"I was looking at him in the huddle and I could see bruises starting to form on his neck," guard David Yankey said. "I was like, 'Oh, he's had a good day, but he's had a tough day.' He never complains."
Said Gaffney: "In baseball, when you get hit by a pitch, that leaves a bruise. When you get tackled 35 times a game, that's going to leave a little more than a bruise."
Michigan State boasts the top defense in major-college football and has given up only 80.8 yards rushing per game. Spartans players and coaches still expect the Cardinal to stay with their season-long game plan and give the ball to Gaffney.
"The thing that he does very, very well is he sort of picks his way and then slides off blockers and then gets running," Spartans Coach Mark Dantonio said.
Gaffney is an NFL prospect and will run faster than most expect when tested by scouts before the draft, Shaw said.
Gaffney, who is pursuing a double major in sociology and psychology, said that the Pirates were supportive of his return to Stanford and that he had not yet decided what he will do after the Rose Bowl.
"I'll sit down with my family and figure it out," he said.
But first he wants to cap his Stanford experience with a victory.
"Coming back and being back into it," he said, "you realize this is a great place to be."