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Tag:Griff Whalen
Posted on: January 3, 2012 2:05 am
 

Blackmon, Luck go out with a bang in Fiesta Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



Justin Blackmon 
hadn't even left the University of Phoenix Stadium field yet. But there wasn't any point to delaying the inevitable; when asked as part of his postgame television interview if he had just played the final game of his outstanding college career, he answered straightforwardly. 

"I think I am going to go ahead and enter the NFL Draft," he said, "and see what happens after that."

We already have some idea what's going to happen "after that"--Blackmon will be selected among the very top picks in the Draft, sign a contract worth millions, and very likely go on to become an excellent professional receiver. But nothing Blackmon will do "after that" will better the excitement of what he's accomplished before that at Oklahoma State, where heading into Monday's Fiesta Bowl he had already rewritten the school's receiving record book and won a pair of Biletnikoff Awards as the nation's best receiver.

Likewise, we can already write most of the "after that" for Andrew Luck. The two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up is about to go No. 1 overall in the draft and has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Peyton Manning -- maybe even at the same franchise -- as the kind of superstar pocket-passing quarterback NFL dynasties are built around. But before that, there was three seasons of pure All-American brilliance in which his Cardinal set a school record for scoring all three seasons.

For both players, the Fiesta was the final night of "before that," the final game in the collegiate careers of two of college football's most blinding stars. So it was only appropriate that with the rare chance to square off against a star of equal caliber -- in a bowl that employs the sun in its logo, no less -- both Blackmon and Luck went flat-out supernova.

Blackmon's team won, but no one would have blinked if Luck had been named the game's MVP. His numbers were phenomenal, of course:  27-of-31, 347 yards (11.2 an attempt), 2 touchdowns. He went 8-of-8 in the fourth quarter, expertly managing drives both fast (the 63-yard drive over the final 2:35 to set up Jordan Williamson's ill-fated 35-yard attempt) and slow (the 13-play, 69-yard TD march that ate up 7:21 of the final period). 

But most impressive was the 10.0 degree-of-difficulty throws Luck uncorked with regularity. Passes like the one delivered to Griff Whalen in the second quarter -- an over-the-shoulder "bucket" throw to a receiver sprinting down the sideline, made with Luck moving to his right -- are referred to as "NFL throws," but we're not sure half the League's starters could make them the way Luck does. You could say Luck showed off "the complete package" against the Cowboys, but that doesn't do justice to how expansive that package is.

And still, Luck might have been the second-best player on the field. Blackmon finished with 8 catches for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, but again, the stats don't do justice to either his physical dominance -- one-on-one coverage was a lost cause for the Cardinal -- or his knack for making those catches at the best possible time. 

With the Cowboys reeling from a lost first quarter and a 14-0 deficit, it was Blackmon who pulled in a pair of lightning bolt scores (one 43 yards, the other 67) to get his team back in the game. Facing a 4th-and-4 at the Stanford 32 and his team down again late in the second quarter, it was Blackmon who caught a short pass and brushed aside two Cardinal tacklers to set up a first-and-goal (and eventual touchdown). Down seven again after a disastrous third quarter, it was Blackmon scoring to tie it (again) to start the fourth. And finally, 4th-and-3 on OSU's own 40 with under 3:30 to play and the Cowboys in "touchdown or bust" desperation mode, it was Blackmon who again abused his defender for 21 yards.

The 2012 Fiesta Bowl would have been remembered for a long, long time even without Luck's and Blackmon's fireworks; 41-38 overtime shootouts between two top-five teams decided by a heartbreaking field goal miss have a way of sticking around the game's collective memory. But what elevated the contest to stone-cold classic status was seeing two players of Luck's and Blackmon's historic talent both grab the same game by the teeth and refuse for 60 minutes -- and beyond -- to let go. It's maybe not fair to the excellent Brandon Weeden or Stepfan Taylor to reduce the game to a mano a mano battle between that quarterback on that side and that receiver on that side, but Luck and Blackmon didn't give us much choice.

And at the end of each of their respective times in college football, that's exactly how it should have been. "After that" will be interesting. But for a night, Luck's and Blackmon's shared "before that" was as good as it's possible to get.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 31, 2011 10:07 pm
 

Fiesta Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



A look at the key matchup that could determine the Fiesta Bowl.

Stanford WR Griff Whalen vs. Oklahoma State CB Brodrick Brown.

Stanford has a problem, and it's a big one: Chris Owusu is not coming back. The senior wideout and one-time kickoff return threat has suffered through a concussion-plagued final season in Palo Alto and won't be available against the Cowboys.

