It’s tried-and-true and the type of offense that Stanford runs under Head Coach David Shaw, and Jim Harbaugh before him.
While some high-powered teams like No. 2-ranked Oregon prefer the spread, the Cardinal rely on smash-mouth, run the football up-the-gut which has worked well in the past and did last Saturday against visiting Arizona State.
Stanford ran right, left and up the middle with authority behind a pulverizing offensive line that produced 239 rushing yards and also mixed in enough passes that resulted in a 42-28 Pacific 12 Conference victory.
The Cardinal led 29-0 at the half before the Sun Devils rallied to make it respectable. In the end, Shaw’s squad was too powerful up front and controlled the line of scrimmage.
Stanford’s 7-0 lead was made possible when defensive end Josh Mauro picked off Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly, and sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan hooked up with wide receiver Ty Montgomery (62 yards on four receptions) on a 17-yard pass and 9:08 left in the first quarter.
About seven minutes later running back Tyler Gaffney (19 carries for 95 yards) capped a 90-yard, nine-play trek and scored from a yard out that made it 13-0.
With 9:10 left in the opening half Anthony Wilkerson’s 12-yard sprint climaxed a 73-yard drive that gave the No. 5-ranked Cardinal a 20-0 cushion.
Hogan’s 30-yard toss to Montgomery with just under five minutes remaining before the intermission secured a 27-0 lead, and after Matt Haack’s punt was blocked which he then kicked while in the end zone for a safety, Stanford’s lead expanded to 29-0 with 14 seconds left.
“We need to finish it off,’’ said Hogan, who passed for 152 yards on 11 of 17 attempts and one interception. “We need to run the ball and be physical.”
Just before the No. 23-ranked Sun Devils went to their locker room, Head Coach Todd Graham gathered his troops and gave a pep talk.
It worked as Arizona State came out in the second half and scored four touchdowns including Marion Grice’s two-yard run from the “wildcat” formation and 13:18 left in the third quarter that made it 29-7.
The 75-yard march would bode well for the Sun Devils (2-1 and 0-1 in conference), who accounted for 418 total net yards compared to 391 total yards for Stanford (3-0 and 1-0 in conference).
Gaffney’s 16-yard gallop late in the third quarter after Kelly’s punt was blocked made it a 32-point spread, but Kelly (30 of 55 for 365 yards and two picks) tossed three touchdowns over eight minutes that consumed 75, 57 and 70 yards as the Sun Devils moved within 39-28 and 6:18 showing in the final quarter.
Kelly’s 45-yarder to tight end Chris Coyle got Arizona State within 39-14, Kelly’s 27-yarder to wide receiver Jaelen Strong (168 yards on 12 catches) made it 39-21, and Kelly’s five-yarder to Grice (53 yards on 17 carries) lowered the deficit to 11 points.
Jordan Williamson’s 20-yard field goal late in the third quarter made it 32-7, and his 24-yarder in the fourth quarter was set up by Hogan’s 27-yard naked bootleg on second down and 17. “Coach [Shaw] called that play,’’ said Hogan, who ran for 37 yards on five carries. “I didn’t tell anyone. They went one way and I went the other.”
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.