David Shaw's Conservatism Costs Stanford in Fiesta Bowl

[Oklahoma State scores to tie the game with 2:35 remaining. Ty Montgomery downs the ensuing kickoff for a touchback. Andrew Luck enters stage right. He's calm.]

You couldn't have scripted a better opening to the final chapter of Andrew Luck's remarkable Stanford career than the situation that unfolded late in the fourth quarter of Stanford's 41-38 loss in the Fiesta Bowl. The two-time Heisman runner-up, who had completed 22-of-26 passes to that point, had more than 2 minutes and three timeouts to march the Cardinal 80 yards for the winning score in a wild shootout with Oklahoma State. It was almost too easy. The Cowboys, it seemed, were cooked.

Sure enough, Luck started the drive with four consecutive completions. A 5-yard run by Stepfan Taylor moved the ball to midfield with more than a minute to play. On 2nd and 5, Luck found Jeremy Stewart for a 25-yard gain and Oklahoma State called timeout with 52 seconds remaining. Taylor ran for 6 yards on the first play after the timeout. Just like that, Stanford was in the red zone -- Luck's happy place -- and the Cardinal still had three timeouts. The game was won...until it was lost.

With the biggest game of the season on the line, do you put the ball in the hands of your third-year quarterback, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, who has completed 27-of-31 passes for 347 yards, or on the foot of a freshman kicker who missed a kick earlier in the game?

David Shaw chose the latter and it was the wrong decision. I respect the job that Shaw has done this season and I admire the confidence he showed in Jordan Williamson, both at the end of regulation and in overtime. I can't imagine how disappointed Williamson must feel after missing three kicks, but it should've never come to that. Shaw shouldn't have had any reservations about letting Luck throw the ball after Taylor's 6-yard run on first down, but even if he had, it blew my mind that the Cardinal didn't hand the ball off a few more times to at least move into better field goal range. Taylor ran for a preposterous 177 yards, the Stanford offensive line was dominating, and a 36-yarder isn't exactly a chip shot. Stanford should've played for the touchdown.

"Our kids played hard," Shaw said. "They just didn't finish the game."

You didn't give them a fair chance to, Coach.

I'll have more on the game, including some happier notes, tomorrow. Go Stanford!

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