By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Tyler Gaffney, Kevin Hogan, Josh Mauro and the rest of their Stanford football teammates should have been able to walk away from Saturday's 42-28 victory over visiting Arizona State with chests thrusting out after a throughly convincing Pac-12 Conference victory.
Instead, the fifth-ranked Cardinal (1-0, 3-0) had to be wondering what happened in the fourth quarter of an otherwise brilliant effort on both sides of the ball.
Stanford took a 39-7 lead into the final period, so coach David Shaw thought it was safe to use Evan Crower at quarterback.
Hindered by conservative play-calling -- Crower did not attempt a pass in his two series -- Stanford went 3-and-out twice.
The 23rd-ranked Sun Devils took advantage by scoring three touchdowns in the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter to pull within 39-28.
Re-enter Hogan, who showed why he's one of the best at managing an offense. He helped run the clock down to 31 seconds, when Jordan Williamson connected on a 24-yard field goal to essentially end it.
The Sun Devils made a critical mistake with 12 men on the field in a fourth down situation that gave Stanford new life. Hogan rambled for 27 yards on a naked bootleg that set up the field goal.
"I am not going to apologize for a win," Shaw said. "I could care less about style points. I could care less about what it looks like. We played a great first half, a solid third quarter and a bad fourth quarter. That was the bottom line."
The substitution could have worked out perfectly fine had Crower not been saddled with a limited playbook and a limited backfield.
Gaffney, who sat out the fourth quarter, ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns, Anthony Wilkerson added 68 yards (surpassing 1,000 for his career) and another score for the Cardinal, which travels to Seattle (yes, Seattle) for a conference game against Washington State this Saturday at 7 p.m.
The first half was a thing of beauty, as Stanford rolled over the Sun Devils in just about every phase of the game.
"We played a championship level team and we got blown off the field in the first half," Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said. "Anything that could have happened, happened. The first thing that happened was Stanford. It was a disaster."
The Cardinal more than doubled Arizona State's offensive production, 258 yards to 103, and limited the Sun Devils to seven yards on the ground.
"The first half, it seemed like everything was clicking," Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner said. "We have to be able to continue that for another half of football."
In the end, Arizona State put up 417 yards to Stanford's 391 and quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for 367 yards.
"Definitely a little bit of a feeling of disappointment," Gardner said. "We've got to take pride in playing our style no matter what the situation."
Hogan completed 11-of-17 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns, both to Ty Montgomery as Stanford won its 11th straight dating to last year -- currently the second-longest in the nation to Ohio State's 16-game streak.
Montgomery, who did not record a touchdown last season due to a nagging knee injury, finished with four catches for 62 yards. He has at least one touchdown in every game.
"He's come into his own," Shaw said. "He has a chance to be a difference maker at this level and the next."
Mauro, making his first career start in place of injured defensive end Henry Anderson, backed off his pass rush and reached out his left hand to snatch a Kelly pass for an interception, extending Stanford's streak of forcing a turnover to 27 games.
Gaffney ran for a short TD after Devon Cajuste's diving, 34-yard reception. Wilkerson scampered 13 yards for another score, and Montgomery raced straight ahead for a 30-yard touchdown.
Blake Lueders helped write finish to the one-sided first half when he blocked his man into the punter. The ball deflected into the end zone and was kicked out for a safety to give Stanford a 29-0 halftime lead.
Gardner blocked a punt by Kelly, and Gaffney followed with a 16-yard TD run to give Stanford a 39-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Stanford did get some bad news when safety Ed Reynolds was ejected from the game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Kelly in the fourth quarter. He could miss the first half of the next game at Washington State unless the conference overturns the call.
"I agree with the officials," Shaw said. "It looked like he ducked his head. That's an ejection."