UCLA has once again proven to be the antidote for anything that ails Stanford. The Cardinal may have struggled in back-to-back losses, but a 58-34 win over the Bruins in Palo Alto put a bounce right back in their Pac 12 step.
Lose the starting quarterback to concussion protocol? The second-string quarterback doesn’t look as good as he did when he played so much last season? No problem. You have owned UCLA for nearly a decade. Just put in the third string quarterback and he will come out looking like a guy who should have been starting all along. The Cardinal had scored a combined 41 points the last two games, but fear not, the UCLA game was here and Stanford put up 58 points. It’s the way it goes in this series, where the Cardinal have now won for nine straight years.
UCLA vs. Stanford
The two teams traded field goals in the first quarter before UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen hooked with Darren Andrews on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to give the Bruins a 13-6 lead. That lead could have grown to two touchdowns as the Bruins drove downfield on the next possession, but Theo Howard dropped a bullet from Rosen in the end zone. The Bruins field goal attempt was blocked and the momentum had turned.
Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst was knocked out of the game for concussion protocols after taking a legitimate hit by UCLA defensive back Adarius Pickett. Cardinal head coach David Shaw inexplicably rotated throughout the rest of the half between Ryan Burns, a part time starter last year, and sophomore K.J. Costello. All Costello did was inherit a seven-point deficit and lead three Stanford scoring drives in what was left of the second quarter. A Jet Toner 39-yard field goal with :35 seconds left in the half gave Stanford 17 straight points and a 23-13 halftime lead.
Other than one play to start the third quarter, Costello would remain in the game and lead Stanford to five more scoring drives. He finished the night with 123 yards on 13-of-19 passing. He also had two throwing and one rushing touchdown. But his impact was felt more in how he controlled the Stanford offense after an average start by Chryst and an non-impactful performance by Burns. He certainly made a case for being the starter the rest of the season.
UCLA Loses Sight of Stanford
Throughout the second half Stanford controlled the game. Every time Rosen would bring UCLA back to within a 10-point deficit, Stanford would march right back downfield to expand its lead. Rosen led a 91-yard drive in the third quarter, capped by a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Lasely. That got the Cardinal lead down to 37-27 with a minute left in the third quarter. Stanford went right back down field behind a couple of big Love runs and a Costello to Dalton Schultz touchdown pass to get the lead back up to 17 in the fourth quarter. No matter what Rosen did, the Stanford offense had an answer.
Rosen, who came into the game as the nation’s leading passer had another up and down game. He finished 40-of-60 passing for 480 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw two more interceptions, both when Stanford was already pulling away. Rosen was inconsistent throughout much of the night though. After starting the game five of six throwing, he then missed six straight passes. It was a telltale for the night. The heat he put on some passes, made what should have been ordinary catches, nearly impossible. He continued to try to make throws that mere mortals cannot get through coverage.
The consistency in scoring drives that UCLA thrived off in the last two-and-a-half games was sorely missing Saturday night. Rosen and his receivers were rarely in sync for extended periods of the game.
Running Against The Bruins Defense
What really did UCLA in though was the defense again being unable to keep an offense in check. Stanford running back Bryce Love went into the game having more yards rushing than the entire UCLA running back corps. Saturday was a stroll in the park. The Bruins had linebacker Kenny Young back from his concussion, but he was not a significant factor. With defensive end Jaelan Phillips missing from the lineup with an ankle injury, once Love could hit a hole, the edge was wide open to him.
He had 100 yards rushing in the first quarter and finished the game averaging just under nine yards per run, (30 carries for 263 yards with one touchdown). Even while facing three quarterbacks who were not likely to beat them through the air, the UCLA defense was rarely able to bring runners down on first contact. The Bruins gave up 405 yards rushing for an average of nine yards per run.
UCLA had settled in to a pro-style offense over the last two seasons specifically for the purposes of being able to compete with more physical teams like Stanford and USC. But, while this is the not the physical beast of Stanford teams past, UCLA managed only 115 yards rushing. Fifteen of those were Rosen scrambling. The other 100 were from Soso Jamabo, but even that number is deceiving as 49 of that came on a first quarter run.
After the game, UCLA head coach Jim Mora promised the team would not let this loss define the season as it has in years past. “We’ll rise up. I promise UCLA fans we will rise up. We will absolutely rise up.”
UCLA hosts Colorado Saturday and one of the better running backs in the Pac 12 in Phillip Lindsay.