Cardinal In Power: Team Deserves Roses
For the Arizona State University fans that thought this might be a close game, sorry Stanford’s not sorry. The Cardinal showed why it deserves the BCS bid and ticket to the Rose Bowl by beating ASU, 38-14, in the Pac-12 title.
Stanford’s elite performance — led by Pac-12 MVP Tyler Gaffney — was one of its best of the year. Here's what you need to know about the game.
Gaffney Does It Again
Saturday night was not even Gaffney’s best performance. His 22-carry, 133-yard, three touchdown performance against ASU was almost mundane. He had 22 carries, 145 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon State. He has rushed for more than 113 yards five times this year and surpassed the century mark nine times. He's also scored a touchdown in every game but one.
Gaffney played the essential role in the offense against ASU. He ran it well, despite the Sun Devils knowing he was coming. He established a dominant run game that opened up the deep play-action pass. Kevin Hogan connected on five passes of 20 yards or more to four different receivers. Those plays were thanks to Gaffney in large part.
Gaffney is the most consistent player in the Pac-12, not just on Stanford. He deserves the Pac-12 MVP honors.
Special Teams Still … Special
Stanford flummoxed ASU punter Alex Garoutte. He averaged 33 yards on four punts and ended up getting benched. The Stanford special teams also held ASU to only 4.6 yards per punt return and 18.6 on kick returns. There are three phases to football and Stanford does not overlook this one.
The hybrid wide receiver and running back that replaced Marion Grice, D.J. Foster, tore up the Stanford defense. He gave the team its only two touchdowns on a 51-yard run and a 65-yard screen pass. Stanford could not have seen this guy coming — literally. Stanford had trouble finding him during both those plays. He went untouched on the run and hid behind the bigger receivers on the screen pass. Foster’s game resembled Darren Sproles. ASU would be wise to use the sophomore in a similar fashion next season.
What The … Hogan?
I sing a tune of uncertainty for Hogan every week, but I must laud his performance against ASU. He showed amazing touch and chemistry when throwing to Devon Cajuste. He ran Stanford’s second scoring drive like a field general, passing with confidence and running for essential first downs. His 277 passing yards were his most against a ranked opponent in his career. He had a near-perfect passer rating of 214.3. If he can repeat that kind of performance, Stanford will be unbeatable in the Rose Bowl and during the 2014 season.
The seven men that Stanford put in the box were exceptional. The Stanford defense allowed only 311 total yards and 14 points — half of what they scored in the first meeting. Trent Murphy lead the charge by racking up seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. That’s got to be the equivalent of a triple-double in basketball. He also showed his versatility by playing upright as an outside linebacker and with his hands in the dirt as a defensive end.
Stanford will face No. 4 Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. It will be the Cardinal's second in two years. David Shaw is only the third coach to reach a BCS bowl in all of his first three years. NFL teams with head coaching vacancies have taken note.
Follow Henry on Twitter @McKennAnalysis