Stanford, UCLA Pac-12 title rematch a 'mind game'

Stanford, UCLA Pac-12 title rematch a 'mind game'

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) This week has been unlike any other in the 20 years Mike Gleeson has been Stanford football's video director.

Even though there's a tight turnaround between the Cardinal's 35-17 victory last Saturday at UCLA and the Pac-12 championship game rematch Friday night, Gleeson's typical task is simplified. All he has to do is add video from the first game and recalculate statistics to the preparation done last week.

After that, things get complicated.

``The staff, in a way, they have to shuffle the deck as if it didn't happen. Or did it?'' Gleeson said. ``How do you want to look at it? Do you want to change things? Do you want to keep things? Now we've got the mind games with UCLA. What did they show? What do we think they showed compared to what they'll do this week?

``Well, we have 11 other games. So we kind of know what they're about, just like they know what we're about. But did they show everything that they could against us? Maybe. Maybe not. That's the mind game.''

Call last week a dress rehearsal, although even that may be in question. Stanford will wear its black uniforms, helmets and shoes for only the fourth time. UCLA is expected to swap out those dark blue ``L.A. Night'' jerseys for its traditional white tops, gold pants and gold helmets on the road.

With the league title at stake, what else the eighth-ranked Cardinal (10-2, 8-1) and the No. 17 Bruins (9-3, 6-3) bring out of the closet for what could be a rain-soaked sequel at Stanford Stadium might not be so obvious. They will be the first opponents in major college football matched against each other for a regular-season finale and conference title game in consecutive weeks.

After the opener at the Rose Bowl, booking a return trip to Pasadena for ``The Granddaddy of Them All'' on Jan. 1 could be tricky. Both staffs lost a day of game planning and practice, and the preparation has everybody involved contemplating how to approach Part II.

``I cannot recall ever being in this situation before,'' UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ``I don't know that it benefits either team, or is hard on any team. It just comes down to going out on Friday night and executing. Any familiarity we have with them, they'll have with us.''

Stanford's video staff usually compiles highlights of about four games from when its opponent faced a team that mirrored what the Cardinal does, including last season's meeting if the opponent has the same coaching staff or style. In this case, last week's game stands for last season's game. Then producers send the videos and analytical reports to coaches and players through an application on their iPad playbooks.

``Our challenge is to make sure that we don't outsmart ourselves,'' said Stanford coach David Shaw, who won his second straight Pac-12 Coach of the Year award this week. ``But at the same time, that we are as diverse as we can be, to make sure that the things that we did positively, we've got to know that UCLA is going to come back and have answers for it. The things that they did positively, we've got to make sure that we fix those things that hurt us.''

The Cardinal controlled the first matchup in familiar, physical fashion.

Stepfan Taylor rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns and is 35 yards shy of Darrin Nelson's school rushing record of 4,169 yards (note: Stanford had previously said Nelson finished with 4,033 yards, however, in recent years the school started including bowl game statistics and did not originally add Nelson's postseason totals to its record books).

Kevin Hogan beat his third ranked opponent in his third straight start since replacing Josh Nunes at quarterback, passing for 160 yards and another score to help Stanford run away with its fourth victory in a row over the Bruins.

UCLA's Brett Hundley completed 20 of 38 passes for 261 yards and a TD with one interception while getting sacked seven times. Stanford, which leads the nation in rushing defense (71.3 yards), sacks (4.4) and tackles for loss (9.2) per game, held Johnathan Franklin - the Bruins' career rushing leader - to 73 yards on the ground.

``Both teams sort of see what the other teams are capable of doing and their tendencies, stuff like that.'' Hundley said. ``Both teams have that advantage.''

Things will not get any easier as the Bruins go for their first conference championship since 1998.

Stanford has won eight straight and 19 of its past 20 home games, with the lone loss coming to Oregon last season, then avenging that defeat with defensive domination in a 17-14 overtime win over the Ducks (11-1, 8-1) two weeks ago to secure the North Division tiebreaker. The Cardinal are riding a six-game winning streak and looking to win the league title for the first time since 1999 while advancing to their third different BCS bowl in as many seasons.

Rain started falling Thursday evening when the Bruins arrived on the quant Silicon Valley campus. A tarp covered the field at Stanford Stadium, and Mora and Shaw shook hands before posing for a ceremonial photo with the silver league title trophy inside the Cardinal athletic offices.

``I think the rain favors the team that executes the best,'' Mora said.

