Redskins

Stanford tops UCLA for Pac-12 crown, Rose Bowl bid

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Stanford tops UCLA for Pac-12 crown, Rose Bowl bid

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) After the final whistle blew, Stanford coach David Shaw lifted his arms in triumph. His players paraded around the field, and students came down from the stands to surround them from all sides.

So much for a transition year.

The post-Andrew Luck Era sure seems awfully rosy.

Kevin Hogan threw for 155 yards and a touchdown and ran for 47 yards and another score, helping eighth-ranked Stanford beat No. 17 UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night. The redshirt freshman won game MVP honors while leading the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl for the first time in more than a decade.

``The best thing about it, the only people that believed are the guys that are in that locker room,'' said Shaw, who has won Pac-12 Coach of the Year in his first two seasons since replacing Jim Harbaugh.

``The guys that we recruited, we recruited with those guys in mind. And I've said it a million times: If you can get enough tough, smart, motivated individuals in one locker room that like to win in everything they do, they like to be successful, they push themselves, they push each other, if you've got that kind of a locker room, you can beat anybody.''

Hogan's biggest highlight came in the biggest moment of the game.

As a defender barreled into him, Hogan hurled a 26-yard tying touchdown pass to Drew Terrell on third-and-15 early in the fourth quarter. Jordan Williamson kicked his second field goal from 36 yards with 6:49 remaining for the go-ahead score, lifting Stanford to its first conference title since the 1999 season.

Many of the sparse crowd announced at 31,622 rushed the field. Players, wearing their all-black uniforms, danced on the sideline and later carried roses - or stuck them in their mouths - as confetti flew from a stage erected on the field.

The Cardinal (11-2) will play the winner of the Big Ten title game between Nebraska and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

UCLA's Brett Hundley threw for 177 yards and a costly interception that set up a Stanford touchdown. He still almost brought the Bruins (9-4) back, but Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 52-yard field goal wide left in the closing moments of the disappointing loss.

Hogan completed 16 of 22 passes for a fourth win over a ranked opponent in his fourth straight start since unseating Josh Nunes at quarterback. After the Cardinal rolled past UCLA 35-17 last Saturday at the Rose Bowl, it took all 60 minutes to secure another victory in a rare rematch.

Scattered showers made the grass a bit slick, though the surface never seemed to slow down the Bruins, who ran for 284 yards with Johnathan Franklin (194 yards) leading the way. It was the most yards rushing allowed this season by Stanford, which yielded 198 in an overtime victory at Oregon two weeks earlier.

No matter.

The Cardinal did just enough to win their seventh straight game and advance to their third different BCS bowl in as many seasons. They have won at least 11 games each year, part of a run that began behind Harbaugh and Luck, and now has carried on with Shaw and Hogan.

Stanford had won 10 games only three times before in program history (1992, 1940 and 1926).

``It's been a good month,'' Hogan said. ``We've been playing well. Especially for me, just being able to play, it's been fun. The guys around me make it a lot easier than it looks.''

The Bruins made the final roadblock more difficult than expected.

UCLA converted a pair of third downs before Franklin burst through the middle for a 51-yard touchdown on the game's opening drive. He carried safety Jordan Richards the final 5 yards into the end zone.

Stanford answered quickly. Hogan ran 14 yards on a read-option keeper to convert a long third down, fullback Ryan Hewitt bulldozed through the line on a fourth-and-1, and Stepfan Taylor took a short pass 33 yards to within inches of the goal line. On the next play, Hogan faked a handoff and rolled untouched for the tying touchdown.

Taylor finished with 78 yards rushing to eclipse Darrin Nelson's school record of 4,169. Taylor, an outgoing senior, has 4,212 for his career.

Before the Cardinal offense even found their seats on the sideline, Hundley ran 48 yards and scrambled for a 5-yard TD to put UCLA back in front, 14-7.

With the Bruins about to go ahead two scores, Ed Reynolds intercepted Hundley's pass and returned it 80 yards to set up Taylor's short TD run.

Officials ruled that Reynolds, who has returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season, was tackled by Hundley short of the goal line and a replay challenge by Shaw was inconclusive. Reynolds moved into a tie with Oregon State's Jordan Poyer for the Pac-12 lead with six interceptions.

Williamson kicked a 37-yard field goal as the first half expired to give Stanford a 17-14 lead. Fairbairn answered with a field goal from 31 yards on UCLA's opening drive of the second half.

Franklin capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 20-yard TD run late in the third quarter. That gave the Bruins a 24-17 advantage and put Stanford on the brink of its first home loss this season.

Instead, the Cardinal came back in impressive fashion.

After shaking off the safety, Hogan heaved the long touchdown to Terrell just over the cornerback's head. Terrell caught the pass in the short corner and pointed to the poncho-wearing crowd.

