No roses for Stanford football the second time around


The 100th Rose Bowl Game, from a Stanford point of view, will be remembered for one thing -- when the Cardinal needed to run the ball, it couldn't.

No one knew that better than Stanford senior Tyler Gaffney. After gaining 67 yards (47 coming on one run) and scoring on a 16-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, he was held to just 24 yards on 18 carries the final three quarters.

Not too surprisingly, as Gaffney was stopped, so too was No. 5 Stanford as it let a 17-7 lead disappear in a frustrating 24-20 loss to the No. 4-ranked Spartans before an announced crowd of 95,173 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Wednesday.

"Everywhere I looked there was a green defender," Gaffney said. "They get into the backfield right away and that immediately disrupts the run. There's no space to figure something out."

Stanford finished its 11-3 season with a single-season rushing record of 2,904 yards, 162 of that coming against the Spartans (13-1). Yet, when Stanford needed just one yard with 1:46 left in the fourth quarter and the ball on its 34, the Cardinal failed to keep the drive going. End of game.

Ryan Hewitt got the call on that final carry and plowed into a line that featured some 3,000 pounds of Stanford players and equal of that for Michigan State. There was simply no place to run.

"You have to give it to Michigan State for stuffing that because everybody in the building knew exactly what was coming, a run up the middle," said Gaffney. "It was a test of wills, and they got the better of us."

"They came off the ball and we got about a foot and a half," Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan said. "We were six inches short."

Stanford's consensus All-America offensive lineman David Yankey said there was a little more to it than that.

"To be honest they gave us a look we didn't expect at all," he said. "It came down to that one play and they stopped us . . . They're one of the best defenses in the nation, and they proved it on every play."

Stanford head coach David Shaw defended his call because being successful on those plays during the season got the Cardinal to its second straight Rose Bowl Game for only the second time in school history.

"When I don't do that (run on short yardage), everybody goes crazy that we should have done this or should have that, so I don't worry about any of that stuff," Shaw said. "I'm going to put the ball in the hands of our guys and put it on the offensive line. We're going to go for it on fourth down in that situation . . . We got beat by a really good football team."

The Spartans' defense, featuring a nine-man line that dared Stanford to throw, locked down on the Cardinal after allowing two scoring drives in the first quarter. Stanford continued to put itself into hazardous situations after taking a 10-0 advantage.

"After the first quarter they become more movement-oriented," said Yankey, who'll likely give up his final year of eligibility and turn pro. "They did a lot of stuff and were able to play their style."

Gaffney, who lost 26 yards on carries through the first 13 games, was thrown for a loss a total of 15 yards against the Spartans.

"They have nine in the box," Gaffney explained. "They made adjustments after the first couple runs first couple of drives of the series -- and we didn't respond like we needed to."

Another defining fourth-down play came with the game tied at 17 in the third quarter and Stanford on Michigan State's 36. Gaffney was called upon, as expected, and the Spartans knew it -- tossing him for a three-yard loss.

"They're good at what they do," Shaw said of MSU's defense. "It's a nine-man front. There's a whole bunch of guys in there . . . Gaffney snuck out a couple, made a couple of great runs and a couple of them he didn't have an opportunity."

Stanford seemed unstoppable early, gaining 146 yards in the first quarter. The Cardinal moved the ball 159 yards over the final three quarters combined.

Hogan, who completed 10 of 18 passes, with one interception, for 143 yards and no touchdowns, completed a 43-yarder to Michael Rector to open the game and a 51-yarder to Devon Cajuste. Take away those two completions and Hogan was 8-for-16 for just 49 yards.

Hogan's best weapon coming into the game, wide receiver Ty Montgomery, was held to three catches for 21 yards before injuring his left knee on a kickoff return early in the fourth quarter and did not return. He'll have an MRI to determine the extent of the damage.

On the other side, Stanford's defense stuffed the run -- allowing just 65 yards on 35 carries -- but the Spartans went to the air and gained 325 of its 397 yards after the first quarter.

Connor Cook threw for a career-high 332 yards, just 56 in the first quarter, and a pair of touchdowns as he rallied the Spartans.

Cook's 25-yard touchdown toss to Tony Lippett was the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter. Jordan Williamson kicked his second field goal of the game with 4:15 remaining to make it 24-20.

Stanford's defense did it's job and got the ball back with enough time for a possible winning drive.

"We just realize that if we kept going, kept getting after it, we're going to get opportunities to make plays," Stanford senior linebacker Shayne Skov said. "We got some and we missed some.

