The cold never bothered them anyway.
Not even the chilly Santa Clara wind could cool down Stanford’s sizzling play on Tuesday as the Cardinal (8-5, 5-4 Pac-12) lived up to their billing as the largest favorites of the postseason in a 45-21 Foster Farms Bowl demolition of outmatched Maryland (7-6, 4-4 Big Ten).
In doing so, the Cardinal secured a sixth consecutive 8-win season and a third consecutive win to close out a disappointing 2014 campaign on a high note.
“We just played better,” said head coach David Shaw. “There’s no magic to it, no secret plays. A lot of things just came together.”
“We finished the season strong. Just the season as a whole, we know how good we are,” said senior quarterback Kevin Hogan. “It stinks that sometimes people look at the record and judge a team off that.”
This game was over in a hurry. Stanford fans could sense that it was coming when Stanford methodically drove 12 plays for 75 yards and ate 6:57 of clock to take an early lead. Although Hogan was overthrowing the ball a bit, his big receivers bailed him out and kept the drive alive all the way down the field and into the end zone, courtesy of Remound Wright’s 1-yard rush.
Although Maryland’s flavor of option attack caught Stanford off-balance early and the Terps rode electric wide receiver Stefon Diggs — back from a lacerated kidney — to tie the game at 7-7, the Cardinal proceeded to push back and put the game out of reach with ease.
Stanford punctuated three consecutive scoring drives to close the first half with two more Wright touchdowns and a Devon Cajuste receiving touchdown — the first of two on the afternoon for the big senior.
The defense, meanwhile, was yielding nothing to sixth-year Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, neither through the air nor on the ground. Led by fifth-year senior inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley and senior outside linebacker James Vaughters — both making their final career starts — Stanford forced five three-and-outs and held Maryland to just 222 yards, 130 below their season average.
It was 28-7 at halftime, and the game was already over. No Stanford defense in the Harbaugh-Shaw era had ever lost a 21-point lead.
“They stayed in fundamental defense, so we played fundamental offense — we played Stanford football,” Cajuste said.
Stanford methodically drove all the way down the field at will after the half, culminating in Cajuste’s second touchdown, a score for fifth-year senior Ricky Seale and one final field goal for fifth-year senior kicker Jordan Williamson. By the time Stanford was up 42-7 as the fourth quarter opened up, Hogan’s night was over.
Hogan, who was named the game’s offensive MVP, continued his hot streak with another sparkling performance: 14-of-20 for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns. Even without the services of senior wideout Ty Montgomery, Hogan made sound decisions, strong throws and ran the ball for 50 hard-earned yards. That was also thanks to the offensive line, which had a third consecutive fantastic game and got tremendous push and only allowed one sack of Hogan with great pass protection.
“All around me, guys have been playing lights-out,” Hogan said. “It’s really a total offensive effort, and the coaches put guys in position to be successful.”
Vaughters, his defensive MVP counterpart, accounted for two of the six total sacks of Brown. He wasn’t the only one that made a splash in his final game in cardinal and white, however: Fifth-year senior safety Kyle Olugbode took advantage of Brown’s wild inaccuracy with his first career interception, and walk-on senior linebacker Torsten Rotto picked up his first career sack in garbage time.
“They were doing a lot of sprint-outs and boots and changing their protections,” said fifth-year senior defensive end Henry Anderson. “But I thought we did a good job of putting pressure on them. Vaughters was coming off the edge great all game.”
And to the delight of Cardinal fans, freshman running back Christian McCaffrey also saw extended action on both offense and special teams, seemingly making something out of nothing every time he touched the ball.
Foremost among those plays was a run in the second quarter in which he took a handoff, ran right, somehow slipped a sure tackle for loss, completely reversed field and eventually ran down the left sideline for a gain of 22 yards.
Oh, and he also logged 81 yards on punt returns for 138 all-purpose yards. No big deal.
When the dust had settled, Maryland had tacked on a few more scores against the Cardinal’s special teams and third-team defense to make the final score presentable, but the boxscore still pointed towards a 414-222 yardage advantage for Stanford. Brown, Maryland’s leading rusher this season, had been limited to -30 yards on his 13 carries — an average of a 2.3-yard loss per carry.
Stanford also held Maryland to just 17 rushing yards while maintaining a remarkably balanced attack of its own (206 yards rushing, 208 passing). In the end, Stanford held seven of its 13 opponents to 100 yards rushing or fewer this season.
On the very field that Jim Harbaugh patrolled for the last time on Sunday, the newly-minted Michigan head coach’s final class of Stanford recruits put on a show with the physically dominating philosophy that he ingrained in the program one final time.
It was a triumphant end to an inconsistent season — a curtain call in the Bay Area, if you will, that these seniors will be able to fondly look back on for the rest of their lives.
The show’s over, but their memory will certainly live on.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.