No. 17 Arizona State wasn’t going to win the Pac-12 Championship under third-year head coach Todd Graham until it beat No. 23 Stanford. The Cardinal had beaten the Sun Devils four straight times, including a 38-14 stomping in last year’s Pac-12 Championship in Sun Devil Stadium.
Arizona State did just that Saturday night, out-Stanfording Stanford to a 26-10 win.
The same defense that surrendered 62 points, an even 10 yards a play and approximately three million broken tackles in its last home game, a 62-27 drubbing to UCLA, held Stanford to 288 yards, 14 first downs and one touchdown in the win. Which should tell you more about the Stanford offense than the Arizona State defense.
Seven Cardinal runners, led by Remound Wright and Barry Sanders, mustered only 76 yards on 3.5 yards per carry, placing Kevin Hogan in a position where he’d have to win the game with his arm. One thing to know about Kevin Hogan: he doesn’t need to be in a place where he has to win a game with his arm. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he didn’t create many plays either, completing 19-of-39 passes for 212 yards and rushing four times for 17 yards.
Bad as the offense was, it wasn’t the worst unit of the night for Stanford. That would be the special teams. Ty Montgomery fumbled a punt, setting Arizona State up directly for a touchdown that pushed the Sun Devil led to 14-0 just before the half, and Christian McCaffrey fumbled a kickoff that directly led to a field goal which pushed the score to 26-10.
D.J. Foster led the way for Arizona State, opening the scoring midway through the second quarter with a one-yard plunge and rushing 24 times for 59 yards while also leading the club with seven grabs for 92 yards. Mike Bercovici garnered his third straight start and hit 23-of-33 throws for 245 yards and a touchdown to Jaelen Strong (eight grabs, 75 yards).
After taking a 14-0 lead into halftime, Arizona State was never seriously threatened in the second half. Stanford pulled within 14-3 early in the third quarter and 20-10 with 11:23 to go, but that was as close as they came. It was the rare Stanford loss where David Shaw’s team went out with a whimper.
Stanford still controls its own destiny in the race for its third straight Pac-12 title with a trip to Oregon waiting Nov. 1. Stanford returns home to meet Oregon State on Saturday.
Arizona State technically sits half a game behind USC in the Pac-12 South, but owns the tiebreaker over the Trojans thanks to last week’s Hail Mary victory. Arizona State visits Washington on Saturday.