PASADENA, Calif. » Stanford barely missed out on the College Football Playoff, and Christian McCaffrey almost won the Heisman Trophy.
McCaffrey and the mighty Cardinal didn’t miss a thing in their Rose Bowl romp over Iowa.
McCaffrey caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on the opening snap and returned a punt 66 yards for another score while setting the Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards, propelling No. 5 Stanford to a 45-16 victory over the sixth-ranked Hawkeyes on Friday.
Kevin Hogan passed for 223 yards and three TDs in his final game for the Cardinal (12-2), who won the Rose Bowl for the second time in three trips over the past four years for this unlikely football powerhouse.
McCaffrey was sublime in his debut at the Granddaddy of Them All, breaking the all-purpose yards record set by Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis in 2012.
McCaffrey finished second behind Alabama’s Derrick Henry in the Heisman voting, but the speedy sophomore left no doubt about his brilliance with one of the most dynamic performances in the 102-game history of the Rose Bowl.
He had 172 yards rushing, 105 yards receiving and 91 on kick returns, putting an appropriate cap on the season in which he set the NCAA record for all-purpose yards. McCaffrey also became the first player ever to rack up more than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in a Rose Bowl.
Stanford and Iowa finished in the final two spots outside the College Football Playoff field, but the Cardinal showed they belong among the best with their 12th win in their final 13 games.
With a powerful offensive line and a sturdy defense, they also ruined the first trip to Pasadena in 25 years for the Hawkeyes (12-2), who followed up their remarkable 12-0 regular season with two postseason losses.
C.J. Beathard passed for 239 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Hawkeyes, whose thousands of fans proudly filling the venerable stadium with old gold and black. The faithful had painfully little to cheer after Iowa fell behind in the opening seconds, putting a daylong damper on Kirk Ferentz’s first Rose Bowl after 17 years as a head coach.
Just 11 seconds in, Hogan hit McCaffrey with a TD pass down the middle. After Hogan rushed for an 8-yard score and Quenton Meeks returned an interception 66 yards for another TD, the Cardinal had the highest-scoring first quarter in the Rose Bowl’s lengthy history.
The rout was really on after McCaffrey’s 63-yard TD return in the opening minute of the second, and Stanford comfortably sat on its 35-point halftime lead while improving to 7-7-1 in the Rose Bowl in school history.
Michael Rector caught two touchdown passes for Stanford, which reigned atop the Pac-12 and conquered the Rose Bowl again with coach David Shaw’s brand of simple, powerful football. That style has led to a renaissance for Stanford, which beat Wisconsin in the 2013 Rose Bowl and lost to Michigan State two years ago in the 100th edition.
Hogan became the third quarterback to start three Rose Bowls, but he hadn’t thrown a TD pass in the game until he hit McCaffrey over the middle on the opening snap. It was the second-longest TD pass in Rose Bowl history and the longest play given up all season by the stingy Iowa defense.
Hogan then showed off his elusiveness on a TD run to cap a 74-yard drive, and Meeks erased Iowa’s first solid drive with a TD interception return down the Stanford sideline.
Iowa had never trailed by more than seven points at any point in its magical season, which included the first 12-0 start in school history before a narrow loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
McCaffrey then took a return through the heart of Iowa’s coverage unit, juking Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell on the way to his first TD on a punt return this season.
Stanford even got creative — or cruel, depending on your perspective. Hogan appeared to fake a fumble in the second quarter before popping up and throwing to an untouched Rector for a 31-yard score making it 35-0 at halftime.
Iowa avoided a shutout on Marshall Koehn’s 39-yard field goal late in the third quarter, prompting huge cheers and a confetti shower from the Hawkeyes’ band. Matt VandeBerg and Akrum Wadley caught Beathard’s late scoring passes.
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