The Cowboys didn't play superb in every facet. But they played well in their strengths.
Weeden2Blackmon: A. What a finish to this remarkable connection. Justin Blackmon had eight catches for 186 and three touchdowns, making Stanford look little Pop Warners after his catches. Weeden struggled early but was supreme late. OSU got the ball twice in the fourth quarter. Weeden drove the Cowboys 60 and 67 yards to touchdowns, completing 12 of 14 passes for 123 yards. Then Weeden nailed a slant pass to Colton Chelf for 24 yards in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.
Perimeter defense: C. The Cowboys were hurt badly by Stanford tailback Stefan Taylor, who continually bounced outside on stretch plays or on direct routes to the perimeter. Taylor finished with 177 yards on 35 carries.
Cowboy fans: A. The meter probably didn't reach 30,000, but OSU fans likely numbered somewhere in the 20,000s. They got to Phoenix early, they covered most pockets of the city and they roared with every quality moment of the game. And you didn't need an official to signal the two late field-goal misses by Stanford's Jordan Williamson. The Cowboy faithful took care of that.
Defending Luck: C. The Cowboys got decent pressure on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck; even sacked him twice. But Luck often ran out of trouble and completed a pass. Luck's numbers were supreme — 27 of 31 passing for 347 yards and two touchdowns, though Justin Gilbert did make a nifty first-quarter interception.
Uniforms: B. The Cowboys went all-black. Helmets, jerseys, pants. Very good look and one we thought we'd see earlier in the season. Just one problem. When the opponent is wearing all white — Stanford wore white helmets, white jerseys, white pants — it makes for a colorless game.
Role receivers: B. With Michael Harrison and Tracy Moore benched for undisclosed reasons, and Hubert Anyiam injured, OSU was short-handed at receiver. Colton Chelf made a couple of big-time catches, including what serves as the game-winner. Josh Cooper was his usual productive self, with seven catches for 55 yards, though he had a third-down drop that forced a punt.
Shoes: D. The Cowboys constantly slipped on University of Phoenix's rolled-out real grass. The only saving grace was that Stanford also had its share of slippage. Blackmon slipped on a slant pattern after catching a short pass, when he had been running over Stanford defenders. Joseph Randle slipped in the open field after catching a short pass in the third quarter. Wide open Kye Staley slipped in the end zone trying to catch a Weeden pass.
Bird watching: A. Challenger, an American bald eagle, was let loose during Tamika Sonja Lawrence's rousing national anthem. He soared above the crowd and landed on his handler's arm on cue, just as the Star-Spangled Banner ended. Fiesta officials say Challenger is the only bald eagle in U.S. history trained to free-fly into sports stadiums during the anthem. Now that's a pregame flyover.
Locker-room adjustments: D. OSU was not good coming out of the locker room in the first and third quarters. The Cowboys made just two first downs combined in those quarters and scored just three points, after a Stanford fumble at its 4-yard line. But in the second and fourth quarters, OSU scored 35 points on five possessions.