Christian McCaffrey and Stanford turn the Rose Bowl into a laugher at Iowa’s expense


The 102nd Rose Bowl game was a blowout by the second quarter Friday, with Stanford well on its way to a 45-16 demolition of Iowa, when the Cardinal pulled the football equivalent of a three-card Monte on what seemed like a bunch of unsuspecting Midwest tourists.

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan dropped back from the Iowa 31-yard line and reached toward the ground with both hands on the ball, giving the impression he had fumbled.

Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey, who got a head start on his 2016 Heisman Trophy campaign by racking up a Rose Bowl-record 368 all-purpose yards and scoring two touchdowns, added to the hoax, diving toward Hogan’s hands as if he was recovering a fumble.


Stanford had never used the play in David Shaw’s five years as coach, and the Hawkeyes bit on the fake like it was a hunk of prime rib at the Lawry’s Beef Bowl. Hogan stepped back and lofted a high-arching pass to Michael Rector, who was wide open on a corner route in the right side of the end zone.

Bill Plaschke, Mike DiGiovanna and Lindsey Thiry discuss Stanford’s 45-16 rout of Iowa in the 102nd Rose Bowl game. 

Rector hauled in the pass for a 31-yard touchdown and a 35-0 Stanford lead with 8 minutes 22 seconds left . . . in the first half. It was that kind of afternoon for the Hawkeyes, who hadn’t been to the Rose Bowl in 25 years and looked like they had no business being there Friday.

Adding insult to Iowa and its faithful fans, who accounted for more than half of the crowd of 94,268 in the Rose Bowl, was the name Stanford coaches gave the trick play that made the Big Ten team look so foolish.

“We actually call it Hawkeye,” said Rector, who caught two passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns. “We just made that up. We knew their defensive backs and linebackers flew down hard. We thought if we faked a fumble, they’d bite hard on it, and they did. It was a great throw by Kevin, and fortunately, I came down with it.”

Shaw, who has coached the Cardinal to three Pac-12 Conference titles and two Rose Bowl wins in five years, said the play has “been in the works for six years,” adding that he first saw Boise State run it under coach Chris Petersen.


“I always liked it and was looking for the right situation to do it,” Shaw said. “We’ve worked on it at different times. For this game, if was a group effort. It’s one of those things when you talk about it, everyone says, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ Then we look at it again and say, ‘Gosh, that could be really good.’”

There wasn’t much Stanford couldn’t do on Friday. The sixth-ranked Cardinal imposed its will on the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes, dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and running up a 38-0 lead early in the third quarter before Iowa finally got on the board.

Iowa gave up an average of 18.5 points a game during 12-1 season. Stanford (12-2) scored 21 points in the first quarter. The Cardinal racked up 429 yards compared to Iowa’s 287. Stanford had seven sacks in the game, four coming on third down.

Hogan, a fifth-year senior, capped a stellar Stanford career by completing 12 of 21 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and his last pass in a Cardinal uniform was a beautiful 42-yard bomb down the left sideline to Rector for a touchdown with 1:54 left in the game.

The Hawkeyes spent much of the afternoon grasping at air in their attempts to corral McCaffrey, the speedy and elusive sophomore who became the first player in Rose Bowl history with at least 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving.

McCaffrey, who broke the previous all-purpose mark of 346 yards set by Wisconsin receiver Jared Abbrederis against Oregon in the 2012 game, caught a short curl pass from Hogan in stride and raced 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.


“We dominated up front,” said Joshua Garnett, Stanford’s Outland Trophy-winning left guard. “We dominated all facets of the game.”

Football players often look for motivation in perceived slights during the week leading up to bowl games. For Garnett, it was a declaration by Iowa cornerback Desmond King, who said he was going to “pancake” Garnett.

There were also comments from other Hawkeyes who said they hadn’t heard of McCaffrey until the Heisman Trophy show and that Stanford’s offensive line wasn’t much different than those they face in the Big Ten.

“They know who McCaffrey is now,” Garnett said. “They said we’re like a regular Big Ten offensive line. When you challenge guys like us, when you light a fire under us . . . we’re the wrong guys to do that to.

“For us to dominate up front and prove to people in the Big Ten that we can scrap with them, get down and dirty with them, that means a lot. We showed them what Stanford football is all about. Once the whistle blows, there’s nowhere to hide on the field.”


Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna