No Heisman, no problem: Christian McCaffrey offers glimpse of what's to come in '16

PASADENA, Calif. -- Stanford offensive lineman Joshua Garnett lumbered around the Stanford locker room, shouting to anyone who was willing to listen.

"They didn't know who Christian McCaffrey was?" he shouted. "Well, they know now!"

In his first game since finishing runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race to Alabama's Derrick Henry, McCaffrey broke the Rose Bowl all-purpose yardage record with a 368-yard explosion. He caught a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, returned a punt 63 yards for another score and rushed for 172 yards on 18 carries -- an average of 9.6 yards per rush.

The result: Stanford thrashed Iowa 45-16 in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, and about the only thing that McCaffrey didn't do was throw the ball -- but remember, he did toss a pair of touchdown passes earlier this season.

It was another virtuoso performance from the nation's most versatile player; it was a performance that Stanford felt sent a broader message to the college football world. The Cardinal made it clear they weren't thrilled with comments made in the week leading up to the game, in which Hawkeyes players insinuated they hadn't heard much of McCaffrey until late in the season because Stanford played so many of its games late at night.

The Cardinal felt this lack of attention spilled over to Heisman Trophy voters who didn't watch McCaffrey play, so they saw the Rose Bowl as a stage for the running back to set the record straight.

"I think it's criminal that he didn't win the Heisman," center Graham Shuler said. "But you put a chip on a kid's shoulder like that, and it's scary what he's going to do."

Considering McCaffrey is only a sophomore, this might have been a preview of what he has in store moving forward.

"He's only 19 years old," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "He's still a kid. He's not done growing. He's not done maturing. He's going to get stronger. And I think he's going to get faster."

It's a terrifying proposition for opposing defenses in 2016. The current version of McCaffrey smashed Barry Sanders' NCAA record for all-purpose yardage in a season -- McCaffrey finished with 3,864 -- in running for 150 yards and receiving 100 yards in consecutive games to end the season.

The latter accomplishment, which McCaffrey reached twice in less than a month, has been attained only once by all other college football players in the past three years. McCaffrey also posted six games with more than 300 all-purpose yards this season. No other player finished with more than two.

That such a statistical output did not earn McCaffrey the Heisman didn't sit well with his team, particularly his offensive line.

"I'd be lying to you if we said it didn't really get under our skin," Shuler said. "We all felt really disrespected. Josh made it evident that we had a point to prove entering this game, so we worked our tails off this past month. It was like we were in training camp all over again, and Christian was the driving force of that."

McCaffrey didn't exactly echo the aggressive sentiment of his blockers, who chanted "Heisman!" while he spoke on the awards podium after receiving Rose Bowl offensive MVP honors, but he did acknowledge an added incentive while playing.

"Great players always play with a chip on their shoulder no matter if they have a reason to or not," McCaffrey said. "I'm someone who believes in having motivation at all times, win or lose, individual awards. I play for my teammates."

McCaffrey got an early start toward laying the groundwork for his 2016 Heisman Trophy bid. He shined in front of a true national audience before any viewers on the East Coast could consider retiring to bed.

While it couldn't completely wash away the disappointment of McCaffrey's runner-up finish, his performance set the table to remedy what the Cardinal viewed as an oversight.

"We all thought they got it wrong this year," offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. "This is great example of, 'Man, if they voted today, I wonder how it would go.' "

About a year from now, Bloomgren might not have to wonder. Because if New Year's Day was any indication, McCaffrey is set for one heck of a 2016.