TEMPE, AZ-Here’s five things we learned from Stanford’s 38-14 win over Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
With the win the Cardinal (11-2) secured their second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance and fourth-straight trip to a BCS game. They join Oregon and Alabama as the only schools to have 10 or more wins four-straight years.
1. Replay of the September Slumber: Stanford jumped out to a 29-0 halftime lead in their 42-28 win in Palo Alto back in September. The script played out similar Saturday when the Cardinal scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, three Tyler Gaffney touchdown runs and led 28-7 with almost ten minutes to play in the second quarter. Todd Graham stressed being physical at the point of attack and starting fast. The Sun Devil defensive front was gashed for 191 total yards at the end of the first quarter. You could see the desperation and pressing midway through the opening quarter. Stanford out-gained ASU 301 to 174 in the first half.
2. Nothing Special: One area of inconsistency for ASU (10-3) has been special teams and, much like in their week three loss to Stanford, it was an achilles’ heel again. “It’s been the most frustrating thing I’ve dealt with in coaching,” a dejected Graham explained. “That’s my responsibility…that’s absolutely unacceptable.” Whether poor kick coverage (Stanford started their first two drives of the game around their 40), shanked punts by Alex Garroutte (he had a 16 and 25-yarder) or Zane Gonzalez missing a 31-yarder which snapped a streak of 18-straight makes and killed momentum early in the third quarter it made the uphill climb even harder. Stanford, as expected, was nearly flawless.
3. Hogan’s Hero: Stanford junior quarterback Kevin Hogan isn’t Andrew Luck. He is a now two-time Rose Bowl quarterback whose leadership, decision making and savvy kept the Sun Devil defense on their heels. “He can make the big throws,” head coach David Shaw said after the game. “He could very well have been the [offensive] MVP of this game. He’s got ice water in his veins.” Hogan routinely converted key third downs and sent many of the 69,535 fans to the exits with his 24-yard touchdown to Ty Montgomery early in the fourth quarter. His performance 12-18, 277 yards and a touchdown overshadowed Taylor Kelly who, despite running for his life most of the night (he was sacked five times and pressured several others) played fairly well completing 17-25 for 173 yards and a score. He added 37 more on the ground.
4. Murphy’s Law: It was happy homecoming for former Brophy prep star and fifth-year senior Trent Murphy who finished with seven tackles (two for loss) and a sack. He was just one of a handful of Arizona players who played well. Tucson Canyon del Oro’s Blake Martinez had five tackles and former Centennial star Zach Hoffpauir stuffed De’Marieya Nelson on fourth and goal at the Stanford one to stall an ASU scoring drive. Lastly, All Pac-12 Second-Team performer Andrus Peat from Tempe Corona del Sol helped open holes for Tyler Gaffney’s 133-yard performance. It’s these types of in-state studs who Graham hopes to keep home in the coming years as he continues to build the program.”
5. Dead Roses: No way to sugarcoat this one. The slide from Pasadena to San Diego (Holiday Bowl) or possibly San Antonio (Alamo Bowl) is a tough pill to swallow after getting manhandled on your home turf in a game the “experts” predicted you’d win. Before the season most Sun Devil fans would have been quite pleased with ten-win regular season and Pac-12 South title but not when you get this close. Sun Devil nation got a cold dose of reality and Graham was out-schemed and out-coached by Shaw who had his team ready for the big stage and bright lights from the opening kick. The Devils were shutout in the second half.