Roses redux! Stanford bedevils ASU for a 38-14 win and a second straight Pac-12 crown

December 9, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 9, 2013

I’ll freely admit it. I was nervous going into Saturday night’s Pac-12 championship game. Yes, Stanford had already beaten Arizona State — embarrassed them, really, by a 42-28 score — earlier this year.

But that game had been played under very different circumstances: In the friendly confines of Stanford Stadium, where the Cardinal went 7-0 this year, vs. 3-2 in away games, and near the beginning of the year, when the Sun Devils were still gelling as a team, and before Stanford’s tendencies and flaws had become glaringly obvious.

But now ASU was the host, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, where the Pac-12 South Division champions had matched Stanford with a 7-0 home record. And obviously, the prize at stake last weekend, a conference title and a berth in the 100th Rose Bowl, was much dearer than a chance to go 3-0, which was in the offing when the teams met in September.

So yes, I was nervous when the game kicked off. And no — although I thought Stanford might win a close game, I never expected that what happened would happen.

It started off like a shootout. On the second snap of the game, Tyler Gaffney ran around left end and went for a 67-yard touchdown. The host Sun Devils took less than two minutes to respond, with D.J. Foster rushing for a 51-yard touchdown of his own.

What followed was more or less classic Stanford football, 2013 style. Kevin Hogan found Jordan Pratt for a 35-yard completion. A few snaps later, the quarterback rushed for 12 yards and a first down at the ASU 12-yard line. Next up: Gaffney for five yards, a three-yard ASU offsides penalty, Gaffney for three yards, and, on first and goal from the Sun Devils’ 1-yard line, Gaffney with the touchdown. Score: Stanford 14, ASU 7.

The Sun Devils replied with a 12-play drive, but it stalled near midfield. Stanford, however, wasn’t finished scoring — not by a mile. Hogan connected with Pratt and Devon Cajuste (it’s nice to have him back, isn’t it?) for completions of 11 and 42 yards, respectively. Then Gaffney ran for 12 and Montgomery took a reverse 22 yards for yet another rushing TD. Now the Cardinal was up by a 21-7 margin.

And the hits kept on coming. The Cardinal defense forced ASU to go three and out, which resulted in a paltry 16-yard punt. On the second play from scrimmage, Anthony Wilkerson ran 29 yards to the ASU 9. Four T. Gaff carries later, the former minor league baseball player had his third rushing touchdown of the game, and the white-clad Cardinal led, 28-7.

ASU answered a few possessions later, when Foster took a short Taylor Kelly pass for a 65-yard score. The Cardinal tried to move into scoring position afterward, but the team used up its timeouts and was unable to attempt a field goal before the second quarter ended.

The game was still hanging in the balance coming out of halftime. But the Sun Devils came away with no points from their opening drive after a missed 31-yard field goal try. Stanford drove the other way with completions of 13 and 22 yards to Montgomery and 34 yards to Michael Rector, plus a 14-yard Gaffney run. Jordan Williamson came on to attempt a 30-yarder, which was good.

ASU was down only 31-14, but the ending was near. The Devils nickel-and-dimed their way to third and goal at the Stanford 1-yard line, but then Shayne Skov and Zach Hoffpauir stuffed ASU runs.

Hogan and company took the ball and marched downfield, covering most of the ground with a 78-yard gainer on a Hogan-to-Cajuste completion. The drive ended on a 24-yard touchdown toss that Montgomery corralled in the end zone near the start of the fourth quarter.

The score was Stanford 38, ASU 14, and it would stay that way. (ESPN showed ASU fans heading for the exits, which sent my eyebrows arching upward.)

Arizona State’s previously explosive offense was limited to just two touchdowns and 311 yards. (Kelly threw for 173; the Devils ran for 138.) The Cardinal sacked Kelly time and again — Trent Murphy, Joe Hemschoot, Jarek Lancaster and Henry Anderson each collected one, with a fifth sack credited to the team. Murphy had a second tackle for a loss, and Josh Mauro kicked in one as well.

Skov — who else? — contributed a game-high nine tackles, eight of them solo, while Murphy and A.J. Tarpley notched seven apiece. (All of Murphy’s stops were unassisted.)

On the offensive side of the ball, Hogan had perhaps his best collegiate game ever, despite losing a fumble. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 277 and one touchdown, an average of 15.4 yards per attempt. Gaffney earned game most-valuable-player honors by rushing 22 times for 133 yards and the trio of touchdowns. Cajuste’s two catches went for 120 yards, while Montgomery finished with five receptions for 69 yards and Pratt chipped in three grabs for 56.

The end result: Roses redux for Stanford, which will play Michigan State on Jan. 1, 2014, in the 100th Rose Bowl. (Stanford participated in the first Rose Bowl, too.) Despite the streaky offense, coach David Shaw has led the Cardinal to two conference titles for the first time since 1970-71.

What else can be said? We’re living in glorious times, Stanford football fans. We are living in glorious times.

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