ASU overpowered by Stanford in Pac-12 championship game

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State had two main goals in its rematch
against Stanford: Prevent the Cardinal from getting off to a fast start
and play better on special teams.

The Sun Devils did neither, and it cost them a shot at the Rose Bowl.

Hurt on defense by a slew of big plays
and errors on special teams, No. 11 Arizona State fell flat in the
Pac-12 championship game, losing 38-14 to No. 7 Stanford on Saturday
night.

“I really thought we were going to win. I
really did,” coach Todd Graham said. “We made mistakes
and it took us a little long to make adjustments.”

ASU (10-3) was able to beat
Arizona without leading rusher and scorer Marion Grice last week, but
had trouble getting much going offensively without him against the
Cardinal.

D.J. Foster accounted for 142 total
yards and two touchdowns before a knee injury sidelined him for most of
the second half. Kelly threw for 173 yards and touchdown and was unable
create plays with his legs against Stanford’s containment.

Arizona State gave Stanford good field
position because of mistakes in the kicking game while Zane Gonzalez
missed his first field goal in 19 attempts, likely sending the Sun
Devils to the Holiday or Alamo Bowl instead of Pasadena for the first
time since 1997.

“It was a tough loss,” ASU
tight end Chris Coyle said. “Everybody’s dream is to make it to the Rose
Bowl, but we’ve just got to pick up where we left of and get ready for
whatever bowl we get selected for.”

Stanford (11-2) raced out to a big lead
Sept. 21 in its first game with Arizona State this season and had its
way with the Sun Devils again early in the rematch, going up 28-7 early
in the second quarter. Tyler Gaffney, as he has most of the season, did
most of the damage, running for 133 yards and three first-half
touchdowns.

The Cardinal consistently gouged
Arizona State’s defense for big plays all night, racking up 517 yards,
including 240 on the ground.

Kevin Hogan kept the Sun Devils
off-balance, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown. Ty Montgomery added
a dash of versatility, catching a touchdown pass and running for
another score.

Stanford’s defense, its calling card
under David Shaw and Jim Harbaugh before him, was dominating again,
preventing Taylor Kelly from making big plays while holding ASU’s offense to 311 total yards.

After a seesaw ride into the Pac-12
title game that included a loss to unranked Utah, the Cardinal are
headed back to Pasadena after a dominating performance.

“This is our goal at the beginning of
each year,” Hogan said. “It is great to meet that goal, but we have one
more game to play.”

Stanford won the first meeting 42-28 by racing out to a big lead and holding a Sun Devils’ charge.

A lot happened in the 11 weeks since:
Arizona State won seven straight to clinch the Pac-12 South and Stanford
won the North despite losing twice.

The Cardinal got off to another fast
start in the rematch: Gaffney raced 69 yards down the sideline for a
touchdown that turned the raucous crowd inside Sun Devil Stadium nearly
silent.

The Sun Devils had a quick counterpunch
this time, scoring on their fifth play when Foster charged through up
the middle for a 51-yard touchdown, eclipsing Arizona State’s entire
rushing total (50) from the first meeting.

But Stanford followed with a series of body blows, churning out big plays behind its massive offensive line.

Gaffney scored on a 1-yard run after
Hogan hit Jordan Pratt on 35-yard pass. Montgomery scored on the first
play of the second quarter, racing in 22 yards on an end-around after
Hogan connected on a 42-yard pass to Devon Cajuste. A 29-yard run by
Anthony Wilkerson set up Foster’s third TD, a fourth-down dive that put
the Cardinal up 28-7 early in the second quarter.

“We said all week not to let them make
big plays and we didn’t do that,” ASU safety Alden Darby said.
“We gave up three bombs to let them score and that set the tone.”

Arizona State finally showed signs of
life late in the quarter, when Foster broke a tackle and turned a swing
pass into a 65-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 28-14.

The Sun Devils had a couple of scoring chances in the third quarter and came up empty.

Zane Gonzalez ended his school-record
streak of made field goals at 18 by missing a 31-yarder, and Stanford’s Zach
Hoffpauir came off the corner to stuff De’Marieya Nelson on
fourth-and-goal on Arizona State’s second attempt from the 1.

Stanford put it out of reach thanks to
another big play early in the fourth quarter. Hogan hit Cajuste on a
78-yard pass, then found Montgomery on a 24-yard touchdown throw to put
the Cardinal up 38-14, wrapping up a return trip to the Rose Bowl.