By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Tyler Gaffney showed he can be the big running back Stanford needs to be continue its run of football success.
No longer in the wings of a Toby Gerhart or Stepfan Taylor, Gaffney stepped into the spotlight as though he was the one who turned it on in the first place.
Gaffney rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night in leading the fifth-ranked Cardinal past visiting San Jose State, 34-13, in a nonconference affair that kicked off Stanford's season.
"The first drive out I was light-headed," Gaffney said. "I didn't have my legs under me. After that I felt more comfortable. It was like riding a bike."
The Cardinal, which won its ninth straight dating to last year, travels to Army for an early morning contest next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 a.m. (PT) and will be aired on CBS Sports Network.
Kevin Hogan seamlessly assumed the quarterback duties, completing all five passes he attempted in the first quarter and managing an offense that prides itself on moving the chains. Stanford recorded 25 first downs and held onto the ball nearly five minutes longer than the Spartans, who had the added advantage of having played already.
Once the game entered the fourth quarter, it was all Stanford, which gained 104 yards on on 14 plays, seven fewer than San Jose State ran and what resulted in 80 yards. Gaffney had 10 of those yards before turning rushing duties over to Anthony Wilkerson, who gained 54 of his 65 yards in the final 4:47 of the contest.
"I feel pretty good right now," Gaffney said. "I feel relatively healthy and I'm happy. I think we have a lot to improve on, but it was a good first game."
Again, the key stat was in the rushing yards, which the Cardinal dominated to the tune of 197-35. While Gaffney and Wilkerson were taking care of their responsibilities, the Stanford defense certainly did its part.
"We played great red zone defense," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We have to play smart and we can't get antsy. We want to play great defense."
The Spartans were forced to throw the ball 44 times because Stanford took away the run and then let it loose, recording four quarterback sacks and three other tackles for a loss.
The Cardinal secondary had a field day: free safety Ed Reynolds with 12 tackles and an interception, Alex Carter (7 tackles, 1 break-up), Wayne Lyons (7 tackles, 1 break-up), and strong safety Jordan Richards (6 tackles) were four of the top five leaders in tackles. Linebacker Shayne Skov pitched in with nine tackles.
"We had a lot of pressure on the quarterback," Reynolds said. "Coverage is going really well and it was fun. I wouldn't say we played our best though."
Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste combined for seven receptions and a pair of touchdowns. Montgomery scored for the first time since the 2012 Fiesta Bowl and Cajuste scored for the first time in college.
Dallas Lloyd and Barry Sanders each ran the ball for the first time and Luke Kaumatule, Jeff Trojan and Charlie Hopkins each caught their first pass.
Only punter Ben Rhyne could feel left out. He never got the chance to kick. At least he held the ball for Jordan Williamson, who made field goals of 40 and 48 yards.
"I'd say we did pretty good not using our punter," Gaffney said. "We go out there trying to be perfect. That's the goal."
NOTES: Stanford won its sixth consecutive season opener and is 11-3 in its last 14 . . . The Cardinal extended its streak of consecutive games with a takeaway to 25, the longest active streak in the nation . . . The crowd was announced at 50,424, the largest at Stanford Stadium since the 2008 game against USC drew 50,425 . . . Shaw became the first Cardinal coach to win the season opener in each of his first three seasons since Claude "Tiny" Thornhill accomplished the feat from 1933-35.