Ben Gardner could smell the end zone. After blocking a punt Saturday night against Arizona State, he scooped up the ball and lumbered 10 yards before Sun Devil offensive lineman Tyler Sulka dragged him down.
“I hadn’t touched the ball since eighth grade,” said Gardner, a 6-foot-4, 277-pound fifth-year senior defensive end from Mequen, Wisc.
What kind of runner was he in the eighth grade?
“I used to be a beast,” he laughed.
Stanford blocked two punts in the game.
“It’s a big deal,” said Gardner. “We treat special teams just like the other two phases of the game. We’ve been fortunate to have great special teams here over the years. Our guys did a great job. If we can keep making splash plays on special teams, it gives our whole team a boost and helps us win field position battles which is the key to winning games.”
While Gardner was pleased with the 42-28 victory, running Stanford’s record to 3-0, he knows the team needs to do a better job of finishing. The Cardinal led 29-0 at halftime, then was outscored 21-3 in the fourth quarter.
“We had them down, but they fought back,” said Gardner. “We’ve got to respond better and play our best football no matter what the situation.”
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Stanford could be without All-America free safety Ed Reynolds for the first half of next Saturday night’s game against Washington State in Seattle. Early in the fourth quarter against ASU, he was penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer and was also ejected under the new NCAA rule for “targeting.” Reynolds appeared to lower his helmet under the chin of quarterback Taylor Kelly.
“We’ll see if it’s upheld,” said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football at Stanford. “From the naked eye, I agree with the officials. We’ll go back and look at the film. They’ll go back and look at the film. I’ll communicate with the head of officials and Pac-12. We don’t complain about rules here. The rules are what they are, and we’re going to abide by them.”
Reynolds had six tackles and broke up a pass.
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Shaw loves the athleticism and mobility of quarterback Kevin Hogan, but doesn’t want him to subject himself to unnecessary hits. Hogan ran five times for 37 yards.
“We’ve still got to teach him how to slide,” said Shaw.
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In the latest national rankings released Sunday, Stanford remained at No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll.
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Next Saturday night’s game against Washington State will be televised live by ESPN at 7 p.m. The Cougars are 3-1, with their lone loss a 31-24 setback at Auburn in their season-opener … The game will be played at CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks … Stanford intercepted two passes to extend its streak to a nation-best 27-straight games it has forced a turnover … The Cardinal has now won 11-straight games, the second longest streak in the country behind Ohio State (16) … Anthony Wilkerson rushed for 68 yards on 18 carries and surpassed 1,000 yards in his career. Gaffney accomplished the feat earlier this season ….Wayne Lyons and Shayne Skov led Stanford in tackles with nine each … The Cardinal defense recorded three sacks and 10 tackles for loss … After rushing for more than 100 yards in each of the first two games, Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney collected 95 yards on 19 carries against the Sun Devils … As expected, ASU’s no-huddle offense hogged the ball, running 80 plays to Stanford’s 66. However, the Sun Devils averaged 5.2 yards per play compared with 5.9 for the Cardinal … Stanford entered the game second in the country in third-down conversions and converted seven of 15 attempts against ASU … No Stanford tight end caught a pass in the game … Summer Sanders was the honorary game captain.
Quotable: “They’ve got a great football team, great program. They’ve got good things going for them right now.” ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly on Stanford