By Rick Eymer
Tyler Gaffney wanted to stay in the game. Whenever Stanford football coach David Shaw took him out for a breather, he'd insist he was fine and ready for duty.
"I just told him I wasn't tired every time I came out," the senior running back said. "I wanted to put it on him."
Gaffney rarely takes a day off. He's been used to working 365/24/7 since he was in high school, playing baseball when he wasn't busy with football. He grew up in San Diego, where weather was never a problem.
Getting hit by, perhaps, the best linebacker (Anthony Barr) in the college game? No biggie. He shrugs those things off like water in a shower.
Gaffney, who rushed for a career-high 171 yards and two touchdowns in Stanford's 24-10 victory over visiting UCLA on Saturday, gave a Toby Gerhart-like performance in helping the 13th-ranked Cardinal (4-1 in the Pac-12, 6-1 overall) upend the previously undefeated Bruins.
Stanford absolutely needed to beat UCLA (3-1, 5-1) to keep its Pac-12 Conference championship hopes alive, especially after losing to Utah last week.
"The only thing I am going to say about that game is we knew we put ourselves in a hole," Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov said. "In order to get to where we want to be we have to win every game."
Beating the Bruins was merely the first step along a road that will continue to get more difficult each week. The Cardinal travels to play at Oregon State next week. The Beavers have an offense just as prolific as their state rivals.
Gaffney, who took the ball 36 times, got better as the game wore on. He rushed for 114 of those yards, and scored both touchdowns, in the second half. He kept plowing ahead, every losing an inch of ground.
"I just know I haven't been tired all year," said Gaffney, who produced his fifth 100-plus game. "I just give it all I've got. The more I get the ball, the more I get a feel for the offense."
For Shaw, Gaffney's ability to bull his way forward means Stanford can get back to doing what it likes: take a lead into the fourth quarter and then ground out the game game clock.
Gaffney allowed the Cardinal to hang onto the ball almost 15 minutes more than UCLA, an important factor in establishing dominance at the line of scrimmage.
"I've always heard that a good defense is a good offense," Gaffney said. "As long as their offense is on the sidelines, they can't do any damage. It's something like that."
He made his point. And so did quarterback Kevin Hogan, who deflects compliments as well as he scrambles for a first down.
Hogan, who made his 12th career start, threw for 227 yards and a touchdown. He directed the offense as though he write the script, something he did last year in the run to the Rose Bowl.
"I had great protection all day," said Hogan, who rushed for 33 yards on five carries. "We got back to our base plays, the ones we work on in practice."
Hogan's 30-yard touchdown pass to Kodi Whitfield was a thing of beauty, a one-handed grab in the middle of the third quarter that broke apart a defensive struggle. It gave Stanford a 10-3 lead and the confidence to keep attacking.
"It was unbelievable," Hogan said. "He went up and made a play."
Cardinal linebacker Trent Murphy, who ended the game with a sack of UCLA quarterback Brent Hundley, called it a phenomenal catch.
"We trust those guys to make plays like that," Murphy said. "I can't wait to see it again."
Whitfield was only in the game to give Ty Montgomery a break.
"Hoggie gave me a shot and that's all I wanted," said Whitfield, whose father Bob was a former teammate of Shaw's at Stanford and was in the stands as part of homecoming and alumni weekend. "I knew I just had to catch it."
Bob Whitfield was an All-American offensive lineman for Stanford. "I would say it's genetics but that doesn't come from dad," Shaw said of the younger Whitfield.
Conrad Ukropina, a former walk-on, connected on his first career field goal attempt to put the Cardinal ahead, 3-0, in the first quarter.
Receiver Devon Cajuste, who left the game with a left knee injury, caught seven passes for 109 yards. Montgomery was limited to five catches for 50 yards. Defensive back Jordan Richards added a pair of interceptions.
NOTES: Stanford extended its home winning streak to 13 games while improving to 11-1 at home against ranked opponents since 2009, including a 3-1 mark against top 10 teams . . . Whitfield's 30-yard touchdown catch marked the first points allowed by UCLA in the third quarter on the season . . . Stanford has won six straight over UCLA, its longest such streak in the 85-game series . . . The Cardinal has won each of its last 12 home games in the month of October . . . Shaw said Cajuste's injury wasn't as bad as it first appeared and he returned to the locker room without a knee brace.