Losing a target of Owusu's caliber would be a big blow for any offense, but for one with as few weapons at the wide receiving position at the Cardinal, it's even bigger. Just three Cardinal wideouts finished in double digits in receptions, and one of those -- Ty Montgomery -- was a true freshman with 17. Owusu had 35. Meaning that the only remaining legitimate, proven threat at wideout is senior Griff Whalen, who finished with 49.

The issue is that Whalen's 49 receptions covered just 664 yards -- a less-than spectacular 13.55 per-catch average -- and accounted for just four touchdowns. Without Owusu, the Cardinal wideouts don't appear to have any way to stretch the field, and Whalen didn't seem to prosper without his fellow senior around to deflect coverage; in the two games after Owusu was sidelined for good against Oregon, Whalen totaled just four catches for 23 yards.

Though Stanford's tight ends are as good as any in the country -- All-American Coby Fleener has been the team's true deep threat all season, averaging better than 20 yards a reception and racking up 10 touchdowns -- Andrew Luck is going to need something more than that from his wideouts. Unfortunately for Whalen, it's not going to be easy to have a breakout game given the Cowboys' strength in the secondary. He's likely to spend most of the game dealing with Brodrick Brown, the Pokes' outstanding junior corner, whose team-leading five interceptions helped him to first-team all-Big 12 honors.

If Whalen can make some kind of headway against Brown, he can keep the rest of the Poke secondary from locking in on the tight ends, do his part to keep some space open for the clock-milking Stanford running game, and maybe even give Montgomery some holes to work in. But against a corner the caliber of Brown, that's going to take Whalen's biggest and best performance of the season--and without it, Luck may simply not have enough targets for the Cardinals to keep pace with the likes of the Cowboys.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 31, 2011 10:07 pm
 

Fiesta Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



A look at the key matchup that could determine the Fiesta Bowl.

Stanford WR Griff Whalen vs. Oklahoma State CB Brodrick Brown.

Stanford has a problem, and it's a big one: Chris Owusu is not coming back. The senior wideout and one-time kickoff return threat has suffered through a concussion-plagued final season in Palo Alto and won't be available against the Cowboys.

Losing a target of Owusu's caliber would be a big blow for any offense, but for one with as few weapons at the wide receiving position at the Cardinal, it's even bigger. Just three Cardinal wideouts finished in double digits in receptions, and one of those -- Ty Montgomery -- was a true freshman with 17. Owusu had 35. Meaning that the only remaining legitimate, proven threat at wideout is senior Griff Whalen, who finished with 49.

The issue is that Whalen's 49 receptions covered just 664 yards -- a less-than spectacular 13.55 per-catch average -- and accounted for just four touchdowns. Without Owusu, the Cardinal wideouts don't appear to have any way to stretch the field, and Whalen didn't seem to prosper without his fellow senior around to deflect coverage; in the two games after Owusu was sidelined for good against Oregon, Whalen totaled just four catches for 23 yards.

Though Stanford's tight ends are as good as any in the country -- All-American Coby Fleener has been the team's true deep threat all season, averaging better than 20 yards a reception and racking up 10 touchdowns -- Andrew Luck is going to need something more than that from his wideouts. Unfortunately for Whalen, it's not going to be easy to have a breakout game given the Cowboys' strength in the secondary. He's likely to spend most of the game dealing with Brodrick Brown, the Pokes' outstanding junior corner, whose team-leading five interceptions helped him to first-team all-Big 12 honors.

If Whalen can make some kind of headway against Brown, he can keep the rest of the Poke secondary from locking in on the tight ends, do his part to keep some space open for the clock-milking Stanford running game, and maybe even give Montgomery some holes to work in. But against a corner the caliber of Brown, that's going to take Whalen's biggest and best performance of the season--and without it, Luck may simply not have enough targets for the Cardinals to keep pace with the likes of the Cowboys.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 2:29 pm
 

Fischer's Heisman vote: RGIII, Luck, Moore



Posted by Bryan Fischer


Earlier this year, I was given the prestigious honor of voting for the Heisman Trophy for the first time. The award's illustrious history of selecting the country's most outstanding player has been well chronicled and I was happy to lend my expertise. As the weeks went by however, it became clear that this would be among the most difficult votes in some time - there was no runaway favorite like Cam Newton this year.

There did seem to be some resolution towards the end of the season but, in talking with other voters, it became clear that there was no easy pick. After sitting down and looking at stats, highlights and other things, who to vote number one became pretty clear. It was spots two and three (you only have three spots on your ballot) that caused me the most angst. Without further ado, my Heisman ballot and why I voted for them.

1. Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor

Like my colleague Bruce Feldman, it's difficult to wrap your head around the fact that a player from Baylor is the most outstanding player in college football. I grew up in Texas and it always seemed the Bears were the ones everybody scheduled for homecoming. Thanks to the Big 12 television deal they were rarely on television unless they were playing a major school. Baylor, for most college football fans across the country, was irrelevant before Griffin burst onto the scene.

During September, the nation was transfixed on what, exactly, RGIII was doing but figured he couldn't keep it up. The first three games he was completing 85% of his passes, had 13 touchdown passes and no picks and flirted with a touchdown-incompletion ratio that was unheard of. The opener against No. 14 TCU was Baylor's first win over a ranked team since 2004 and the signal-caller was the chief reason why. Many expected the close loss to Kansas State to end any hopes of him making it to New York but in the deepest league in the country (sorry SEC fans), Griffin won nine games despite the Bears defense being ranked in the 100's in most major defensive categories. Safe to say that without RGIII, the Bears would have been 3-9.

What sealed the deal for me was the game-winning drive to beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history and an efficient game against what was the 9th-best defense in the country at the time in Texas to end the year. It's rare for any player in the conference to beat both schools but RGIII did accomplish the rare feat. He finished first in the country in passing efficiency with what would be an NCAA record 192.31 rating, edging out Russell Wilson despite attempting 85 more passes. He also finished second in the country in total offense and led the nation in points responsible for.

In January, Griffin was invited to speak at the NCAA convention in San Antonio by new president Mark Emmert. He was lauded for his achievements outside athletics such as getting a degree in three years and beginning his masters' with sights set on law school not his backup plan to the NFL, but his primary one. The attention and applause were genuine on that chilly day at the convention, just as it should be Saturday in New York City when he likely accepts the Heisman Trophy. On and off the field this year, Robert Griffin III was my pick for the most outstanding college football player.

2. Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford

He was supposed to be a shoe-in for this award. For most of the year, it looked like he wouldn't lose the Heisman, even if he didn't necessarily win it. I saw Luck up close several times this season and can confirm that he's the best quarterback in college football. He throws on the run better than anybody, his pocket awareness is uncanny, he calls his own plays and - like RGIII - has taken a program lacking success and turned it into a winner.

The Cardinal are 23-2 over the past two seasons and that is almost entirely due to Luck. Unfortunately his worst game of the year came when he needed it most, against Oregon. Even then, he threw for three touchdowns and the team was in things for three quarters. The offense scored fewer than 30 points just once all year - against Notre Dame when they could have topped the mark had they tried - and was more balanced than any other in the country as coaches had no issues sticking to running the ball if it was working.

A lot of people turn the Heisman race into a stats race. Luck's were good (3,170 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, 9 interceptions) but didn't top others. The thing I always kept in mind was what he did given the talent around him. Sure he had a good offensive line, so did Trent Richardson, Montee Ball, Wilson and Griffin. Nobody, however, put up the kind of numbers Luck did throwing to three tight ends who didn't have separation speed and with his best wide receiver sitting on the sidelines the second half of the year. Griffin had the dynamic Kendall Wright, Luck had Griff Whalen. That was a factor in my mind.

By all measures, he was outstanding this season but fell just short of being the most outstanding player in college football. He put up more points against USC in that school's history (against some defensive coordinator name Monte Kiffin) and had he had good defense, might be playing for the national title. He is the only quarterback ever to go undefeated against USC and Notre Dame. Listen to head coach David Shaw state his case for the quarterback and you can't help but consider him worthy of this award. I couldn't put him above RGIII so Luck wound up second on my ballot.

3. Kellen Moore, quarterback, Boise State

For many seeing this, the thought is that I gave Moore the third spot as a career achievement award. I did not.

For most of the week leading up to voting I had a running back (Ball or Richardson) penciled in.  But before I was making my choices I looked again at what the diminutive but excellent quarterback had done this year. Statistically he was great: 300-of-405 passing (74%), 3,507 yards, 41 touchdowns and seven picks. I watched a lot of Boise State games this year (even the blowouts) and know that most of the numbers were accomplished in three quarters or less. A great season was hampered by the loss to TCU but it's safe to say that Moore did all he could game-in and game-out to lead the Broncos to another top 10 ranking.

Moore's best strength this year was spreading the ball around. He lost his two best receivers from last season but didn't lose a step despite several of his young pass catchers dealing with drops from time-to-time. The running game wasn't as good but Moore made up for it through the air. Were it not for a one-point loss to a good team, he'd be in New York this year.

