Halftime thoughts: Eddie George compares the game to watching an anaconda choking the life out of its victim. A few near-upsets elsewhere: Virginia Tech needs three overtimes to escape Marshall, and USC and Notre Dame get by Utah State and Michigan State, respectively, 17-14 and 17-13. The Trojans and Irish were both at home too. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel is out for the year, Oregon State trails San Diego State 17-14 in the second, and Rutgers snuck by Arkansas, 28-24. Any SEC loss is a good loss for Stanford, methinks. And we can be excused for dreaming big after that first half…
A screwy game, this football. After moving backwards for large phases of the first half, Arizona State comes out in a spread look, runs a lot of zone read, and before you can blink, drives 75 yards to pay dirt in six plays. After 30 scoreless minutes, it took the Devils less than two minutes to get that goose egg off the scoreboard.
Stanford 29, ASU 7, 13:13 remaining, third quarter
Gus Johnson calls us the "Cardinals" and has mixed up the pronunciation of some players' names. I love Gus, but not his finest day. Tyler Gaffney runs three times to reset the chains, but then Kelsey Young drops an open dump off in the flat. Stanford is facing a likely passing situation (second and ten) for one of the first times today, and it doesn't end well. Tyler Gaffney, back in pass protection, fails to recognize the delayed blitz up the middle and Kevin Hogan gets drilled and fires high. (It's hard to tell if those are related, but we'll give Hogan the benefit of the doubt.) Either way, Arizona State has an interception at Stanford's 34.
The Cardinal defense, in its biggest test of the game thus far, comes up big. Arizona State can gain only five yards in its first three snaps, and Stanford won't take the bait and jump offsides on fourth and five. Thus, down 22 and stuck in no-man's land at the Cardinal 29, ASU goes for it and has a small window to convert, but Marion Grace can't hang onto a slightly low Taylor Kelly throw. The defense holds.
Tyler Gaffney nearly gets called for facemasking on a stiff arm for a second straight week, but the officials say Gaffney never pulled or twisted, so no flag. The next snap, however, Gaffney does incredibly well to rip through an arm tackle, stumble off contact and run for 14 yards, but he fumbles for the second time today. On review, Gaffney's knee hits the ground perhaps one or two freeze frames after the ball begins to squirm out, and so the call stands as a fumble. What?!? The officials assert that the knee was down and overturn the call. Big break for Stanford, and on replay after replay, I still don't see how they had the evidence to overturn that call.
On the ensuing series, Andrus Peat appears to get beat on a stunt to the inside, and Hogan is sacked for a nine-yard loss. Wilkerson gets back six of the yards on second down, and then, on third, converts on an inside pitch! He needed 13 yards and got maybe 13.5, dancing through contact and falling forward the last couple of those yards. A head-to-head hit on Hogan moves the ball another 15.
Stanford's in the red zone, and Hogan throws a little behind a slanting Ty Montgomery on third and eight. Montgomery does well to reach back for the ball, and then squirms through to get past the sticks. Great hands, and nice agility from Montgomery, who is having a great game.
Rollins Stallworth, who is perhaps our eighth-string receiver, comes on for the trademarked David Shaw red zone fade route. Some things never change: the play doesn't work, though the Cardinal do come close. Stallworth has both hands on the ball and gets a foot in bounds, but can't hang onto the catch, and after a Wilkerson run to the three, it's Jordan Williamson time.
Williamson is true from the right hash mark on a 20-yard attempt, and Stanford now leads by 25.
Stanford 32, Arizona State 7, 4:00 remaining, third quarter
Ed Reynolds doesn't drop too many would-be interceptions, but, playing deep centerfielder, he can't quite dig one out of the dirt in front of him after Kelly fired high on second down. Instead, Wayne Lyons draws a third-down pass interference, and ASU has new life.
In Palo Alto, Lueders sacks Kelly on second down, but can't contain when the ASU quarterback is flushed to his right on third down, and so Kelly can just barely scramble for the first. No matter, as ASU punts on an ensuing fourth down, and they might need to revisit their protection schemes. Ben Gardner gets a block on a Taylor Kelly pouch punt into his thigh (not a beautiful kick, but credit Gardner for the penetration). Gardner runs for a few yards before he's dropped and Stanford adds on a 15-yard clipping call, and they have it at the ASU 16.
The next play you've seen countless times before these past few years. The jumbo (now deemed "ogre") package comes in, and the running back is barely touched on his way to the end zone. It's a 16-yard Tyler Gaffney touchdown, and this one is all but over.
Stanford 39, ASU 7, 0:37 remaining, third quarter
Play of the quarter: Ben Gardner's punt block was the final nail in the coffin for Arizona State, even if Gaffney hadn't scored on the very next snap. Big special teams day for the Card.
Player of the quarter: Wilkerson's beautiful conversion on an inside pitch on third and 13 harkened back to the days of Toby Gerhart. That's the last time I can remember the Cardinal running on third and long and converting. Even then, though, we couldn't run to the chains on third and thirteen. [Edit: The official play-by-play log has Wilkerson coming up a half-yard short, though it looked good to my eyes. The late hit flag made a review irrelevant. Either way, great run from No. 32.]
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