After all the Cardinal had been through this season, it earned a chance to repeat as Rose Bowl champions.
This trip to Pasadena might be even sweeter than the first one.
Tyler Gaffney ran for 133 yards and scored three touchdowns in a dominating first half, leading No. 7 Stanford back to the Rose Bowl with a 38-14 victory over No. 11 Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game Saturday night.
“We talk about what it takes to get into Stanford … where everybody else says you don't have to do that,” Shaw said. “When things get tough or when people say [the players] they shouldn't do it or can't do it, they don't care. They put their heads down and keep working.”
Stanford (11-2) raced out to a big lead Sept. 21 in its first game with Arizona State this season and had its way with the Sun Devils again early in the rematch, going up 28-7 early in the second quarter. Gaffney, as he has most of the season, did most of the damage, scoring on a 69-yard run on the Cardinal's second play and a pair of one-yard runs.
The Cardinal consistently gouged Arizona State's defense for big plays all night, racking up 517 yards, including 240 on the ground.
Kevin Hogan kept the Sun Devils off-balance, throwing for 277 yards and a touchdown. Ty Montgomery added a dash of versatility, catching a touchdown pass and running for another score.
Stanford's defense, its calling card under Shaw and Jim Harbaugh before him, was dominating again, preventing Taylor Kelly from making big plays while holding Arizona State's offense to 311 total yards.
After a seesaw ride into the Pac-12 title game that included a loss to unranked Utah, the Cardinal is headed back to Pasadena after a dominating performance.
“We had some downs this year, but we love each other,” said Gaffney, who watched last year's Rose Bowl from the sideline after returning from playing minor league baseball. “Being here makes it all worth it.”
Arizona State (10-3) stumbled early for the second straight game against the Cardinal and again had trouble on special teams to spoil its Rose Bowl hopes.
Instead of their first trip to Pasadena since 1997, the Sun Devils will likely play in the Holiday or Alamo Bowl.