PASADENA, CALIF. – The first time Christian McCaffrey touched the ball in the 102nd Rose Bowl, he took it 75 yards for a spectacular touchdown. A few hundred yards later, Stanford's sophomore star had smashed the oldest bowl game's record for all-purpose offense while leading the Cardinal to a blowout win over Iowa.
McCaffrey caught a touchdown pass on the opening snap and returned a punt 66 yards for another score while racking up 368 all-purpose yards, propelling No. 5 Stanford to a 45-16 victory over the sixth-ranked Hawkeyes on Friday.
Three-time Rose Bowl starter Kevin Hogan passed for 223 yards and three TDs in his final game for the Cardinal (12-2) as this unlikely Bay Area football powerhouse won the Rose Bowl for the second time in three trips over the past four years.
"It's so fun when a team can come together," McCaffrey said. "We've got a bunch of fighters on this team that will never give up. Just love playing with these guys."
McCaffrey was sublime in his Rose Bowl debut, 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 Trophy voting, but the speedy running back left no doubt about his brilliance with one of the most dynamic performances in the Rose Bowl's lengthy history.
"I think he was the best player in America before this game, so I think it's just the icing on the cake," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "I do think it's a shame that a lot of people didn't get to see him during the course of the year. Apparently the games were too late."
The world was wide awake to see McCaffrey in Pasadena. Hogan's opening throw to McCaffrey, 11 seconds into the game, was the second-longest TD pass in Rose Bowl history and the longest play given up all season by the Iowa defense.
McCaffrey racked up 172 yards rushing, 105 yards receiving and 91 on kick returns, a fitting cap on the season in which he set the NCAA record for all-purpose yards. He also became the first player ever to gain more than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in a Rose Bowl. He also became the No. 1 top single-season rusher in Stanford history (2,109 yards).
"No one doubted that he was going to do that, and I have the best vantage point in the stadium," Hogan said of McCaffrey. "He's a special player."
Stanford also ruined the first trip to Pasadena in 25 years for the Hawkeyes (12-2), who followed up their 12-0 regular season with two postseason losses.
C.J. Beathard passed for 239 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Hawkeyes, whose fans had painfully little to cheer after Iowa fell behind in the opening seconds of Kirk Ferentz's first Rose Bowl after 17 years as a head coach.
"Just like this game won't define this team, one play doesn't define a game," Ferentz said. "We had ample opportunity after that to play, but they played a tremendous game."
The Cardinal had the highest-scoring first quarter and first half in the Rose Bowl's lengthy history. After McCaffrey's opening TD, Hogan rushed for an 8-yard score and Quenton Meeks returned an interception 66 yards for another TD in the first 11 minutes.
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.
The rout was really on after McCaffrey made his 63-yard touchdown return in the opening minute of the second, juking Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell on the way.