Some teams just have other teams’ numbers.
You could certainly say that about Stanford and Arizona State. For whatever reason, the Cardinal know how to discombobulate the Sun Devils…and that’s what they did on Saturday night in the Pac-12 title game.
Stanford improves to 11-2 and becomes the fifth team to go to four-straight BCS games. Arizona State fell to 10-3 and saw its seven-game win streak snapped.
As with the earlier game this season between the two teams, this one was all Stanford from the start. The Cardinal jumped out to a 28-14 halftime lead and then cruised from there.
ASU had its chances. It took the opening possession of the third quarter and drove it 61 yards to the Stanford 13 yard line. But Zane Gonzalez missed a 31-yard field goal and the Sun Devils blew that chance to chip away at Stanford’s lead. The Cardinal promptly drove 67 yards in 11 plays and got a 30-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson to make the score 31-14.
ASU came back again. This time the Sun Devils drove 66 yards to the Cardinal nine-yard line, where it was set up with a first-and-goal. Punch it in and it may have become a game. ASU made it to the one, but couldn’t score on two consecutive plays and Stanford took over (credit Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov for making a Levar Arrington-style leap to stop the QB sneak on third down).
To make matters worse, the Cardinal then went on a 99-yard drive to put the final nail in the coffin.
Stanford saved one of its best overall efforts of the season for its most important game. The Cardinal out-gained ASU, 517 to 311, and averaged a season-best 9.1 yards per play. The Sun Devils clearly missed its best offensive weapon, Marion Grice, who sat out the game with an injury, but nothing really seemed to go right for ASU when it mattered anyway.
Still, the future is bright for the Sun Devils. Quarterback Tyler Kelly is back next year as is explosive tailback D.J. Foster (142 combined rushing and receiving yards, 2 TDs vs. Stanford) and all-star wide out Jaelen Strong. If ASU can fill some holes on defense, it could be a regular in this title game.
As for Stanford, it’s the final hurrah for a large group of seniors who will have to be replaced, especially on defense. They’ve been the most successful senior class in school history (46-7) and are the core of the first Stanford team to repeat as conference champs since 1970-71.
With close losses to Utah and USC, though, the Cardinal will no doubt be asking “What if?” going forward.