--- Our story in today’s newspaper looks at Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who leads the nation in all-purpose yards and has ascended into the Heisman Trophy conversation. An excerpt:
SEATTLE -- They lined up last week against Royce Freeman, the nation’s second-leading rusher, a tailback so talented that Huskies defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake called him the best in the country.
But it won’t be until Saturday night at Stanford that Washington will face a running back who many believe could be a Heisman Trophy candidate.
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Christian McCaffrey’s somewhat surprising ascension into the Heisman conversation is proof enough of just how far the Stanford Cardinal have come since scoring just six points in a season-opening loss to Northwestern. The Cardinal has scored at least 31 points in each game since, and averaged 48.5 points per game while compiling a 4-0 Pac-12 record en route to a No. 10 national ranking.
Those victories, of course, have something to do with McCaffrey’s growing Heisman profile. But it’s also true that McCaffrey, a 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore and the son of Denver Broncos All-Pro receiver Ed McCaffrey, is at the center of this offensive renaissance. He’s rushed for 844 yards on 130 carries in six games, scoring five touchdowns and averaging 6.5 yards per rush. And he has 16 receptions this season for 176 yards and a touchdown.
He returns punts and kickoffs, too, and ranks second in the Pac-12 with an average of 30 yards per kick return. Against UCLA last Thursday, he returned a kick 96 yards, broke Stanford’s single-game rushing record with 243 yards, and finished with 369 all-purpose yards — 10 yards short of another Stanford record.
So while Oregon’s Freeman might project more favorably to the NFL, McCaffrey could well be the most valuable nonquarterback in the league. His 1,518 all-purpose yards — an average of 253.0 per game — lead the nation.
“He’s a hell of a player,” said UW nose tackle Elijah Qualls, whose 6-foot-1, 311-pound frame will be tasked with clogging up Stanford’s formidable offensive line. “Kick return, receiver, tailback. Golly. Dude can do it all. That’s another dude we’re going to have to wrap up, man. We’re going to have to gang-tackle him.”
--- McCaffrey and Utah running back DeVontae Booker probably represent the Pac-12’s best chance at having a Heisman finalist.
--- Stanford receiver Francis Owusu is, predictably, receiving a lot of national attention for the ridiculous touchdown catch he made against UCLA last week.
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple