Football Championship Game final: Stanford rolls past ASU to earn Rose Bowl bid
TEMPE, Ariz. – Stanford head coach David Shaw repeatedly said the Pac-12 Championship game felt a season removed from the Cardinal's 42-28 win against Arizona State on Sept. 21. But Saturday's rematch didn't feel much different.
The Cardinal got ahead early on and never looked back in a 38-14 win over the Sun Devils. To earn a Rose Bowl bid, Stanford turned to its best player.
Running back Tyler Gaffney was tripped up behind the line of scrimmage on the first snap of the game, but it was only fool's gold for the Sun Devils.
Gaffney gave his team a 7-0 lead on the next play by turning on the jets on an outside run down the left sideline for a 69-yard touchdown.
He finished with 22 carries for 133 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
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Arizona State returned the favor just a 1:32 later, scoring on a 51-yard touchdown run by D.J. Foster, who was the standout for the Sun Devils while backing up injured starting back Marion Grice.
But after Foster tied the game at seven, Stanford got methodical. It used another fine return by Ty Montgomery and a 35-yard strike from quarterback Kevin Hogan to receiver Jordan Pratt to set up a second touchdown run by Gaffney, this one from the 1-yard line. On the next Cardinal possession, Montgomery rushed for a touchdown on an end-around for 22 yards on the first play of the second quarter and Stanford had itself a 21-7 lead.
ASU failed where Graham was worried most heading into the contest – on special teams and thus in terms of playing with good field position. A 16-yard punt in the second quarter gave Stanford the ball at the Sun Devils' 37-yard line. That allowed the Cardinal to go ahead by three touchdowns by pounding in Gaffney's third touchdown of the game from a yard out on 4th-and-goal.
Graham said on Friday he wanted to keep Foster seeing time at his old role, which included playing at wide receiver. That paid dividends early in the game. After two defensive stops with Stanford's back at its own end zone, ASU scored a 65-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Kelly to Foster to bring the Sun Devils within two touchdowns – they went into halftime trailing 28-14.
The Sun Devils couldn't start the second half with a momentum swing. Zane Gonzalez missed a 31-yard field goal after a 10-play, 62-yard drive, and the Cardinal did what ASU couldn't, tacking on three points after eating up five minutes on an 11-play possession.
And where Stanford had showed success at the 1-yard line in the first half, ASU struggled to do the same in the second.
Midway through the third quarter and trailing 31-14, Arizona State used six minutes to drive 52 yards and to the goal line. But with two chances from inside the Cardinal 1-yard line, the Sun Devils failed to score. Backup quarterback Michael Eubank, a sometime-used red zone option for Graham, couldn't sneak it on third down, and at the 0.5-yard mark, running back De'Marieya Nelson also failed to punch the ball in for a score.
Stanford made ASU pay, adding another touchdown three minutes into the fourth quarter. Following the failed Sun Devils score, the Cardinal went 99 yards in just five plays capped by a 24-yard touchdown reception by Montgomery, his second score of the game.
Ultimately, the game came down to execution on the defensive side of the ball. Stanford recorded the only one turnover for either team when the game was already out of reach, and the Sun Devils were out-passed by 102 yards and out-rushed 104 yards.