rose Bowl and everyone was really excited, it was almost like, `Man, we need to play again.'''

After a Pac-12 Conference title and the program's first Rose Bowl victory since the Nixon Administration, Stanford's players simply can't wait to take the field again - and their sights may be set even higher next season.

The Cardinal are in far better shape than last January, when Andrew Luck left to become the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick and several other starters departed along with the record-setting quarterback. But instead of taking a step back, Stanford sprung forward, finally toppling Oregon and coming within a victory - or a disputed replay - at Notre Dame from perhaps supplanting the Fighting Irish in Monday night's BCS championship game against Alabama.

Kevin Hogan is solidified at quarterback, and most of the Pac-12's top defense will return. Shaw, winner of two straight conference coach of the year awards, also turned down the NFL to sign a ``long-term'' deal at Stanford in December - though that didn't stop a few NFL teams from inquiring about his services anyway.

``There have been conversations,'' Shaw said, speaking by phone before heading back on the recruiting trail this week. ``But I think they all understand now that that's the reason we signed the contract when we did, to keep me out of that speculation to let people know I'm going to be at Stanford.''

The Cardinal have so much depth that Shaw expects to add only ``10 to 12'' recruits on signing day Feb. 6. Even a preseason ranking in the top five of The Associated Press poll is possible.

``We're not going to lose a lot of guys,'' Shaw said. ``We're bringing back a whole lot of guys.''

Middle linebacker Chase Thomas will leave the biggest hole on defense, though the Cardinal had such a legion of linebackers, playing time proved to be the only real problem at the position this season. Leading tackler Shayne Skov wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he will be back as a fifth-year senior, as expected, after defensive lineman Ben Gardner tweeted he'd return.

Running back Stepfan Taylor is set to graduate, and so is wide receiver and punt returner Drew Terrell. Tight ends Zach Ertz - who could be the top player taken at his position - and Levine Toilolo appear likely to forego their final year of eligibility for the NFL draft.

But there are several freshmen from what the program considered the best recruiting class in Stanford history who didn't play, or played sparingly, and could emerge quickly. Among those is running back Barry J. Sanders, who spurned his Hall of Fame father's alma mater at Oklahoma State to make his own mark out West, but injured his ankle in the fall and ended up redshirting.

With a doubt, though, Stanford is more settled on offense heading into next season because quarterback is no longer an issue. The strong-armed and quick-footed Hogan finished 5-0 - including beating four ranked teams en route to the Rose Bowl - since replacing Josh Nunes. He impressed so much that the only question now is how good he can be in his redshirt sophomore season.

``Is he going to be able to make that next step from an athletic kid to a true, legitimate threat as a passer and as a runner? Will he be a complete quarterback this year? We'll see,'' Shaw said. ``We know he has the ability to. Can he make that jump?''

The only other concern Shaw has is guarding against complacency.

Shaw received more than 250-plus text messages, emails and voicemails - and a hug from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - since Tuesday's victory in Pasadena. He called the response overwhelming, though in some ways it also was a bit unsettling.

For so long, Shaw heard so many consider the Rose Bowl ``out of reach'' for the rigorous academics university. Now that the Cardinal have accomplished the one goal Shaw sets every season, he doesn't want everybody celebrating the accomplishment too much.

After all, there are more games to be won, more trophies to hoist and perhaps even one more milestone to reach before Stanford could be considered a powerhouse to those who recognize only one accomplishment: a national title.

``Will coaches have to crack the whip to get guys motivated, or will we continue to be motivated even though we did win the Rose Bowl? Can we continue to push ourselves through success?'' Shaw said. ``We'll find out.''

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Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

On Saturday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals faced off against one of the hottest young teams in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was viewed as a marquee matchup and it certainly lived up to its billing with both teams battling in a tight, well-played game.

In the end, Toronto walked away as the 4-2 victors in one of their better wins of the young season, but not everyone left that game impressed.

A team that already boasted super-star talent Auston Matthews added John Tavares in the offseason as a free agent giving the Maple Leafs a formidable one, two punch at center. For most of the game, the Caps were able to shut down that center tandem.

Lars Eller was asked after the game how the Caps were able to keep the Leafs’ big stars in check and he indicated that perhaps Tavares and Matthews were not as formidable a pair as they had been made out to be.

“We’re used to playing against [Sidney Crosby] and [Evgeni Malkin],” Eller said. “Everything kind of drops from there so it’s not that special. It’s a good team like a lot of others. They’ll probably be a playoff team, I think.”

Not surprisingly, that quote caught Toronto’s attention, especially forward Nazem Kadri.

Per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Kadri called Eller’s comments “bulletin board material.”

With 12 points in seven games, the Maple Leafs currently boast the top record in the league. Toronto is far from perfect, however, and their defense remains a major question mark in whether this team is a true Stanley Cup contender.

But as to whether or not they are a playoff team? That seems like a pretty safe bet.

The Caps and Maple Leafs will meet twice more this season on Jan. 23 and Feb. 21. Both games are in Toronto.  

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Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Need to Know: Tandler’s Take—Dramatic improvement to Redskins rushing defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 16, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys.

Talking Points

A better 3-2

For the third straight year, the Redskins are 3-2 after five games. As you know, they did not make the playoffs after either of the last two seasons. But they are in better shape in the standings now than they were in 2016 or 2017. Last year they were in second place in the division, a game and a half behind the 5-1 Eagles. They were worse off two years ago as they were in third place behind the 3-1 Eagles and the Cowboys, who were 4-1. 

It’s still very early, but it’s better to be in first place nearly a third of the way into the season than it is to be in second or third place and being in a position where you have to chase one or two teams. 

Take it away

The Redskins had three takeaways against the Panthers—the fumble recovery on the punt, Josh Norman’s interception, and the fumble forced by Norman and recovered by Mason Foster. They did not give the ball away. The last time they got at least three takeaways without giving the ball up was on Christmas Eve, 2016 in Chicago. Perhaps not coincidentally, that is the last game in which Norman had an interception until Sunday. 

After being either even or in the positive in takeaway ratio in four of their five games this year, the Redskins are now tied for fourth in the NFL with a plus-four turnover margin. If they can stay on the even or plus side from week to week they will have a very good chance at being successful. 

Rushing D much improved

After finishing 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in 2017, the Redskins are currently sixth, giving up an average of 90.2 yards per game. The improvement has come even though they have faced premiere running backs David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Christian McCaffrey. They have allowed no more than 104 yards on the ground in any of their five games. Last year's opponents ran for 127 yards or more 10 times. Their defense will be tested on Sunday against the Cowboys, who average 147 rushing yards per game on the ground, second in the NFL. 

Looking in the mirror

When the Redskins take a look at the Cowboys they might feel like they are watching themselves. Both teams run the ball well, although Ezekiel Elliott is more consistent than Adrian Peterson. Alex Smith has better passing stats than Dak Prescott but both teams are in the bottom third of the league in passing yards. The defenses on both teams are strong. Washington is sixth in yardage allowed per game and the Cowboys are fifth. 

And both teams have started off the season alternating wins and losses. Dallas started with a loss to the Panthers then beat the Giants, lost to the Seahawks, won over the Lions, suffered an OT loss to the Texans and then thumped the Jaguars. It will be an interesting match up on Sunday.

The agenda

Today: Off day, no media availability

Upcoming: Cowboys @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Giants 12; Redskins @ Eagles 48

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