Stanford controls Pac-12 title game
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Stanford might have the smartest team in the Pac-12, at least by admissions standards. It certainly has the most physical team in the conference, as it demonstrated again Saturday.
Surging running back Tyler Gaffney rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns and No. 7 Stanford controlled both lines of scrimmage for a surprisingly easy 38-14 victory over No. 11 Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium to win the Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl berth.
"It's about toughness. Execution and toughness. That's what we emphasize. That's how we do it," said Gaffney, named the game's MVP.
Gaffney had a 69-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game and added two 1-yard scores in the first half as Stanford (11-2) won its second straight conference title with its fourth straight 11-win season, a school record.
Gaffney, who missed last season to play minor league baseball, has nine 100-yard games and 1,618 yards rushing this season. He has scored in nine straight games, with 15 touchdowns during that span and 20 this season.
"This is exactly why you come back. This is what you play for, for these opportunities,"
Gaffney said, adding the difference in the game was "our heart. We were not going to let anybody take an opportunity to win a championship out of our hands."
Stanford coach David Shaw said, "Tyler Gaffney has been the heartbeat of our offense all year. He sets the tone for us."
Wide receiver Ty Montgomery scored on a 22-yard reverse and a 24-yard reception as the Cardinal beat Arizona State (10-3) for the second time this season to stop the Sun Devils' seven-game winning streak.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for 277 yards and a touchdown against a defense geared to stop Gaffney. The Cardinal had 517 yards total offense to ASU's 311.
"They ran the ball. They did some good things. Yes, Stanford is extremely physical, the best offensive line we've played," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "Their defensive line really dominated the run game."
Running back D.J. Foster scored both Arizona State touchdowns, on a 51-yard run and 65-yard pass reception in the first half. Foster, who was making his second start of the season in place of leading rusher Marion Grice, left in the third quarter with an apparent left knee injury and ASU's offense was not the same thereafter.
Stanford opened a 28-7 lead on Saturday, similar to the 29-0 lead it had in the first meeting -- a 42-28 victory at Stanford on Sept. 21. The Cardinal led 37-9 in that game before Arizona State rallied in the fourth quarter.
"The first game, we stomped on them and they came back," Stanfortd linebacker Shayne Skov said.
"That couldn't happen. From the first time we played them, we emphasized finishing games."
Quarterback Taylor Kelly passed for 173 yards a touchdown for the Sun Devils, who will play in the Alamo or Holiday Bowl. The Alamo has the first choice between Oregon and Arizona State, and if the Alamo takes Oregon, the Holiday is contractually obligated to take Arizona State.
Stanford is 6-0 against ranked teams this season. Its losses are to Utah and USC, which were beaten by Arizona State.
Gaffney scored on his 69-yard run on the second play from scrimmage, but Foster countered five plays later with his 51-yard run to tie the score at 7. The scoring runs were career highs for both players.
Gaffney capped a 60-yard drive with his 1-yard run on the next possession, and Montgomery's 22-yard run on a reverse made it 21-7 on the first play of the second quarter.
Stanford took a 28-7 lead on Gaffney's run over right tackle on fourth-and-1 with 9:49 left in the second quarter before Foster's catch-and-run 65-yard touchdown with 3:52 left in the half. That was the Sun Devils' only first down of the second quarter.
Arizona State missed a 31-yard field goal attempt on its first possession of the third quarter and failed on two plays from the 1-yard line to turn the ball over on downs on its next.
Montgomery capped a 99-yard drive with his touchdown catch five plays into the fourth quarter to put the game away.
NOTES: Arizona State leading rusher, RB Marion Grice, who has 996 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns, missed his second straight game because of a lower-leg injury. ... Arizona State had its first 10-win season since the 1996 Jake Plummer/Pat Tillman Rose Bowl team. ... All three Pac-12 title games have been played at the home of the team with the best record -- Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State -- and conference commissioner Larry Scott expects that to continue. "I like the idea we'll feel confident we will have a good crowd," said Scott, adding that the geographical breadth of the conference does not lend itself to a neutral site. "I'd never say never, but for now I think we are on the right track."