UCLA's repeat trip to the second annual Pac-12 championship game does come with at least one other noticeable difference. Last year, UCLA lost 49-31 at Oregon in lame duck coach Rick Neuheisel's weird finale - the Bruins had a 6-6 record and only advanced out of the South Division because crosstown rival Southern California was finishing a two-year postseason ban for NCAA violations.

This time, Mora had to face questions after the regular-season finale about whether he limited his game plan knowing the possibility of facing Stanford loomed. Both he and Shaw, who took Taylor out during the fourth quarter with the score lopsided against UCLA, said neither side seemed to withhold anything.

Of course, all agree each game is different.

``They've probably got some tricks up their sleeve that we didn't see,'' Cardinal outside linebacker Trent Murphy said. ``Everybody always says, `It's really tough to beat a team twice.' But as far as the positives go, every week you look on the tape, you see the mistakes you made and the things you wish you could've done better. The kind of moves that you see that were there after watching the film. You get an opportunity to correct those mistakes the next weekend.''


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


AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed.

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2019 NBA Draft: Lakers take De'Andre Hunter with No. 4, will reportedly trade him to Hawks

2019 NBA Draft: Lakers take De'Andre Hunter with No. 4, will reportedly trade him to Hawks

De'Andre Hunter is a Los Angeles Laker...for now.

The Virginia star and reigning ACC Defensive of the Year was selected by the Lakers with the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night. However, the Lakers will send that pick to the Pelicans in the agreed-to trade for Anthony Davis, New Orleans in turn reportedly trading it to the Hawks. Thus, Hunter likely ends up in Atlanta. 

If the trade goes through, Hunter will join a talented young Hawks core which already includes Trae Young and John Collins. He would bring a championship pedigree to the team, having just won an NCAA title with UVA this past season.

"Coming off a national championship, there's no better way to try to go into the NBA," Hunter told NBC Sports Washington during an interview for the I Am The Prospect series


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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

WASHINGTON -- Visuals can change everything.

It’s happened across sports in different fashion. An issue is discussed or dismissed until a troubling incident is brought to life via video in front of everyone’s eyes.

That breaking point on extended netting arrived for Major League Baseball after Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. pulled a line drive into the stands May 29. The ball struck a four-year-old girl. But, it was Almora’s reaction, as much as anything, which made the reality so stark. He was stunned and moved to tears. The player’s reaction amplified the incident to a level which forced something to be done.

Steps will be taken at Nationals Park to prevent such an incident. The team announced Thursday it will extend the protective netting up the foul line during the All-Star break. It will end just short of the foul poles. Washington has a good window to complete the work because it goes on the road following the All-Star break. The Nationals’ final pre-break home game is July 7. They don’t return to Nationals Park until July 22.

“As players, it's something that we've pushed for and advocated for years now,” Sean Doolittle said. “I think as you see exit velocities that have continued to increase and these new stadiums that are bringing fans closer and closer to the action, you're seeing balls go into the stands at really, really high speeds. It's really scary. Max broke his nose the other day on a BP pitch that was probably 50 mph and these balls are going into the seats over 100 mph.

“So, I think, hopefully, It's a way to keep fans safe while bringing them closer to the action. As somebody that watches the vast majority of games from behind a screen or chain-linked fence, I can promise you get used to it really, really quickly. It doesn't hinder your view at all. You think the most expensive seats in the stands, they're right behind home plate. People look through a net. I promise you-you can still see the game and after five minutes you don't even notice that it's there.”

Ryan Zimmerman called it a “no-brainer.” Trea Turner wants fans to be paying more attention, in addition to the netting.

“You only have to pay attention to small snippets of the game,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “I just want people to pay attention. You can’t block everybody off from a foul pop that goes over the net, that can still hit people. You’re not going to foolproof it.”

Netting in Nationals Park will be thinner than the current netting, according to the team. It will also have sections which can be raised pregame in order to allow players to interact with fans.

The Almora incident was referenced in a letter from Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner announcing the extension. The Nationals were also witnesses to an Eloy Jiménez foul ball in Chicago which struck a young fan in Chicago on June 11.

“Jiménez hit a line drive really hard foul and I saw a girl looking towards me -- I don’t know what she was looking at but was kind of looking in the outfield direction, hit her in the side of the face,” Turner said. “I heard it hit her. What sticks in my head is when I heard the ball hit her. Not good.”

Washington becomes the second team to announce a planned extension. The White Sox were the first.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Seattle on June 5 he didn’t expect league-wide changes in netting this season. Manfred cited a range of reasons from ballpark framework to fan objections. In 2015, the commissioner’s office recommended teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts. Three years later, that task was completed. The next steps have slowly begun.