Notes of Note: Stanford-UCLA; Trojans Fading; Bears Down; Dykes Rising; Belt Belting; 49ers-Packers
Lots to comment on after a busy sports weekend.
Stanford-UCLA: A good college football game between two solid, flawed teams. The bottom line was the running game…on both sides of the ball. Stanford couldn’t run the ball and Stanford couldn’t stop UCLA’s running attack.
The Bruins rushed for 215 yards to Stanford’s 56. They ran 81 plays to Stanford’s 53 and controlled the ball for 37 ½ minutes to Stanford’s 22 ½. Yet the Cardinal was in it until the last few minutes, when UCLA scored to take an 11-point lead.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson out-dueled Stanford’s Tanner McKee, who was handicapped by the absence of three of his running backs.
DTR is a great athlete, passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, and running for 71 yards and another two scores. He’s not always as accurate as you'd like, but has improved significantly over the last two years.
DTR also showed the same type of courage Jake Haener did the week before in leading Fresno State to an upset 40-37 win over the Bruins. Barely able to stand because of hits on his hip and ribs, Haener threw the game-winning TD with 14 seconds left. DTR had to leave Saturday's game with a shoulder injury, but came back in to throw the game-clinching TD.
Karty’s Length: Stanford kicker Joshua Karty has a leg on him. Karty missed two 54 yard field goals—one hit the upright and one was inches outside the upright. Both had 65-yard distance.
Flying Farrell: Sophomore WR Bryce Farrell can fly. Stanford needs to get the ball in his hands more often. He had two receptions—a 52 yard TD and 27 yards on a swing pass.
Trojans’ Embarrassed: Changing coaches hasn't done much to improve USC's fading fortunes. The once formidable Trojans were thrashed by Oregon State 45-27 on Saturday night, as the Beavers racked up 537 yards on offense. It was OSU's first win over USC in Los Angeles since 1960. My, how the mighty have fallen!
Bears’ Down: Cal had its second "should've won" game of the season, falling to Washington 31-24 in overtime. The Bears out-gained the Huskies 457-326 and got an excellent game from quarterback Chase Garbers (30 of 41 for 319 and 2 TDs, plus 71 yards and a touchdown rushing), but squandered numerous opportunities. They came up short on a fourth and two, had a bad snap on a field goal attempt and ended the game by losing a fumble on the UW one-yard line.
Earlier this season the Bears lost 34-32 at TCU after inexplicably trying two-point conversions early in the game. If they had simply kicked PATs after each of their five TDs, they would've won the game 35-34.
Times have been tough for Cal since Justin Wilcox's boys went 7-5 in 2019 (with wins over Stanford, UCLA and Mississippi) and beat Illinois in the Redbox Bowl. Last season the Bears were 1-3 in a season marred by COVID cancellations, Fortunately, with upcoming games against WSU, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon State (not to mention Big Game), Wilcox has time to right the ship.
The Undefeateds: Let's hear it for some under-publicized 4-0 teams: Army, Baylor, Boston College, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, SMU, UTSA, Wake Forest and Wyoming. Boston College and Wake Forest are the best teams in the ACC, now that Clemson and North Carolina have each lost twice.
And yes, the two losses mean that Clemson won’t be in the College Football Playoff this year. Sorry, Dabo.
Dykes Rising: Speaking of SMU, former Cal Coach Sonny Dykes seems to have found a home in Dallas. The Mustangs (4-0) took down rival TCU 42-34 in the 100th Battle for the Iron Skillet.
Dykes’ teams have gone 10-3 and 7-3 the last two seasons (after starting 8-0 and 5-0). Unfortunately, in both cases, Dykes’ matador defense ultimately caught up with him. Hopefully this year, he can keep the momentum going.
NIL Woes: Four quarterbacks who reaped big NIL contracts from local and regional sponsors are having sub-par years—Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler, Miami's D'Eriq King, Clemson's DJ Uiagalelei and North Carolina's Sam Howell.
Belt Proves Us Wrong: A month ago we dissed San Francisco Giants' first baseman Brandon Belt, who has frustrated Giants' fans, including this one, for years. I've always felt Belt wasn't a clutch player. In 10 seasons prior to this one he'd never hit 20 home runs and averaged only 50 RBI's a year. He rarely came through with men on base; indeed, almost all of his homers were solo shots, and took a lot of called strike threes in clutch situations. And he was always getting hurt.
Well Belt has been on fire the last month. He had 18 homers at the time of our Aug. 23 column. He now has 29, despite missing six weeks of the season. Several of his recent blasts have come with men on base in critical situations. Since declaring himself team captain, he seems like a new man.
Then, on Sunday, Belt pulled another head-scratcher…trying to lay down a bunt in the eighth inning…and taking a 93 mile-per-hour fastball on his left thumb.
If you look up “injury-plagued” in the dictionary, there might be a picture of Belt. And sometimes it’s the result of his own poor decision-making. Why in the world would the hottest hitter on the team suddenly square around to bunt?
Hopefully he’s okay. The Giants need the “new” Belt in the final week of the season with the Dodgers still hot on their heels.
Niners-Packers: The typical Sunday night thriller. After Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers on what looked to be the game-winning touchdown drive, Aaron Rodgers moved the Packers into position for a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Garoppolo left too much time on the clock. Rodgers had only 37 seconds and no time outs left, but easily picked apart the 49ers’ injury-depleted secondary.
He’s definitely one of the best 10 quarterbacks in NFL history, but I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the new man-bun, hippie musician vibe.