Hoffpauir shines in return to Stanford football team


After lengthy layoffs, two familiar faces made significant contributions for No. 8 Stanford during Friday night's 26-13 season-opening victory against Kansas State.

Fifth-year senior safety Zach Hoffpauir played in his first game since Dec. 30, 2015, against Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl. He played pro baseball last year after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Playing at nickelback and on special teams, Hoffpauir collected a game-high nine tackles, including eight solo.

"It was a ton of fun," said Hoffpauir. "I've played in quite a few football and baseball games on big stages. It was exciting for sure, but I felt calm and prepared."

Junior defensive lineman Harrison Phillips started at nose tackle after sustaining a season-ending knee injury last year in the opener at Northwestern. He was a force inside, registering one sack, one tackle for loss and batted down a pass.

Phillips felt little rust. On Kansas State's first offensive play, he stuffed running back Charles Jones for no gain.

Senior quarterback Ryan Burns held his own in his first collegiate start. He completed his first nine passes and hit 14 of 18 overall for 156 yards and one touchdown, and was not intercepted. He fumbled early in the third quarter deep in Kansas State territory after faking a handoff to running back Christian McCaffrey.

"That was on me," said Burns. "I tried to pull the ball back a little too late. We'll take care of it."

Burns was disappointed by the performance of the offense in the second half and knows there is room for improvement.

"We have to finish," he said. "We have a lot of film to watch these next few days. We'll take the win and move on to the next one."

Interceptions are point of emphasis for the defense this season and unit is off to a good start. Cornerback Quenton Meeks and safety Dallas Lloyd snared picks against Kansas State.

"Our focus during the offseason was to create more turnovers," said Meeks, who pilfered a team-high three passes last year. "We got two tonight and had chances for more. We'll keep working and getting better. That's what great defenses do."

It was a good night for Cardinal specialists Conrad Ukropina and Jake Bailey. Ukropina drilled a 50-yard field goal to give Stanford a 3-0 lead it never surrendered. Bailey averaged 46 yards on five punts and pinned the Wildcats with four inside the 20.

Bailey also boomed several kickoffs. The most impressive was in the first quarter after Stanford committed consecutive offside penalties on the kickoff, forcing him to tee the ball up at his own 25. Bailey's third effort reached the end zone, and the Wildcats started from their own 26.

"Not very happy about the penalties," said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. "But he's got a very, very strong leg."

In the fourth quarter, sophomore wide receiver Trenton Irwin downed one punt at the Kansas State 1 and another at the 2. It marked the first game -- high school or college -- he has played on the punt team.

"The coaches tried me out about a month ago and we had some fun with it," said Irwin.

Irwin, whom coaches and players say has the best hands on the team, also caught one pass for nine yards, and has a penchant for producing on third down. He said covering punts comes naturally.

"When it comes down to it, it's just a receiver move (release) and then catching the ball at the end," he said. "We'll see what happens with it."

Quarterback Keller Chryst, a Paly grad, threw the final block on McCaffrey's 35-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

"Anytime you've got a quarterback running down the field trying to pancake people, you know you've got a special team and a special bond," said McCaffrey. "Keller comes to work every day with his hard hat on ready to get after it."

Stanford has a bye next week, then plays host to USC at 5 p.m. on Sept. 17. The Trojans opened the season by losing to Alabama, 52-6, and entertain Utah State on Saturday.

At halftime of the USC game, 2016 Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame inductees Tony Azevedo '04 (men's water polo), Alicia Craig '05 (women's track and field), Dr. Patricia Cornett '76 (women's golf), Casey Jacobsen '03 (men's basketball), Amber Liu '06 (women's tennis), Shelly Ripple '02 (women's swimming), Steve Stenstrom '94 (football) and Toby Stevenson '00 (men's track and field) will be honored.

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