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Cardinal hopes to have a senior day at Pac-12 title game

Stanford senior Peter Kalambayi will play a pivotal role in Friday's Pac-12 football championship game. Photo by David Bernal/

Juniors Bryce Love and JJ Arcega-Whiteside and sophomore K.J. Costello give Stanford a trio of high-level offensive threats.

It's seniors like Dalton Schultz, Daniel Marx, A.T. Hall, Jesse Burkett and David Bright who help make it all happen.

Jesse Perez/Stanford Athletics
The Cardinal (9-3) meets USC (10-2) for the Pac-12 football championship Friday at 5 p.m. inside Levi's Stadium and the 25 fourth- and fifth-year seniors on Stanford's roster, most in the Pac-12, will have a lot to say about the outcome.

Schultz and Marx are also effective weapons at Costello's disposal but their main concern is protecting Costello and opening holes for Love, right alongside offensive linemen Hall, Burkett and Bright.

Quarterback may be Stanford's deepest position, with fifth-year senior Ryan Burns and senior Keller Chryst combining for 19 starts in the past 25 games. Chryst rallied Stanford to a victory over Oregon State in his last start.

"When the chips were down Keller made the throws," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "With the game on the line he made the plays."

The three quarterbacks have combined to win 19 games over the past two seasons, including a bowl game.

Hall, Burkett, Bright, Schultz and Marx have also been there every step of the way.

"We're a veteran team who has won a lot of games," Shaw said. "We're still competing."

Defensively, seniors Harrison Phillips, Peter Kalambayi, Bobby Okereke and Joey Alfieri bring leadership, passion and energy to the field.

Phillips, who leads the team with seven sacks and 16 tackles for a loss and is second with 87 tackles, was named the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week twice this season and is Lott IMPACT Trophy finalist. He's named on several other watch lists.

Kalambayi has been on the Butkus Award watch list the past three years. He and Okereke each have four sacks and six tackles for a loss. Okereke is third in tackles with 84. Justin Reid leads with 88 tackles.

Alfieri, who moved to outside linebacker this year, has 34 tackles, two sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for a loss.

Kevin Palma, Jordan Perez, Mike Tyler, Alameen Murphy and Brandon Simmons are other seniors who bring a lot of experience and emotion to bear.

Perez is fourth on the team in tackles with 58. The other four have combined for 96 tackles.

Love, a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year award, the Maxwell award and the Doak Walker award.

He ranks second nationally, first among Power 5 running backs, with 1,848 rushing yards, averaging 8.6 yards a carry, which is higher than any previous Heisman Trophy winner. Love has scored 16 touchdowns and rushed for over 100 yards in 10 of his 11 games played.

"Every time he gets tackled, it kind of hits your heart because you know he's hurting," Burkett said. "It's inspiring and makes you want to go that much harder."

Love sees it a little differently.

"I feel blessed, injury or not, because I know things could be much worse," Love said. "I'm still able to run and cut and make moves and contribute for my teammates. I know they're working their hardest to make things happen, and it's only right that the running backs do as well."

Love has recorded a rushing touchdown of 50 or more yards 11 times this season.

"When you have somebody back there that's as explosive and talented as he is, it just makes you want to put in that little extra bit of strain because that one inch could be a touchdown," said Burkett.

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Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Go Stanford! Congratulations to all of these student-athletes who never gave up this season and won the Pac-12 North!

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