``We knew we had to remain calm and play our style,'' Hogan said. ``We kept to it. We pounded the ball, got field position, got the TD to tie it.''

Stanford stuffed UCLA three-and-out and Terrell returned the punt 18 yards to the Bruins 43. That set up Williamson's tiebreaking field goal.

One last UCLA drive nearly sent the game to overtime.

Tight end Joseph Fauria caught a pass over the middle on fourth-and-7 and lateraled the ball to Jordon James to finish a 17-yard completion. That helped set up Fairbairn's field goal with 34 seconds left, and the kick never looked on target.

``There's a lot of tears and a lot of disappointment but I think they should be proud of what we accomplished,'' first-year UCLA coach Jim Mora said.

Stanford has won five straight against the Bruins, who were going for their first conference championship since 1998.

The crowd was the smallest at 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium since the Cardinal drew 30,626 against Sacramento State on Sept. 4, 2010.

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

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Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

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NBC Sports Washington

Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

I haven’t felt this way since my father passed last April. I’m not comparing the two, at all, but there were some similarities.

Rich Tandler had life experience. Few people accomplish what he did; total life reinvention. 

Think about that. 

After raising his two successful children and a lifetime in the restaurant business, Tandler created a blog. That blog became big enough to eventually become a full-time job, and over time, put him on television and send him all over the world. 

That’s wild. 

We get so caught up in the “startups” and “disruptors” from Silicon Valley that we missed a true internet success story in Rich Tandler. Our world has become extra cynical. The loudest snark wins, especially on the internet. 

Tandler didn’t trade in those currencies. 

He provided good, quality information. He provided insight and analysis from six decades of obsessing over a football team. 

And fans loved him for it. 

The outpouring from folks that read "Need to Know" or listened to the podcast has been incredible. I’ve been flooded with messages from people, and one overwhelming response is that while they didn’t really know Tandler, they feel like they did.

Well, I was lucky to know him pretty well. And his persona on air was the same way off air. 

Tandler helped me a in a lot of ways. I can be impulsive and have a temper, Tandler would calm me down. Whenever I had something important to say, news to break or a sharp angle of criticism, I would run it by Tandler first. Sometimes, maybe often, I would say too much, and he would reign me in. 

Tandler loved pointing out mistakes. If the universe gave honorary degrees for pointing out minor math errors in salary cap blog posts, Tandler would have a Ph.D. 

He was smart and he was sharp. Good natured but feisty. 

He could dish it out plenty in a media room full of alphas. And he literally dished it out; Tandler controlled all the plastic utensils and paper plates that every media member used at Redskins Park. When we were running low on forks, Tandler would put out some not too subtle calls to action. 

I think for a while he considered the podcast an annoyance, but somewhere along the way, we had a breakthrough. He realized its potential, and everywhere we went, listeners came up and told us how much they enjoyed it. 

That made an impact on RT. And seemingly overnight, he was all in. That’s when things really started to gain steam. Wherever I am in my career, Tandler played a huge role in it. 

But that kind of doesn’t matter now. We will keep the pod going but it will never be the same. Not better, not worse, but way, way different. Same thing with writing and TV. The show will go on, but it won't be the same. It will never be the same. 

In the hours since I learned of Tandler’s passing, I’ve done some reading. I drank a bunch. And I ended up landing on some YouTube videos. 

The one I kept going back to was Jimmy V’s famous ESPY speech. Before he died, Jimmy V implored us all to think, laugh and cry every day, and that would lead to a good, full life. 

If there was ever a dude that laughed, it was Rich Tandler. 

His belly laugh was contagious, and his wit was superior. There were the wacky Tandler’s Got Jokes, and the sly one liners about players, plays and our road antics. 

It wasn’t all laughter either. Tandler was smart as hell, and he was always thinking about new ways to present content for Redskins fans. 

Seriously, our organization employs an army of young and talented digital-first thinkers. And Tandler generated more web traffic than all of them. He constantly tried to figure out why people would read something, or the optimal time for us to drop a new podcast. 

Where I’m an idea guy, Tandler was all execution. I’m a terrible planner and constantly late. Tandler would be on time and busting my chops about our lack of schedule. It’s just how we operated. 

As for crying, Tandler didn't do it much. I did see him tear up from laughing a few times, and once because it was real windy when we were taping a segment and something got in his eye. 

I’m not much of a crier either. I’m glad that Jimmy V was, but it’s just not me. 

Thinking about Tandler though in the last 36 hours, there have been some truly hard moments. He was kind and gracious. A true gentleman. 

He never took personal shots at the team we cover, or their front office. Plenty do. He would certainly say when things were bad, and say it loudly. He was binary in a world full of context. 

He was a good dude. He was my coworker, my partner and my friend. 

And damn if it isn’t getting dusty in here all of a sudden. 

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."

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