As lopsided as the final score was in Friday's Rose Bowl, there was a point late in the first quarter of Stanford's 45-16 victory over Iowa where it appeared the Hawkeyes might actually make a game of it.
Stanford had taken a 14-0 lead, but Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard converted a pair of third-down plays to move into Cardinal territory, the first on a seven-yard pass to Jacob Hillyer as the quarterback got crushed by blitzing Stanford linebacker Kevin Anderson and the second on a 14-yard scramble for a first down.
But on a third-and-three from the Cardinal 36-yard line, Beathard attempted a long out pass toward the right sideline to Matt VandeBerg. Freshman cornerback Quenton Meeks stepped in front of the receiver for an interception and raced 66 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead, and the rout was on.
It was the first pick-six Iowa gave up this season.
"It was a very risky pass," Meeks said. "We were in a mix of man-to-man and zone coverage. I anticipated the quick out, and once he ran it, I blew threw his hip, and I was actually surprised he threw the ball.
"I looked and the ball was coming, and my eyes got big. I thought to myself, 'He did not just throw this.' I caught it, and my next thought was, don't get caught from behind."
He didn't. And neither did the Cardinal, which stretched its lead to 38-0 before Iowa scored on Marshall Koehn's 39-yard field goal with 3 minutes, 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
Iowa added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, on Beathard's passes of 36 yards to VandeBerg and 31 yards to Akrum Wadley, but that merely trimmed Stanford's lead to 22 points (38-16) with 2:46 left.
After opening the season with 12 wins, its first undefeated regular season since 1922, Iowa closed with two losses, to Michigan State (16-13) in the Big Ten championship game and Friday's Rose Bowl blowout.
"Stanford just outplayed us at every turn," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "This game hurts. We'll learn from it. We'll move on. We'll improve. But right now, it certainly hurts."
Ground to a halt
The Hawkeyes entered the game ranked 40th in the nation in rushing offense with an average of 192 yards a game, and several Stanford players said earlier in the week that the Iowa offensive line was the best they'd seen on film this season.
It didn't look like it Friday. The Cardinal bottled up running backs LeShun Daniels, Wadley and Jordan Canzeri, holding the Hawkeyes to 48 yards rushing in 38 carries, with Beathard having minus-33 yards, thanks to seven sacks.
Stanford senior defensive tackle Aziz Shittu had eight tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and two assisted tackles and was named defensive player of the game. Linebacker Blake Martinez had five tackles and four assisted tackles. Timing its blitzes well, four of Stanford's seven sacks came on third down.
"It feels awesome to see all of your hard work come to fruition, and walking away with some hardware is never a bad thing," Shittu said. "But it's really the whole defense that played great today. I wouldn't have been able to make the plays I made by myself."