By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw
NNPA News Wire Sports Reporter
PASEDENA, Calif. – The sixth-ranked Stanford Cardinal handily defeated the fifth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes, 45 – 16 in front of an announced crowd of 94, 268 at the 102nd Rose Bowl, the “Granddaddy” of all bowl games on Friday, January 1, 2016. Stanford finished the season 12-2 overall while Iowa fell to 12-2.
As much as football is a team sport, this game showcased the brilliant play of running back Christian McCaffrey, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey. McCaffrey, the one man wrecking ball became the first player to have more than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in a Rose Bowl.
McCaffrey finished the game with 368 all-purpose yards, another Rose Bowl record. He caught 18 passes for 172 yards, rushed for 105 yards, a touchdown in four carries, and a punt return 63 yards for a touchdown. He also set a Stanford single-season rushing record with 2,109 yards. When asked if he had extra motivation for today’s game based on this past year’s Heisman voting, McCaffrey said, “I’m someone who believes in being motivated at all times, win or lose, individual awards. I play for my teammates. I play for God and my family. At the end of the day, whether I win anything or don’t, that’s the reason why I play and that keeps me motivated.”
The Cardinal defense also dominated the defensive side of the ball, sacking Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard seven times, and Stanford cornerback Quenton Meeks returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown with 4:07 remaining in the first quarter. The 21 points scored by the Cardinals were the most scored by any team in the first quarter of a Rose Bowl.
The Cardinal led at the half, 35-0 and held Iowa scoreless until the third quarter. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for 223 yards and three TDs in his last game for the farm. It was not the afternoon that Hawkeye fans had imagined.
The Hawkeyes finally scored on a 39-yard field goal by Marshall Koehn to cut the deficit to 38-3. In the fourth quarter, Iowa quarterback Beathard connected with Matt VandeBerg for a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Hawkeyes missed the extra point. With 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, Akrum Wadley caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Beathard. Iowa makes good on the extra point, putting 16 total points on the board for the Hawkeyes. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard passed for 239 total yards, completing 21 of 33 passes.
As the Stanford machine rolled on to victory with a final 42-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Rector, Cardinal head coach David Shaw said, “We didn’t talk about it too much, but we played so well this year and enjoyed the process so much that we tried not to talk about this being the last game, but the guys wanted to go out with a bang, and they did. All I know is today we’re Rose Bowl champs.”
Cardinal players McCaffrey took home the Offensive Player of the Game award and Abdulaziz Shittu was honored as the Defensive Player of the Game. He had 10 tackles – 3.5 for losses and 1.5 sacks.
For the Iowa Hawkeyes and their estimated 55,000 fans that traveled to Pasadena, the disappointment was clear, but the pride remained. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz summed it up best saying, “I’ll just say it one more time, just how proud I am of our football team. They’ve been a tremendous group all season long. 13 times they’ve prepared well, they’ve competed hard, and today just didn’t work out for us.”