The Stanford Cardinal breathed a sigh of relief tonight after holding off a late comeback attempt and defeating the No. 23-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils in their Pac-12 opener.
Stanford got an early start, as budding junior wide receiver Ty Montgomery hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Hogan on the team’s second drive. Montgomery almost recorded his second score on the team’s next drive, but he was tackled at the 1-yard line and Tyler Gaffney punched in the touchdown. The extra point was missed, and the Cardinal were up 13-0.
The success continued on both sides of the ball. A missed Arizona State field goal gave Stanford the ball back, and Anthony Wilkerson joined the party with a 12-yard rushing score.
The Stanford defense, which was exceptional in the first half, proceeded to force two consecutive punts and the Cardinal extended their lead when Montgomery caught another wide open touchdown pass from Hogan, this one from 30 yards out. Stanford went into the half leading 29-0 after getting a late safety on a blocked punt.
Arizona State woke up in the second half, scoring on its first drive and then recording an interception. However, the Stanford defense held strong, and the Sun Devils did not post another touchdown until Stanford had scored twice more.
The Sun Devils refused to go quietly, though, as a Jaelen Strong touchdown cut the Cardinal’s lead down to 39-21 with 11 minutes to go in the game. Arizona State made another stop, and Stanford safety Ed Reynolds was ejected after a targeting penalty on the ensuing drive. Marion Grice then punched in another score to make the game 39-28 with six minutes to play.
Eventually, the Cardinal held on to their lead, and the play that put it away was a big first down run on a beautiful
play action keeper by Hogan, who cruised 20 yards to pick up a first down while the Sun Devils were out of timeouts.
Before the fourth quarter, Stanford was outstanding on both sides of the ball; the defense was virtually impenetrable. It allowed only 50 yards on the ground all day.
The Cardinal offense, on the other hand, posted 238 rushing yards. Kevin Hogan also looked great under center, throwing for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
David Shaw has to be pleased with his team’s first half performance, but concerned with the breakdown in the early fourth quarter. Next week, Shaw’s 3-0 team will travel north to take on the Washington State Cougars, who, as USC learned the hard way, are capable of playing with anyone in the conference.