A chance to play for title | November 23, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - November 23, 2012

A chance to play for title

Cardinal kicker ready for UCLA after beating Oregon in OT

by Rick Eymer

Jordan Williamson constantly wears his Fiesta Bowl hat to remind himself of the challenges of being a placekicker and that complacency has no place in football.

"I didn't know what it was like to miss in a do-or-die situation," Williamson said. "I didn't understand the situation until it happened."

He also understands what it's like to succeed in a do-or-die situation.

As last weekend's game at Oregon progressed, Williamson became increasingly aware that he may be called upon to attempt the game-winning field goal. He was ready.

"Every game I always hear from people that it might come down to me," Williamson said. "For some reason, a lot more people came up to me before the Oregon game said that, so I carried that mindset throughout the game."

When the game entered overtime, Williamson knew he would be called upon.

"It was my chance to help the team out," he said. "I felt good during warmups. I think I kind of redeemed myself."

Williamson's game-winning 37-yard field goal not only helped the Cardinal beat the Ducks, 17-14, in overtime but preserved Stanford's hopes of advancing to the Pac-12 championship game.

That hope could become a reality should No. 11 Stanford (7-1, 9-2) win at No. 15 UCLA (6-2, 9-2) on Saturday, in a game to be televised by FOX at 3:30 p.m.

Williamson stood out in Stanford's overtime loss to Oklahoma State in last year's Fiesta Bowl because he missed a relatively easy kick at the end of regulation. Pinning the loss on him alone was unfair, though.

"To see him have to go through so much undeservedly and then to see him get his shot at redemption was awesome," Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov said. "I was ecstatic."

As Williamson was taking the field for the attempt, Stanford coach David Shaw was over on the sideline, praying silently.

"I said a little prayer just for him," Shaw said, "that he would be able to relax and do his job. He stepped up and his swing was smooth. I don't even think we can measure how important it was for him. It was big. On that last kick he was in a zone and looking forward to it."

After the game, Williamson made his way to the Stanford rooting section, found his father and gave him a hug.

"He's always given me a huge amount of support," Williamson said.

Williamson didn't think of himself as a football player growing up. He was a soccer player and fooled around playing football at the middle school level.

"Kicking the football was OK but I was not high on it," Williamson said. "A friend of mine told the high school football coach to get me to kick. When he asked I said I would kick for the freshman team if I could still play soccer."

As he became more successful, he began to enjoy it more and ultimately kicked for the varsity that season.

Williamson credits Rocky Willingham for teaching him the technical aspects of placekicking, but it wasn't until he began attending camps run by kicking gurus Chris Sailer and Jamie Kohl where he drew major attention.

"That's where you compete against the best in the country," Williamson said. "It was more pressure."

Should the opportunity arise again, neither Shaw nor Williamson will hesitate.

The Bruins are also coming off a big win, handing USC its fourth loss of the year last weekend. They are no fluke under coach Jim Mora, who, like Shaw, has NFL experience and a famous coaching father.

"I admire what he has been able to do there," Shaw said. "Those kids are playing hard every snap, playing physical and making big plays."

UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin ranks sixth on the Pac-12 Conference all-time list with 4,110 yards. Stanford's Stepfan Taylor follows closely behind. He's eight yards away from 4,000 and could surpass Darrin Nelson (fifth all-time in the Pac-12) for the Stanford record with just 42 yards against the Bruins.

"His entire demeanor, everything about him says success," Shaw said of Taylor. "His attitude, his work ethic, his unselfishness . . . there's nothing he can't do from the running back position."

Skov, named the national Defensive Player of the Week, also will play a big role for Stanford. The senior middle linebacker said he had his best game mentally and physically he's almost there after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee 14 months ago.

"There's a point when a player just feels locked in," Skov said. "That was my state of mind. Getting the opportunity to to contribute and then have that success was satisfying. I felt good playing."

Senior tight end Zach Ertz, named one of three finalists this week for the John Mackey Award, continues his impressive season. He had a career-high 11 receptions for 106 yards, including a touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone that needed to be confirmed by instant replay. He also was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.

"He always finds ways to get open," Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan said. "He puts his body in a good position to catch the ball. We do a scramble drill with all the receivers and he does a great job with it during games. He makes it easy for me."


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