Running back Christian McCaffrey may not win the Heisman Trophy — after all, the kid is a sophomore and plays on the West Coast — but the Stanford do-everything refuses to make it easy on the voters.
McCaffrey totaled 389 all-purpose yards, including a 192-yard rushing night. These are numbers that should wow even the Heisman voter who was fast asleep when the game ended at 1:45 ET.
McCaffrey turned the Big Game into his personal showcase on Saturday night, when he burned rival Cal for 282 total yards — in the first half alone.
McCaffrey scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, and for Cal, both were killers. After the Bears had closed within 7-3 moments earlier, he caught a Kevin Hogan screen pass, broke or eluded four tackle attempts and zig-zagged his way to the end zone on a 49-yard score.
Less than four minutes later, after another Cal field goal, McCaffrey took the kickoff and raced 98 yards untouched down the right sideline to give his team a 20-6 lead.
McCaffrey started the day in the bottom half of most top 10 lists, but he gained ground on a few of the higher-ups, most notably Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State’s malcontent running back.
After the Buckeyes lost their first game of the season, Elliott whined that he didn’t get the ball enough and threatened to turn pro after the season.
“Honestly, this is my last game in the Shoe (in Columbus),” Elliott said. “I mean, there’s no chance of me coming back next year.”
Heisman candidate Derrick Henry played sparingly in gaining 68 yards but still scored two touchdowns, as Alabama cleared its bench early in a 56-6 rout of Charleston Southern.
NEW BUSH PUSH: St. Louis is known for Busch Stadium, but it’s the Edward Jones Dome that Reggie Bush still has on his mind.
Bush confirmed to Balls that he plans to file litigation over the freak injury that ended his season three weeks ago.
“It’s early in the process, but we’re headed in that direction,” said Bush, still perturbed about the whole ordeal. “It’s pretty frustrating. Just to get any injury is frustrating, but to get injured when it’s not between the lines, that’s very irritating.”
Bush tore a meniscus in his left knee when he slipped on concrete while he ran out of bounds on a punt return. Since then, protective padding has been placed on the area in question.
“Obviously, any time you have an injury and have to get surgery, it’s not a good thing. But it could have been worse. It could have been a lot worse,” Bush said. “[Surgeons] were able to put everything back together, so I didn’t lose any [body parts].”
Now the 30-year-old Bush faces up to six months of rehabilitation, which should never have happened at a time when player safety is a top priority in the league.
SIMPLY THE BEST: Add the Toronto Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson to the long list of players who passed through Oakland on his way to bigger and better things. He beat out the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout in a somewhat close race for American League Most Valuable Player honors.
There wasn’t much to choose from between Donaldson and and Trout numbers-wise. Donaldson ranked first in RBI (123), third in home runs (41) and second in WAR (8.8) in the league. Trout also hit 41 homers and was first in WAR (9.04) and first in peace.
The difference: Donaldson did much to change the culture of a Blue Jays team that captured the AL East title, something that didn’t interest the A’s organization.
“We tore down a lot of thresholds this organization has had,” Donaldson said. “For us to come out on top, I definitely think that helped (his cause).”
And if Donaldson hadn’t peeved off general manager Billy Beane and if Beane hadn’t taken it personally and made a really dumb trade, none of this would have happened.
WILL WORK FOR PUCKS: Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wasn’t behind the bench in Pittsburgh on Saturday night because of an undisclosed personal matter. Warriors consultant Steve Kerr was so bored, he volunteered to fill in for one night.
RAIDERS BEHAVING BADLY: Raiders goofball Ray-Ray Armstrong has been cleared of a felony charge for inciting a K-9 in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, but he’s not out of the woods yet. He still could and should be punished for the unnecessary security risk.
For Armstrong to go all Ray Lewis with his teammates before a game is one thing, but to pound his chest and woof at a bomb-sniffing dog is quite another. As if that wasn’t dumb enough, he dared the handler to release the animal, which could have been very bad for his health.
