Stanford wins a whole new way: With defense
PASADENA, Calif. — Stanford completed its third consecutive double-digit win season on Tuesday when it edged out Wisconsin in the 99th annual Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, 20-14.
To the casual observer, the Cardinal may have looked like the same team that appeared in BCS games in 2010 and 2011. But a closer look reveals this team won the Pac-12 in a much different fashion.
The 2011 Cardinal saw four offensive players chosen in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, including quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick. That team averaged more than 40 points and 450 yards per game and its average margin of victory was 30.2 points.
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Some expected the 2012 Cardinal's productivity to drop off but it didn't. Its strength simply flipped to the defensive side of the ball.
Although Stanford's 2012 team put 14 fewer points on the scoreboard each game, it also gave up four fewer points per game. Its average margin of victory? Just 13.3 points.
"It's not like we got tired about hearing about the offense, but we wanted to make a name for ourselves," junior linebacker A.J. Tarpley said following Tuesday's victory. "Nobody is going to get huge stats because of the way we play team defense. We have so many great players on this team that don't get as much respect as they deserve. But we really do take pride in our defense. We're not going to bow to anyone."
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The Cardinal found itself in tighter contests this year but came away with two more victories. They simply wore teams down throughout the course of games, and Tuesday in Pasadena was no different. Stanford held Wisconsin – a team that scored 70 points in its Big Ten Championship Game win – scoreless after halftime.
"No matter what an offense puts out there, we're just going to play defense and do what we do," senior linebacker Shayne Skov said. "We don't care. We'll do our job and let the pieces fall where they may."
Cardinal sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan, making just his fifth start Tuesday on the grandest of stages, said he relies on his defensive counterparts.
"After going against our defense all year, we know they're for real," Hogan said. "They played a great game and held them scoreless in the second half. We would have liked to have a wider lead but we trust our defense a lot."
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