PASADENA, Calif. — Using the multiple skills of record- breaking sophomore halfback Christian McCaffrey to the maximum, Stanford ruined both Iowa and any sense of a competitive game with a 45-16 win in the 102nd Rose Bowl yesterday.
McCaffrey ran for 172 yards, caught four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, returned a punt for 63 yards and a touchdown and returned a kickoff 28 yards. He set a game mark of 368 yards of total offense, 22 more than Wisconsin’s Jared Abbredaris had against Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
On the first play from scrimmage, McCaffrey — runner-up to Alabama’s Derrick Henry in the Heisman Trophy voting — caught a 75-yard pass from Kevin Hogan. With only 11 seconds elapsed, the Cardinal and McCaffrey were on their way to a rout.
McCaffrey clearly has good genes. His father, Ed, was a star wide receiver with Stanford and the Denver Broncos after beginning his career with the Giants in 1991.
“We knew he was a great player,” Iowa defensive back Jordan Lomax said. “Everybody saw that today, and everybody’s seen it all season long. His ability to elude tackles and stay on his feet. He’s just great.”
Pac-12 champion Stanford (12-2) probably proved it deserved to be in one of Thursday’s two national semifinal games. This was how the West was run, and passed. And picked.
Five minutes after McCaffrey’s score, Hogan dashed 8 yards for another to make it 14-0. Five minutes later, defensive back Quenton Meeks had a pick-6, intercepting a pass by Iowa’s C.J., Beathard and going 66 yards for a TD. The first quarter wasn’t over, but for all intents and purposes, the game was.
“We just played very well,” said fifth-year Stanford coach David Shaw, who is rumored to be the next coach of the San Francisco 49ers or another NFL team. “We knew we were a good team.”
Iowa, which trailed 38-0 early in the third quarter, looked like a bad team, although it finished 12-2. The poor Big Ten. Michigan State, which beat Iowa in the conference championship game, was smashed by Alabama, 38-0, in their national semifinal on Thursday.
“This game hurts,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ll learn from it, but right now it certainly hurts, and we’ll deal with that. I want to congratulate Stanford. They’re a tremendous football team.”
McCaffrey, who became the first player in Rose Bowl history to get at least 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving, was particularly humble.
“We don’t worry about what’s happening now. We worry about the next play,” he said. “Our focus is on us. We know we can be extremely good when we know what we’re doing. We don’t worry about accolades. We just never give up.”
With 3,496 all-purpose yards, McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ single-season record (Sanders’ son is McCaffrey’s Stanford teammate). Asked if this was his best game, McCaffrey said, “I don’t know how to answer that.”
Shaw knew how to answer a question about McCaffrey. “I think he was the best player in America before this game,” he said. “So I think it’s just icing on the cake for us. I do think [because Stanford played a lot of games starting at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time], it’s a shame a lot of people didn’t see him.”
For Iowa, it’s a shame it did.