Sports


McCaffrey runs with a purpose in Cardinal's Rosy victory

 

Christian McCaffrey added a punt return for a touchdown to his expanding resume, not that he needed to show anything more than he has during a remarkable, record-setting season.

For Stanford football fans, it was more of the same. McCaffrey continued to prove the importance of an all-purpose running back to an offensive attack an set a Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards and becoming the first player in the game's history to rush for more than 100 yards and gain more than 100 receiving.

McCaffrey made an imprint in the rushing (172 yards), passing (105 receiving yards) and return (91 yards) games to lead fifth-ranked Stanford to an improbable, 45-16, lopsided victory over No. 6 Iowa in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Friday.

Both teams finished 12-2. For Stanford, it was its third 12-win season in six years. The Cardinal has 11 or more wins five times in six years.

"It's so fun when a team can come together," McCaffrey said. "We've got a bunch of fighters on this team that will never give up. Just love playing with these guys."

McCaffrey broke the previous all-purpose record held by Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis. The closest anyone had come to the 100-100 double was O.J. Simpson, with 171 rushing and 85 receiving.

Not surprisingly, McCaffrey was named the game's most valuable offensive player.

"We don't have anybody like that, with all due respect to our players," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We have a lot of good players, but he's a rare talent . . . great balance, great vision, very difficult to tackle."

With defenses forced to account for McCaffrey on every play, the Cardinal showcased its impressive offensive line, Kevin Hogan's play-calling ability and other weapons like receiver Michael Rector, who caught two passes, both for touchdowns.

Stanford's defense put on its own dazzling performance, keeping the Hawkeyes off the scoreboard in the first half for the first time all season.

Quenton Meeks returned an interception for a score, Blake Martinez confirmed his tackling prowess and Aziz Shittu (10 tackles, eight solo) was a monster on the defensive front and was named the game's most valuable defensive player.

The Cardinal needed one play to extinguish Iowa's vaunted defense. Hogan, who passed for 223 yards and three scores, threw a short pass over the middle to McCaffrey, who came out of the backfield to catch it and then race to complete a 75-yard touchdown, the second-longest in Rose Bowl history and the longest allowed by Iowa all season.

"I think he was the best player in America before this game, so I think it's just the icing on the cake," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "I do think it's a shame that a lot of people didn't get to see him during the course of the year. Apparently the games were too late."

Iowa, which never trailed by more than 14 points in a game until Friday, allowed its first touchdown on an opening drive of any half this season. It took a Heisman Trophy finalist to accomplish it.

"I knew they haven't seen a player of his caliber all year, someone with speed like that," Stanford offensive lineman Kyle Murphy said. "With all the Heisman stuff, he felt really snubbed. He's not going to say anything about it, but all of us, we know. He's the best player in the country. It lit a fire under him, although he's already the hardest-working man and most motivated man."

The Rose Bowl featured the best two college football teams not among the final four. It would be a mistake to judge the Hawkeyes on this performance. Iowa won its first 12 games and was in position to beat Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. Stanford was just that much better.

"We don't try to make statements, we want to play good football," Shaw said. Mission accomplished.

Stanford averaged 10 yards on 25 plays during the first half. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard threw for 65 yards, 10 less than Hogan threw on the game's first play. Beathard's grandfather, Pete, led USC to the Rose Bowl title in 1963.

The Hawkeyes needed 39 plays to do 123 yards, a 3.2 average, through the second quarter. They didn't cross into the end zone until the fourth quarter.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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