STANFORD — What seemed like Stanford’s coming out party this season — and it still might have been — ended with players feeling distraught and disappointed in the locker room.
Tyler Gaffney ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns, Anthony Wilkerson added 68 yards and another score, and No. 5 Stanford started strong and struggled late in a 42-28 victory over No. 23 Arizona State on Saturday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
The defending conference champions controlled every facet of the game to turn the only matchup between ranked opponents this week into a lead of 29-0 at halftime and 39-7 through three quarters.
The Cardinal (3-0, 1-0) scored twice in the air and three times on the ground, forced two interceptions, blocked two punts, tallied 10 tackles for loss and recorded three sacks.
“We might have made a good statement in the first half,” linebacker Blake Lueders said, “and a terrible statement in the second half.”
Arizona State outgained Stanford 417 to 391 yards but looked overmatched until the fourth quarter.
Taylor Kelly threw for 367 yards, including three touchdown passes in the fourth, and Jaelen Strong caught 12 passes for 168 yards and a score in an otherwise disappointing showing for the Sun Devils (2-1, 0-1) after beating Big Ten champion Wisconsin in a controversial finish last week.
“They’re a championship caliber team, and we weren’t ready,” Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. “I apologized to the players for not having them ready. Stanford was better prepared.”
Stanford showed more diversity on both sides of the ball than it had in solid, but not overwhelming, victories against San Jose State and Army. The Cardinal’s funky formations and disguised defenses had the Sun Devils dazed and dizzy, again displaying the disparity between the past four league champions — Stanford and Oregon — and everybody else.