A.J. Tarpley, a former Wayzata football star, played a big part in Stanford upsetting previously unbeaten Oregon on Saturday night with five tackles and a key interception in Eugene, Ore.

Tarpley, who wasn't recruited by the Gophers when Tim Brewster was coach and had little contact with the university except for a unofficial visit, played in all 13 games last year, including seven starts, as a redshirt freshman. The 6-2, 238-pound linebacker finished third on the team in tackles with 57.

This year, Tarpley -- one of six Minnesotans on the Cardinal roster -- has started eight of 11 games and is seventh on the team in tackles with 42. He also has 4 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack, and a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

"We rotated a little bit at the beginning of the year, but then I took over the starting job, I think, the third game," said Tarpley, who is doing well in the classroom too with a grade-point average better than 3.0 at one of the nation's top schools.

It's hard to understand how Tarpley -- who won a Class 5A title for Wayzata in 2008 and was the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year in 2009 -- didn't get recruited by the Gophers.

"I had a couple unofficial visits but never got an offer, never was recruited by them. I didn't get many offers coming out," said Tarpley, ranked as the 62nd-best linebacker in the country while playing for Wayzata coach Brad Anderson, who continues to coach winning teams and develop Division I players. "It was mostly Central Florida, Kansas State and Stanford, they were the three that were the biggest in trying to recruit me."

Tarpley talked Sunday about how geared up the team was to go into Eugene in front of a one-sided crowd of 58,792 and hand top-ranked Oregon a 17-14 overtime defeat. The Ducks had averaged 54.8 points per game in starting the season 10-0.

"I mean, it was great. We came in there, to go into Autzen [Stadium] and play a great team like that, our defense held strong most of the game," Tarpley said. "Our offense got the touchdowns when we needed them and that's a huge win for us."

Oregon was a 20 1/2-point favorite to beat No. 14 Stanford. The Ducks had won 13 games in a row, the longest winning streak in the nation.

"We knew it coming in that we were the only people that believed we were going to win, the guys in that locker room, but that's all that mattered," Tarpley said. "We came in there with the mentality of us against the world and we wanted to prove a point to ourselves, to the nation, that we can be a great team. I think we did that."

Tarpley has played a huge role in the Cardinal's two biggest games. He had seven tackles, second on the team, in Stanford's 17-10 controversial loss at now-No. 1 Notre Dame earlier this season.

Also playing some for the Cardinal are two St. Thomas Academy products: Anthony Hayes, a sophomore defensive tackle, and Conor McFadden, a junior offensive lineman.

Offensive lineman Nick Davidson, the son of Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, is a freshman out of Eden Prairie who is being redshirted. The others on the Stanford roster from here are sophomore linebacker Torsten Rotto from Woodbury and sophomore kicker Spencer Summers from Minnehaha Academy.

Freshmen contribute

While there wasn't much of a silver lining to the Gophers' 38-14 loss at Nebraska on Saturday, it was encouraging to see some younger players step up when given an opportunity late in the game.

Coach Jerry Kill had made the decision to pull a number of starters once the game was out of hand and let some freshmen get more playing time on offense and defense.

That led to some nice production from true freshmen Andre McDonald at wide receiver and Alex Keith at defensive end.

McDonald finished with one reception for 26 yards in the fourth quarter, his longest reception on the season. He also drew a Cornhuskers pass interference penalty that set up MarQueis Gray's first touchdown run from 1 yard out.

Gray's second TD run, from 6 yards out, was set up by Keith's recovery of a Nebraska fumble, his first fumble recovery this season.


• One thing in favor of the Vikings upsetting the Bears next Sunday is the fact that the Bears play in San Francisco on Monday night. Then they will have the long overnight flight back to Chicago, not getting back until Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, the Vikings will be coming off a bye week, will be well-rested and will no doubt get injured players such as Percy Harvin healthy.

• The Gophers' most recent bowl game was the 2009 Insight Bowl, a 14-13 loss to Iowa State in Tempe, Ariz. There is a reasonable chance the two schools will end up playing each other again in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston.

• Kurt Rambis, the former Timberwolves coach who worked 11 years for Phil Jackson with the Lakers, reported on ESPN that Jackson was so sure he was going to be the Lakers coach instead of Mike D'Antoni that Jackson had called Rambis and other former assistant coaches to be ready to go to work as Lakers assistants on Monday. Rambis also spent time criticizing the team's owners for not hiring Jackson, who he said was ready to take the job.

• Umpire Fred Bryan of Minneapolis, field judge Jon Lucivansky of Rochester, field judge Dave Meslow of Mahtomedi, line judge Jeff Seeman of Chanhassen and line judge Michael Spanier of Sartell are local officials who work in the NFL. In Division I, the group includes Mike Cannon of Hutchinson, Rick Kruger of Edina, Matt Kukar of White Bear Lake and Steve Thielen of Burnsville. Kukar is the son of former longtime NFL official Bernie Kukar. Meslow is the son of Bob Meslow, a retired official who is the statewide supervisor of officials for the Minnesota State High School League.

• It's interesting to look at nbadraft.net and their projections for the 2013 NBA draft. There are three Minnesota-born players projected in the first round: Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, South Dakota State guard Nate Walters and -- projecting to be drafted before either of those two -- Alec Brown out of Wisconsin-Green Bay. A 7-1 center who played at Winona, Brown averaged 13.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a sophomore for the Phoenix last season.

• Gophers baseball coach John Anderson, assistant Rob Fornasiere and more than 30 players laid sod at the new Siebert Field on Nov. 10. The plan is to have the ballpark ready for opening day on April 5 against Ohio State.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com