TEMPE, Ariz. — Stanford’s new football dressing room is ordered to David Shaw’s specifications.
The offensive line is the first position grouping as you enter on the left side. The defensive line is the first group on the right.
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“And that’s purposeful,” Shaw said after a 38-14 victory over Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship game at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.
“We don’t win games without those guys.”
No. 7 Stanford blew out No. 11 Arizona State with a large helping of “those guys.”
Brains and brawn. It may seem counterintuitive, but it has become the Cardinal way.
Surging halfback Tyler Gaffney, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns to lead Stanford to its second straight conference title and a Rose Bowl berth.
“It’s about toughness. Execution and toughness,” Gaffney said.
“That’s what we emphasize. That’s how we do it.”
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) put up its fourth straight 11-win season, a school record.
Stanford had only three 10-win seasons in program history before Jim Harbaugh started the get-tough program in 2007 following a 1-11 season. Shaw, who had been Harbaugh’s chief assistant, kept it rolling when his boss left for the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. Stanford, Oregon and Alabama are the only FBS schools to have 10-win seasons in each of the last four years.
“In a lot of games we have a size advantage, and we are going to lean on it,” Shaw said.
“Our guys love that. They love to be physical. We love to run the ball between the tacklers. We love the four-yard gains. It’s not exciting for some people, but we love the four-yard gains. It sets the tone for who we are.”
The 69-yard play worked Saturday, too. After colliding with quarterback Kevin Hogan for a 2-yard loss on the first play of the game and an illegal procedure penalty cost Stanford another five yards, Gaffney turned left end untouched, just stayed inbounds while tiptoeing down the sideline for the early score. His two shorter runs runs came in the second quarter, the second on a fourth-and-one play for a 28-7 lead.
The fourth-down play was the new Stanford.
Here we come.
What are you going to do about it?
“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. They did some good things.”
The victory was especially sweet for Gaffney, who watched Stanford’s 20-14 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin last season from the stands. He did not play football last year, opting to sit out a year to play minor-league baseball in the Pittsburgh organization.
After taking a few games to reacquaint himself this year, Gaffney took off. He has 1,156 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns in his last eight games. He has become a workhorse. He had 36 carries for 171 yards against UCLA on Oct. 19 and after that had 45 carries for 157 yards against Oregon, 24 carries for 158 yards against USC and 33 carries for 189 yards against Notre Dame.
“This is exactly why you come back. This is what you play for, for these opportunities,”
Gaffney said. “We were not going to let anybody take an opportunity to win a championship out of our hands.”
Stanford led 28-7 before D.J. Foster scored the second of his two first-half touchdowns, a 65-yard pass reception to make it 28-14 at half.
That made it a game, but not for long. ASU moved to the Stanford 13-yard line before stalling, and a 31-yard Zane Gonzalez field goal was wide right. The Cardinal got a field goal to make it 31-14.
ASU drove to the Stanford 1-yard line on its next possession, but running quarterback Michael Eubank was stopped for no gain up the middle and halfback De’Marieya Nelson was stonewalled off the right side. Stanford went 99 yards for the decider, scoring on a pass from Kevin Hogan to Ty Montgomery for a 38-14 margin.
Hogan had 277 yards passing. Montgomery scored on a run and a pass.
“Kudos to our defensive line, creating and establishing the line of scrimmage so we could make that play,” linebacker Shane Skov said.
“We were going to fight for every single blade of grass at that point.”