"You fight all season to get to these moments, to have these opportunities . . . so to lose is incredibly difficult. We're happy with the way we played but it definitely hurts. It's not easy to lose."

Michigan State freshman Mike Geiger kicked a 31-yard field goal to tie the game at 17 early in the second quarter after the Cardinal gave up a 61-yard pass play.

Stanford made it look too easy on its opening drive. A 43-yard pass from Hogan to Rector opened the field for Gaffney, who went the final 16 yards of the 7-play, 77-yard drive.

The Cardinal scored again on a 34-yard field goal by Williamson late in the first quarter. Gaffney's 47-yard jaunt helped give Stanford good field position.

The highlights for Stanford, however, were few and far between. Palo Alto High grad Kevin Anderson picked off Cook and returned it 40 yards in the second quarter for the final Cardinal touchdown of the game.

Despite the loss, Stanford finished a four-year run that saw the Cardinal play in four straight BCS games and go 46-8 overall (only Alabama at 46-7 is better during that time and No. 3 'Bama was beaten by No. 11 Oklahoma, 45-31, in the Sugar Bowl). Only two of Stanford's losses were by more than a touchdown. Shaw is now 34-7 in his three seasons.

Shaw praised his senior class, which he said "is the most accomplished group of football players to ever go through Stanford University. Regardless of today's outcome, that's the truth . . . Four straight BCS games . . . it's rare company."

Still, there was no Hollywood ending for Stanford this season as it played a virtual mirror image of itself.

"Two teams that play great defense, that run the ball and try to make big plays in the passing game," Shaw explained of the matchup. "One has got to win, one has got to lose, and we didn't make enough plays for us to be on the right side . . . They played better. They made more plays. That's the bottom line."


Like this comment
Posted by T Hardiman
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 1, 2014 at 8:09 pm

#2 should have stayed in the locker room after getting burned in the first half . Shaw kept him in the game and he cost Stanford a Rose bowl. Secondary needed help all year and it cost them again. Play calling was poor also.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 1, 2014 at 8:30 pm

And you coached where?

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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 1, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Defense played fine and could have won the game if they would have intercepted the two passes they dropped. However the offense failed to adapt to the defense being played by MSU - if you face 9 or 10 in the box you have to spread the offense. It looked like Stanford enjoyed running into a brick wall over and over. Great season but lousy game.

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Posted by Austin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2014 at 5:38 am

GOAT: Stanford coach David Shaw is a bright young coach, but he was stubborn in sticking with his run-oriented game plan despite Michigan State stuffing it in the second half, and did not have the Cardinal prepared to carry out a hurry-up offense in the closing minutes.


That was the measly amount passing yards Stanford managed.

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Posted by Spartan191
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2014 at 6:25 am

Hey Cardinal fans, us Spartan fans have heard that all year from teams we beat. The "we should have done this or that differently" Would not have mattered so don't feel to bad. MSU has been turning up the heat and locking down offenses the whole year. I do not think Stanford expected quite that type of D-domination
But a good game and congrats on a Conference Championship
One more thing- What the hell is up with that so called "band"? That wasn't even funny

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Posted by PAC-12 Fan
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2014 at 8:45 am

Congrats Stanford for winning the Pac12 and getting an "A-", but your COACH gets a"D-" for that stupid run up the middle play calling! Fake it up the middle and go off tackle or have Hogan run a bootleg!

Also, I thought the Stanford coach could count? When your down 7 points and inside the 15 a field goal still means you have to go ALL THE WAY downfield a get a Touchdown!

Good game Msu & Go PAC12

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Posted by BleedCardinal
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 2, 2014 at 9:57 am

Haven't we said this before - after the losses to Utah and USC, and the narrow wins vs Washington, Oregon State and Notre Dame? The "we will score just about 20 and will stop you from scoring 20" - marginball - will work sometimes and won't at other times against good teams. When it doesn't work, Shaw's obstinacy/intransigence/lack-of-creativity/arrogance hurts us. He needs to come down from his "that's who we are" Stanford snooty high perch and accept his mistakes (and I am a Stanford PhD).

Just look at how the commentators mocked him in yesterday's game - " Shaw says that's who we are, and DARE you to question me?" (or something like that)

A little humility and creativity will make him a better coach

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Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 2, 2014 at 10:19 am

Poor coaching. No plan B. hurry up offense stunned the D, and Gafney was reduced to nothing, yet Shaw continued to be a fool and not adjust the O. The field goal attempt with a penalty for man down the field summed up the game, mass confusion, poor execution. Sadly Stanford were outclassed and outmuscled by a more physical team with a smarter, brilliant in fact, coaching team. Some changes are needed as Shaw showed no real emotion, or awareness to his poor play calling. After the half time pass up field, Stanford looked stunned and never looked comfortable. So sad for Skov. Also the band is an embarrassment. Not quirky, not fun, the non-conformist angle is getting old and is the saddest part of each game. Why we feel the need to have the world of Warcraft gang running around dressed as clowns at half time, is beyond me. Don't get me started on the 50's throwback dance/cheer girls. Stanford please loose the arrogance and get into the 21st century, some traditions become antiquated.

