Cardinal still has plenty to play for in the Big Game | News | Palo Alto Online |


Cardinal still has plenty to play for in the Big Game


In the locker room after last Saturday's 38-36 Pac-12 Conference football loss to Oregon, Stanford senior offensive left guard Joshua Garnett addressed the team. His message: Pick your head up. We've got a lot to play for.

"Here's a senior who wants to beat Cal, and wants to keep the Axe and wants to go to the Pac-12 Championship Game," said Stanford head coach David Shaw. "It wasn't panicked. It wasn't anger. It was exhorting his team to say, 'It's time to look ahead guys, let's go.' His words were very well received."

Though the message already was understood, senior receiver Michael Rector said it was vital for it to be reinforced.

"It was important for someone to come out and say that, so we weren't all sulking in the moment," Rector said. "It was definitely a disappointing loss for us, but it's important to move on because the past is out of our control. What we can control now is beating Cal and getting to that Pac-12 Championship and hopefully bringing a third one back for all the seniors.

"We all knew before that game what the season could have been, and still can be. Who knows? People were bummed about that, but they also know that at the beginning of every year our goal is to win the Pac-12 championship, and that's still in our grasp. It was important to flush that game and focus on the here and now and that's beating Cal, and keeping the Axe."

McCaffrey a semifinalist

Sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey has been named a Doak Walker Award semifinalist.

The Doak Walker Award was created in 1989 to recognize the nation's premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community. It is the only major collegiate football award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of his class.

McCaffrey is among 10 semifinalists. The three finalists will be announced Nov. 24, and will be flown to Atlanta by ESPN for the Home Depot College Football Awards, which airs live Dec. 10.

Past recipients include Stanford's Toby Gerhart in 2009.

McCaffrey broke two school records against Oregon, for his 2,418 season all-purpose yards and for his eighth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. His 241.8 all-purpose yards per game leads the nation. His 1,354 rushing yards are the fourth-highest season total in school history. Stepfan Taylor's 1,530 from 2012 is No. 3.

Hooper up for award

Stanford junior Austin Hooper has been named among eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's most outstanding tight end.

The finalists will be announced Nov. 24 and the winner will be selected Dec. 9, and presented with the award a day later at College Football Awards Show.

Hooper, a psychology major, has 26 receptions for 379 yards and five touchdowns.

Senior Bowl invites

Two Stanford players, Garnett and linebacker Blake Martinez, are among the first 19 players to accept invitations to play in the 67th Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 30.

Garnett, a human biology major, is on the Outland Trophy watch list and was a preseason first-team All-America by USA Today.

Martinez, a management science and engineering major, is the first Stanford player with back-to-back 100-tackle seasons since Jono Tunney in 1988-89. Martinez' 100 tackles are more than double the next-highest total of anyone else on the team.

Missing the Big Game

Starting cornerback Ronnie Harris, one of the team's inspirational leaders, will miss the Big Game because of an ankle injury suffered in the first half against Oregon. Shaw said Harris could return for the Notre Dame game Nov. 28. In his stead, sophomore Alameen Murphy will get the start.

Importance of the Big Game

"People talk about Oregon and USC for us being big games, but with Cal, no matter what the records are, it's going to be a dogfight from beginning to the end," Martinez said. "You have to know that if you get an opportunity to step on that field in a Big Game. And for the alumni, we're going in there letting them know that it's just as important to us as it is to them. Our class is undefeated against Cal and we want to keep that Axe at Stanford."

Seeing and listening

Saturday's game, which is sold out, will be televised nationally on ESPN and broadcast on KNBR 1050 AM and Stanford student radio KZSU 90.1 FM.

Facts and stuff

Stanford has faced Cal more than any other opponent, while also enjoying long-standing rivalries with USC (93), UCLA (87), Washington (86), Oregon State (82), Oregon (79), San Jose State (67) and Washington State (66) . . . Stanford's 60 wins over Cal are the most against any opponent . . . Stanford has won eight of its past nine games and 11 of 13 dating to 2014 . . . Under Shaw,Stanford is 4-0 vs. Cal, 35-9 in Pac-12 regular-season games, 28-4 at home, 14-5 in November, 12-1 coming off a loss, 24-7 when ranked higher than an opponent and 15-4 on ESPN.

— Stanford Athletics

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