Too bad Armstrong isn’t as passionate in pass coverage, which he plays like a Chihuahua.
GEOGRAPHICALLY CHALLENGED: Not a soul has been calling the Warriors lucky lately, not even coach Doc Rivers and his Los Angeles Clippers, may they rest in pieces.
Now the talk has shifted to whether the Warriors can seriously threaten Michael Jordan, the 1995-96 Bulls and their record 72 victories in one season. After all, when you look at their schedule, it’s hard to find many opponents who can challenge Stephen Curry and the Champs — let alone beat them.
So Balls looked elsewhere and might have found the most formidable foe of all. It’s called Geography.
Balls doesn’t know who plays for Geography — Rand McNally, C.J. Miles and Kenny “The Jet” Smith, maybe? — or if it even has a nickname. What it does have is lots of potential to stand between the Warriors and history.
Warriors coach-in-waiting Steve Kerr played for the 1995-96 Bulls team, one that Balls also covered. We discussed the 70 wins thing a few times back in the day. Kerr told me the travel requirements would be a major deterrent for any challenger and he said much the same to general manager Bob Myers not long ago.
“[Kerr] said the travel for a coastal team is much harder, especially West Coast,” Myers said per KNBR Radio. “That’s an interesting point. He said Midwest travel is easier. I never thought of it like that. He said our travel is so much harder.”
How much harder? The Warriors will travel about 16,000 more miles than the 1995-96 Bulls this season, according to the Wall Street Journal. Their average trip will be 21 minutes longer.
The Jordanaires were required to make only three plane flights longer than three hours in their epic season. Only one was more than four hours, that from the Bay Area to the Windy City. The Stephenaires have 18 of at least three hours on their schedule, and 10 will last four hours or more.
The Bulls also had a distinct advantage in the Central Division, where they had short trips to Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis and Toronto and an even shorter bus ride to Milwaukee.
But can Rand McNally shoot the 3-ball?
THAT ’90s SHOW: Almost everyone has a favorite Big Game, and Stanford coach David Shaw had his in 1990, when the visitors scored a crazy 27-25 victory over Cal in Berkeley. He was a Cardinal redshirt freshman at the time.
Wait, let Shaw explain it …
“It was just two really, really good football teams with some really talented players. Glyn Milburn (196 yards rushing) and Russell White (177) had a battle all day. It was just phenomenal watching those two guys just make play after play.
“Ed McCaffrey had a phenomenal game, caught the touchdown that put us down by two [points]. Threw the ball to him on the 2-point conversion, didn’t complete it. The fans rushed the field. They cleared the field and assessed a 15-yard penalty before the kickoff for not controlling the crowd. Get the onside kick, try one pass to try to get closer for a field goal, incomplete, roughing the passer for 15 more yards then kick the game-wining field goal as time expires. It was a long time ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.”
A’S STRIKE IT RICH: The annual Billy Beane Bargain Binge has started with 35-year-old pitcher Rich Hill, who agreed to a one-year, $6-million deal on Friday.
After a stint in the minors, Hill posted a 2-1 record and 1.55 earned run average for the Boston Red Sox in the final month of the season. In 29 innings, he struck out 36 batters and walked only five.
If you guessed that Hill is left-handed, you are correct.
Anyway, figure Hill to stick around until the next trade deadline, when he’ll be among several A’s veterans traded for a second-tier prospect and a used glove to be named later.
THE LIST: Balls’ locks against the spread in Week 11 of the NFL season:
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-7 1/2): One of these days, Alice, the AFC East will produce some real competition.
49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-10): Something tells Balls that Blaine Gabbert and Shaun Draughn won’t be enough here.
Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons (-4): The Falcons have had two weeks to think about their clunker at Levi’s Stadium.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) at San Diego Chargers: The Chiefs are the best team in the AFC West right now. Which is kinda like being Miss Paducah.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7) at Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Sanchez starting for the Eagles over Tim Tebow? The football gods will be Bucs fans this week.
Last week: 1-4. Season: 31-19 (.620).
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