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Stanford works for its opening win

The SportsXchange

STANFORD, Calif. -- No. 5 Stanford became the last FBS team to start its season on Saturday night, and the Cardinal did not provide any flashy highlights as it began pursuit of a national championship.

The Cardinal was efficient, but not spectacular, as it scored on five of its first six possessions in a workmanlike 34-13 victory over San Jose State before a sellout crowd of 50,424 at Stanford Stadium.

While many teams are creating a frenzied pace with hurry-up, no-huddle offenses, Stanford plays patient, old-school power football.

The Cardinal methodically rolled up 404 yards, nearly equally split between passing and running, while overpowering the Spartans (1-1).

It was just the way Stanford coach David Shaw likes it.

"Absolutely," he said. "There's not a lot of teams that look like us, but that's fine. We want to control the ball and score on every possession and play great defense."

Sophomore quarterback Kevin Hogan is now 6-0 as a starter after completing 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Stanford's season opener.

Tyler Gaffney, Stepfan Taylor's successor as the Cardinal's starting tailback, rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

This was Gaffney's first game since 2011 after spending a year playing minor league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization. He admitted he was nervous

"I was little lightheaded on the first drive," he said. "I had some butterflies."

San Jose State gave the Cardinal a scare in last season's opener, which Stanford won 20-17. The Spartans presented less of a problem this time.

San Jose State quarterback David Fales completed eight of his first 10 passes and finished 29 of 43 for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Spartans managed just 35 yards on the ground, and Fales was sacked four times.

However, defense is Stanford's forte, and Cardinal outside linebacker Trent Murphy was less than satisfied.

"On the defensive side, we played average at best," he said. "I felt we were pretty soft up front. Way too many yards after the catch and after first contact."

The Cardinal built a 27-6 lead early in the third quarter but did not put the game away until Gaffney scored on a 2-yard run to give Stanford a 34-13 lead with 11:08 left in the game.

"We played a team that is a big, physical team," San Jose State's first-year coach Ron Caragher said. "We played good, but we need to play better to beat this team.

"We moved the ball up and down the field. We just didn't capitalize as much as I'd like."

Three times the Spartans failed to score a touchdown after getting inside the Stanford 15-yard line.

"We tightened up in the red zone," Shaw said. "We don't worry about what happens between the 20s."

The Spartans were still in the game, trailing 27-13 late in the third quarter, before Ed Reynolds intercepted a Fales pass at the Cardinal 48-yard line.

"I thought we had them on their heels before that," Caragher said.

The Cardinal turned that turnover into Gaffney's clinching touchdown.

Stanford controlled the game from the outset. The Cardinal scored on its first three possessions and led 17-6 at halftime.

Hogan's 40-yard touchdown pass to Devon Cajuste finished the Cardinal's opening drive and gave Stanford a 7-0 lead. The Spartans never caught up.

Austin Lopez made both of his field goal attempts for the Spartans, and he's now 20 of 20 in field goal attempts during his career.

His first field goal, a 30-yarder, reduced the San Jose State deficit to 7-3 in the first quarter. His second, a 22-yarder with 3:43 left in the second quarter, made it 17-6.

But in between, Gaffney had a 16-yard touchdown run and Jordan Williamson made a 40-yard field goal for Stanford.

The only one of Stanford's first six possessions that did not produce points came on the Cardinal's final drive of the first half, when Williamson missed a 52-yard field goal attempt with 16 seconds left.

NOTES: Stanford and San Jose State have met 67 times, but Saturday's game was probably the last between the Bay Area rivals for a while. The two will not meet next season. ... Both San Jose State and Stanford came into Saturday's game riding eight-game winning streaks, tied for the third-longest active streak among FBC teams. On Saturday, Ohio State extended its winning streak to 14 by beating San Diego State, but Arkansas State had its nine-game winning streak halted by Auburn. Stanford now stands alone with the second-longest active streak at nine in a row.
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