By Kevin McGuire
When you have the same name of a famous football player, it can sometimes be difficult to live up to the name itself. Stanford running back Barry Sanders Jr. may not be quite like his more famous father, Detroit Lions Hall of Famer and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Barry Sanders, but he is coming into his own in the Stanford Cardinal uniform and making a name for himself. In fact, he would prefer you simply refer to him as Barry J.
Sanders currently is second on the Stanford roster in rushing with 157 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Now in his third season in the Cardinal offense and fourth year on campus, Sanders still is sharing the rushing spotlight with his teammates, Christian McCaffrey and Remound Wright; but Sanders has his moments that remind you he has some good genes in him. Last weekend in Stanford’s win over Oregon State, Sanders carried the ball seven times for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both were career highs for Sanders. The bulk of that rushing total came on a 65-yard run that will surely be added to his highlight tape in the near future.
“It happened so fast,” Sanders said Tuesday during a weekly press conference. “I don’t think the guy wrapped up very well. I tried a stiff arm, but I couldn’t quite extend it. The next thing I knew, I was in the end zone celebrating with my teammates.”
It was the kind of run that made his father so fun to watch. If you could not wrap up Barry Sanders, the odds were good he would use his fancy footwork to find room to break a big play, oftentimes reaching the end zone. The younger Sanders is not trying to emulate his father entirely, but sometimes you catch a glimpse of his father in his performance on the field. By this point in his college career, the elder Sanders was easily a household name. That may not be the case for his son, but Barry J. is pleased to see things coming together with his role on Stanford’s suddenly rejuvenated offense.
“Everything just came together as an offense,” Sanders said. “My goal is every time I go out there, I am going to try and make a play.”
Stanford took a hit in the first game of the season against Northwestern, but the last two games by the Cardinal have shown Stanford may be ready to make a run in the Pac-12 with the signature tough defense and an offense that appears to be on track. With Oregon looking vulnerable in the Pac-12, Stanford and Cal have each jumped out to good starts to change the outlook in the division entering October.
On Tap This Weekend
No. 24 Cal (4-0, 1-1 Pac-12) vs. Washington State (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
Cal looks to remain as the lone undefeated team in the Pac-12 North this weekend when they host Washington State. The Cougars will be playing their first Pac-12 game and look to avenge last season’s offensive shootout loss to the Golden Bears. Cal outslugged Wazzu, 60-59, last season in Pullman.
No. 18 Stanford (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) vs. Arizona (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
While Stanford may be ticking at just the right time, Arizona is a bit flustered and tied down by key injuries. Scooby Wright III is out for a few weeks with a sprained foot and quarterback Anu Solomon is recovering from a concussion suffered last week.
No. 7 UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) vs. Arizona State (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12)
The red-hot Bruins look to win a second straight game in division play this week when they host a struggling Sun Devils squad. Jeff Rosen has lived up to the hype as UCLA’s freshman quarterback and the Bruins are an emerging favorite in the Pac-12 because of it.
Sacramento State (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky) vs. Northern Colorado (2-2, 0-2 Big Sky)
It was a rough September for the Hornets, but they look to get back on track this weekend with a home game against Northern Colorado. Sacramento State leads the all-time series with Northern Colorado with a clean 9-0 record.
UC Davis (0-4, 0-1 Big Sky) vs. No. 13 Montana (2-2, 1-0 Big Sky)
Montana got the season off to a great start with a home win against defending national champion North Dakota State, but the Griz dropped two games in a row to Cal Poly and Liberty before evening its record last week. Montana leads the all-time series with a 6-0 record against UC Davis, who looks for the first win of the season.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.