Christian McCaffrey’s Rose Bowl party

PASADENA, CA-Two more years. Opposing teams will have to contend and try to stop Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey for two more years. That’s going to be one heck of a task. Better yet, good luck with that one.

McCaffrey may not have won the Heisman Trophy this year, but he made it quite clear in the 2016 Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual, that he is  simply the best player in college football. If you have some doubt about this fact, you might want to consider asking the Iowa Hawkeyes about their input on the matter.

McCaffrey, just didn’t put his stamp on the game, he now has a Rose Bowl record legacy that will follow him for quite some time.

“I think he was the best player in America before this game, so I think it’s just the icing on the cake for us,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “I do think it’s a shame that a lot of people didn’t get a chance to see him during the course of the year. Apparently the games were too late.

“But the bottom line for me is his heart and his determination is evident in every single practice and every single game. Christian, I told him at the Heisman ceremony and I told him again not too long after that, we need him to lead, and he’s leading by example and showing guys how to work and push themselves because that’s what great players do.”

Stanford's Christian McCaffrey had his way against Iowa in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey had his way against Iowa in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

Like he has done all season, McCaffrey was the do-everything man for the Cardinal, running the ball, returning kicks and fielding punt returns. He rushed for 172 yards. He added another 105 yards and a touchdown receiving to his game totals.

Then if you want to throw in his numbers for kickoff and punt returns, the speedy sophomore recorded the most dominant all-around game in Rose Bowl history, accounting for 368 all-purpose yards. About the only thing that McCaffrey didn’t do was clean the kitchen sink.

And he would have had more yardage to his game totals if not for a long rushing touchdown he had was called back because of a penalty called on the Cardinal. What McCaffrey did against Iowa in front of a nationally televised audience was put on a show resemblance of a masterpiece theater performance done with such artistic flow this his football cleats appeared to be more like the shoes of a ballet dancer.

This is what McCaffrey has done all season. He is the new poetic motion on the gridiron, all the while opponents continue to look as if their feet is planted in mud trying to chasing him. McCaffrey dazzled against Iowa, leaving the Hawkeyes in his wake with his moves that left defenders flying through the air and dangling with exhaustion.

Afterwards, McCaffrey, when asked about was this his best game of the season, deflected attention from himself to share the bright lights with his teammates.

“I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that,” McCaffrey said. “I think there’s been so many games this year where our offense has really gelled. And I think in the start of this game you saw our offense make plays, on special teams we were making plays. And it’s so fun when a team can come together and gel as a unit to try to make plays. Like Coach (Shaw) said, the second half didn’t go as we planned, but we’ve got a bunch of fighters on this team that will never give up. Just love playing with these guys.”

This is nothing new or an abbreviation.

We’re repeating ourselves, but has been stated before, McCaffrey has done this all season. After watching McCaffrey break Barry Sanders’ NCAA record of all-purpose yards set in a single season, it is almost astonishing to comprehend he finished as runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race. Being denied college football’s most prestigious award didn’t give McCaffrey extra motivation to play the way he did. That comes a different power, McCaffrey said.

“No, I mean, you talk to so many great players and great players always play with a chip on their shoulder no matter if they have a reason to or not. I’m someone who believes in having motivation at all times, win or lose, individual awards,” McCaffrey said. “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.”

What McCaffrey did against Iowa seemed to be almost unfair. Let’s begin with the first play from scrimmage. Fans hadn’t even settled into their seats comfortably when McCaffrey unofficially launched his 2016 Heisman Trophy campaign.

Christian McCaffrey ran for 172 yards against Iowa in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Christian McCaffrey ran for 172 yards against Iowa in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

A play designed to move the chains, McCaffrey took a short pass from  from quarterback Kevin Hogan and outsprinted the Hawkeyes’ defense to the endzone for a 75-yard touchdown pass and catch. That should have been a sign to Iowa for what was to come.

On Stanford’s next possession, McCaffrey buffed and bullied the Hawkeyes down the field, setting up Hogan’s short touchdown run to give the Cardinal a 14-0 lead. The rout was on. But McCaffrey was just getting warmed up.

Another time, another day and Hogan might have grabbed the headlines as the top offensive performer at the 2016 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. Usually when someone accounts for four touchdowns on such a stage as big as the Rose Bowl Game, which Hogan did against Iowa in Stanford’s 45-16 blowout win, it is pretty much a sure thing that person is going to take home the trophy as the game’s Offensive MVP.

Hard to believe, but as brilliant as Hogan’s performance was in his final collegiate game, one of his younger teammates outdid him in a dominant conclusion to a 12-2 season for the Cardinal. That teammate, of course, was McCaffrey. And to think that McCaffrey has two more years to keep doing what he did against Iowa.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1138 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.