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Cardinal’s smart play, late heroics knock off ASU

With the Stanford football team leading by four points with a minute and 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter, running back Anthony Wilkerson broke into the open field with no ASU defenders in sight.

Instead of waltzing into the endzone and giving his opponent the ball back, the 18-year-old true freshman sat down at the 4-yard line.

“Coach [Jim Harbaugh] said if we break, we don’t want to go out of bounds or score,” Wilkerson said. “A touchdown would have been nice, but for the good of our team I slid.”

With no timeouts left, the Sun Devils (4-6, 2-5 Pac-10) could not stop the clock and the No. 6 Cardinal (9-1, 6-1) escaped Tempe with a 17-13 win.

State Press Television By Andrew Boven

“‘Get down victory’ is what we call it,” Harbaugh said. “We needed to get the first down to win the game and kneel on it. It’s something we talk about in practice, so we just got in the huddle and told him.”

That same selfless play was missing from ASU.

Just five minutes prior, with the Sun Devils still leading by three, ASU sophomore linebacker Vontaze Burfict committed a controversial facemask penalty followed by another 15-yard penalty for arguing the call.

“I happen to be one of the guys that likes the way he plays. I’m a fan of his, but it certainly helped us,” Harbaugh said. “Our guys were prepared but let’s face it too, we also got some luck tonight and it’s nice.”

Two plays later, Stanford senior fullback Owen Marecic scored the game-winning touchdown against a Sun Devil defense that had been on the field for over 42 minutes and 83 plays.

Redshirt sophomore and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Andrew Luck was 4-for-4 for 30 yards on the drive. He finished the day 33-of-41 passing for 292 yards.

“We definitely had our hands full,” Luck said. “It was a testament to the O-line to get some points on the board, because it was tough sledding out there today.”

Luck, prior to Stanford’s final drive, had committed two costly turnovers in Sun Devil territory.

“If you’re thinking about the last play, or the first half, you’re not going to be nearly as productive as you should be,” Luck said. “I didn’t want to let my team down and mire in my own [mistakes].”

Stanford entered the game averaging 223 yards rushing and 42.3 points per game but was held to just 128 and 17 in the two categories Saturday, respectively.

“Champions win those type of games; I’m proud of them,” Harbaugh said. “This was the kind of game that brings your guys together.”

The Cardinal defense kept the team in the game when the offense scored just three points in the second and third quarters combined.

“We talked this whole year about packing the defense for the road games,” Harbaugh said. “I thought they played great. I really believe that’s why we’re having so much more success on the road this year — the way our defense is playing.”

The Cardinal defense had confidence in its leader to finish the game when it mattered most.

“When you have the best quarterback in the nation you just got to do your job and keep them out of the end zone, no matter how long it takes,” senior cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Because eventually [Luck is] going to get it done. Nobody is going to stop him the entire game, so we just kept grinding.”

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