There were three things that caused me to put the quarterback on my ballot ahead of others however. The first was just the way he played. He's good as much as every person in the country likes to knock him for the competition he faces. He'd be the best quarterback in most power conferences, easily, and can drop the ball in on downfield routes perfectly. Second, he became the NCAA's all-time, winningest quarterback at the FBS level. How is that not outstanding? There's no knocking a winner, which Moore rightfully is. Finally, as a starting quarterback Moore has never trailed by more than seven points his entire career. Never. The combined margin of defeat in his three losses total is just five points. Those are just jaw-dropping stats and a measure of someone who not only starts good but doesn't panic if put into a difficult situation.

Moore was great this season and if you sort through it all, you'd see that too.

Why I didn't vote for them (in the order I would have)

Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin: Ball was on my ballot for the stretch run but fell just short after considering Moore. He led the country in rushing with 1,759 yards and in scoring with 17.54 points per game. His 38 touchdowns is just one shy of Barry Sanders' record and more than 45 entire teams. It hurt that Russell Wilson was the man Wisconsin picked to campaign for earlier in the year but Ball without a doubt had a season to remember and was an outstanding college football player in 2011.

Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC: I wanted to put Barkley in my top three because he has not only been outstanding on the field leading USC back to the top 10, but he has been the face of the program that was put through the ringer. He set a school and conference record for touchdown passes in a season and tossed six TDs in a game twice. It was a season for the ages but he was hampered by a very slow start to the year, the Arizona State game and the head-to-head loss to Luck.

Trent Richardson, running back, Alabama: He was the best offensive player in the SEC and a great player who I'd want on my team in a heartbeat but I didn't think Richardson was the best running back in the country. He played only four games against schools with a winning record and faced just two defenses ranked in the top 40 against the rush. 46% of his yards came against North Texas, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Auburn and nearly the same percentage of his touchdowns came against those four defensive powerhouses. I get that he was hurt at times and shared carries; Richardson is a great player but just wasn't the best this season.

Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback, LSU: I love the Honey Badger - he's a game changer unlike any other in the way he forces turnovers and returns kicks. That said, he wasn't the most outstanding player on his own team (punter Brad Wing was) and wasn't even the best player in the secondary (Morris Claiborne was). His coverage skills were solid but not spectacular and had he not had two big games against Arkansas and Georgia to end the season, wouldn't have been invited to New York. The suspension during the season also played a factor.

Others under consideration: Case Keenum, Houston; LaMichael James, Oregon; Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State.

Posted on: October 8, 2011 10:40 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 48, Colorado 7

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WON. The highest ranked team in the Pac-12 at home against the conference newcomer with issues all over: pretty much the score one would expect coming in. Quarterback Andrew Luck put on a Heisman-caliber show that let the rest of the country know about all his new weapons in the passing game.

HOW STANFORD WON: Luck was efficient and sharp as usual, passing for 370 yards and three touchdowns (an interception hit Chris Owusu's hands but he deflected it to a Colorado defender). He probably would have broken his career high of 423 yards passing set in 2009 had he not been pulled early in the 4th quarter. Luck spread the ball around too, with four players having at least four receptions, led by Griff Whalen's 92 yards and a touchdown. The defense was tight as well, limiting Colorado's ground game all night and picking off Tyler Hansen once. All in all, a performance you expect from a top five team against the conference bottom-dweller.

WHEN STANFORD WON: It's easy to say the Cardinal won as soon as they got off the bus because they probably did. The opening kickoff was muffed but that was the rare mistake by the red-clad team on a cool Bay Area evening. The Buffaloes drove down to the Stanford 11 but stalled on their opening drive following the recovery. Will Oliver's field goal attempt was blocked and Max Bergen returned it 80 yards for a touchdown. CU scored a touchdown a few drives later thanks to two big screen plays but this one was over before it began.

WHAT STANFORD WON: Still undefeated at 5-0 and coming off a bye, Stanford didn't look rusty at all. They still look like they're on a collision course against Oregon in early November but they'll hit the road for just the third time this year against Washington State. The team extended their nation-leading win streak to 13 consecutive games, second longest in school history.

WHAT COLORADO LOST: Another Pac-12 game where they didn't give many hints that they could compete week-in and week-out this season. The defense allowed 545 yards and nearly 11 yards per pass as they had no answer for Luck and company. Tailback Rodney Stewart and the ground game couldn't get anything going.

THAT WAS CRAZY: The two teams haven't met since a 41-37 Stanford victory in 1993 when current head coach David Shaw played receiver in that game for the Cardinal.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com