Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey lets play speak for itself

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

If you want to know how good Christian McCaffrey is at football, don’t listen to Christian McCaffrey.

Instead, place your trust in his head coach, David Shaw, who watched the sophomore running back amass a school record 389 all-purpose yards (192 rushing, 148 kick return, 49 receiving) in Stanford’s 35-22 victory over California last weekend.

“Offensively, and special teams-wise, has anybody seen a running back — I’ll say this, a football player, better than Christian McCaffrey this year? Tell me. Show him to me. I haven't seen anybody,” Shaw said after the game.

“We played a lot of night games, so we had a lot of time to sit and watch football. I have not seen anybody in America like this kid. He's truly, truly special. Kickoff returner, runner, receiver, blocker, he got a couple nice blocks today. The kid's just truly, truly special. And our guys know that and they take a lot of pride in blocking for him down the field because the guy makes special, special plays.”

That was certainly the case last Saturday, when the 6-foot, 201-pound sophomore corralled a screen pass, churned through a pair of tackles, cut back once, then twice, and crossed the field and into the end zone for a preposterous 49-yard score. Or, less than four minutes later, when he took a kickoff inside his 5-yard line and high-stepped down the right sideline, distancing himself from the pack with each passing stride.

“There goes McCaffrey! What a weapon he is!” ESPN play-by-play announcer Dave Flemming bellowed, as McCaffrey gallivanted untouched into the end zone yet again.

“Christian's a hard guy to tackle,” Stanford defensive end Brennan Scarlett said. “I know from experience in fall camp. It's hard to get your hands on him. And seeing what he does out here on Saturdays, he's an amazing player.”

You can count on Shaw, Flemming, or Scarlett to give you the honest truth.

Just not McCaffrey, the king of redirected credit.

“I know it’s so cliché, and I’ll say it a thousand times, but football is a very team game,” he said with a grin of the 389-yard night. “It takes all 11 guys to do it. I was just able to make some plays today, which attributes to all of us. So it was a fun football game.”

What about that kick return, where his speed nearly set fire to “The Farm”?

“Guys just got on blocks and stayed on blocks and made my job easy,” McCaffrey said. “I just ran straight, kind of like a track meet.”

McCaffrey didn’t do it all on his own, sure, but he deserves his share of the spotlight. The Heisman contender has 2,807 all-purpose yards in 11 games this season, second only behind Barry Sanders in college football lore. He averages 5.9 yards per carry, 12.2 yards per catch and 31.3 yards per kick return. Stanford has launched a website,, devoted to his various exploits; it features highlight videos, testimonials, bio boxes and statistics, enough cutbacks and stiff-arms to demand its own URL.

Though McCaffrey won’t promote it, his talent speaks loudly enough.

“We're very much aware of McCaffrey and his ability to impact the game,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Special teams, coming out of the back field, (he’s) obviously a very gifted runner. He is one of the elite players in college football, there's no question about it.”

The question, on Saturday, revolves around whether CFP No. 4 Notre Dame (10-1) can stop it. The Irish have allowed 12 runs of at least 30 yards this season, which ranks 108th nationally. Just last week, they surrendered a 67-yard kick return in a narrow win over Boston College.

If Kelly isn’t careful, McCaffrey will continue deflecting credit at Notre Dame’s expense.

“It's exciting because it's the next game, and it's a big game because it's the next game,” McCaffrey said of the regular season finale against Notre Dame. “And that's something that we always focus on, as I said before, and it will be an exciting football game.”

His words may not be exciting, but McCaffrey’s actions rarely disappoint.


Twitter: @mikevorel

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (5) scores a touchdown on a 49-yard catch against California during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)