Turns out the biggest mistake of the first Saturday of the college football season was made even before the locals took the field.
Presumably in a drug-free state, ESPN GameDay analyst Desmond Howard picked No. 21 Stanford to win its first national title in 75 years.
It wasn’t so bad that David Shaw’s team, which struggled last season after three glorious seasons, sleepwalked through a 16-6 loss against unranked Northwestern on the road. The way the Cardinal did it was the eye-opener. They dropped four passes. They were guilty of unforced penalties. They were slow to the ball. Maybe they were stuck in Pacific time for the 9 a.m. (local) start. Whatever the case, their performance wasn’t what one would expect of a ranked team even this early in the season.
“(We) didn’t convert third downs, killed ourselves with penalties, self-inflicted wounds,” said quarterback Kevin Hogan, who misfired in his opening senior-year statement. “Can’t do it.”
Meanwhile, Cal and Sonny Dykes played it fast and loose in a 73-14 slugfest in Berkeley. The Bears could have named their point total against overmatched Grambling State, whose band never sounded better. Quarterback Jared Goff passed for 309 and three touchdowns in the first half, then left without a shower after establishing his very early Heisman Trophy candidacy. We’ll know a lot more about Dykes’ bunch when a revamped secondary is tested for the first time.
“Yeah, it was fun,” Goff told Balls. “Today was a good time. They’re not always going to be like that.”
Said Dykes, “You have to be able to put it in perspective, understanding the competition is going to get better.”
It’s not wise to make too much of one game this early, but in Stanford’s case, it can’t be dismissed, either. The rap against offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren is that he plays too close to the vest, and until the fourth quarter, it was more of the same. Better to take a page out of the Cal playbook — put the darn ball in the hands of your most gifted player and let him wing it.
HAYNE’S A KEEPER: As hard as 49ers coach Jim Tomsula tried to downplay the inevitable, it was fairly obvious days ago that Jarryd Hayne would open the season on the 53-man roster, which became official Saturday.
Sure, the 27-year-old Hayne is something of project right now, but his natural ability far outweighs his unpolished techniques. What the affable Aussie does bring immediately is physicality.
Hayne also is popular among his teammates, a fact not lost on Tomsula, who has emphasized team chemistry from the start.
“Jarryd brings a lot of excitement, a lot of toughness,” wide receiver Quinton Patton said. “Jarryd’s just an extremely good athlete, extremely good player, extremely good person. He belongs here.”
DOG BITES 49ERS: Shortly after Darnell Dockett signed with the 49ers last offseason, the veteran told a Phoenix radio, “They hit the lottery. They got themselves a dog ass player”
Well, Dockett got part of it right — he was a dog ass on the field and in the locker room, all right.
The 49ers cut Dockett, a move that saved them $3.25 million in cash and salary-cap space. Dockett came away with a guaranteed $2 million as part of the two-year, $7.5 million deal.
If Dockett re-signs with the Arizona Cardinals, one has to wonder if the 49ers got taken here. Dockett and the Cardinals reportedly were $500,000 away from a deal last spring, and now that he has a couple million in the bank, he can accept less to come back.
LIKE SON, LIKE FATHER: One would think Tom Brady’s father would stay out of the DeflateGate mess, especially after his son issued a written statement on the same day, but Pops couldn’t resist Friday.
In a KGO-AM interview, host Chip Franklin tore into Brady’s kid, calling him a “cheater,” “bad sport” and “big freakin’ baby.” And Tom’s daddy responded by calling the station and saying Franklin was “full of crap” and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was a “flaming liar.”
Franklin could have added “a poor winner like his father” to the list.
JUST ASKIN’: Not that it seems to matter much, but did Tom Brady compromise the integrity of the game with his alleged manipulation of footballs or didn’t he?
A’S PLAYER OF THE DAY: The Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell made history in a victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, when the 21-year-old became the first non-pitcher to bat ninth and hit two home runs in a game.
As you might recall, Russell was a key part of the trade that sent pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Smardzija to the A’s for all of 88 days last year.