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Posted by Clarity
a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

Make that "MICHIGAN STATE", not "Michigan". They are two quite distinct universities, albeit in the same state. Spartans, not Wolverines. Think UC Berkeley and UCLA. Arizona and Arizona State. Oregon and Oregon State. Washington and Washington State. And for forth.

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Posted by go Big 10
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2014 at 11:48 am

Stanford isn't part of the Big 10 - try competing in that!

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm

What no one, and I mean no one, knows is what the personnel issues were before or during the game. For example, the first poster picks on Stanford #2. How does anyone know that #2 was the best possible option? The back up was in worst shape perhaps. How does anyone know whether #2 had some sort of ankle injury going into the game?

You don't.

Same goes for the play calling. No one knows if perhaps the QB had some throwing issues that limited the passing game. Look at what happened in the Utah loss - 4 straight passing attempts - no joy. So the coach decides that perhaps the run is the best option.

No one knows if some of the OL players were hurt or not.

You don't know.

Unless you've been there yourself - you don't know.

And anyone who thinks that MSU was just another team - well they didn't look at their accomplishments at all. Best defense in the country...even without their best player. They beat an undefeated Ohio State team.

Stanford was beat by the better team. Get over yourselves. And, BTW, it's just a game.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Couldn't agree more about the band. In the early 60's, it was witty and mischievous, but kept its humor in good taste. It pointedly dressed differently from other marching bands, but it still looked sharp in its blazers and fedoras. The level of musicianship was very high. Places like Disneyland actually invited the Band to come and play.

The Band's descent since then has been a sad thing to watch. Its halftime "shows" became predictably crude. The blazers survived, but otherwise the Band's dress slid toward the bizarre. Anything more musically demanding than "All Right Now" usually drifted out of tune. And the Band grew more likely to be banned from places than invited to them.

The cause is simple: no adult supervision. Put that back in the mix, and Stanford's band can once again be something a world-class university could be proud of.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2014 at 6:25 pm

"Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result" is
usually not a good idea. No adjustments by Stanford offense. Yet they still had a chance on the last series but stuck with the same plays on third and fourth down which had been stuffed for three quarters. It was a perfect
situation for a bootleg with a mobile quarterback. I will never understand
or accept what happened on that last series.

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 2, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Congratulations to the team for a fantastic year!

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Posted by Tiberius Cozz
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 3, 2014 at 10:17 am

MSU alum here. First, great game in a wonderful setting. Congrats to both teams and Rose Bowl folks.

Second, I attended the game and sat near several Stanford fans. Most sat in stunned disbelief as their team attempted run after run with limited success. Very classy Stanford fans for the most part; seemed to support their team, not take things too seriously, yet were perplexed and disappointed-especially with last play.

Lastly, regarding the Stanford band? At first I was confused and thought the band was perpetrating some sort of joke. But as time passed and I reflected further, I began to see them as creative, quirky, and fun. But I suspect the majority of fans not familiar with Stanford's storied band tradition, including a tv audience of millions, probably were left thinking Stanford deserved better.

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Posted by jonathan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2014 at 3:39 pm

It's nice of the MS fan to say that it wouldn't have mattered and for the fan telling us that we don't know the whole story. But here's what we do know. The running backs gained the roughly same amount of yards per carry and the QB's got about the same amount of yards per pass attempt. But the MS QB passed exactly twice as much as Stanford. Passing is risky - who knows you might give up a pick 6 - but it may win you the game. And to do 4 runs with 3:03 left and only one time out is beyond stubborn.

RUNNING Stanford Gaffney 24-91. Michigan St. Langford 23-84.

PASSING Stanford Hogan 10-18-1-143. Michigan St. Cook 22-36-1-332.

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Posted by Bench Coach
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm

To have run into the center was suicide. Any other play on either side of the field would have been better. A Hail Mary pass would have been a better bet. That call should never have been made by an experienced coach. It was plain falling on your sword with 1:40 to go.

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 5, 2014 at 12:54 am

Tiberius Cozz, I enjoyed your comments. Congrats to MSU fans!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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