Play of the game: Special teams play can make or break a football team, and one play in particular really hurt the Bruins. With just over four minutes left in the third quarter, UCLA looked poised to get back into the game. Though it was still down 24-13, UCLA had just forced a punt deep inside Stanford's own territory and had a good deal of the momentum on its side. However, punt returner Taylor Embree chose not to call for a fair catch with the punt coming down around the 50-yard line, and special-teamer Ty Montgomery made him pay for that mistake. Montgomery, a true freshman wide receiver, knocked the ball loose from Embree and recovered the fumble at the UCLA 39-yard line, giving Andrew Luck great field position to work from. The Stanford offense quickly scored, going up 31-13 and largely ending any chance UCLA had for a comeback.
"We know he's going to be a phenomenal football player," head coach David Shaw said of Montgomery. "We're spoon-feeding him right now, just getting him ready for college football."
Defense shows both strengths and flaws: The game was largely positive for the Card on both sides of the ball, but the main focus was on the defense, which was expected to struggle after losing emotional leader Shayne Skov to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. The run defense performed fairly well; aside from a couple of big runs by UCLA tailback Jonathan Franklin, the Bruins failed to gain consistent traction on the ground, and were limited to 141 yards on 29 carries. The pass defense struggled early before gaining strength late in the game. Quarterback Richard Brehaut completed 18-of-33 passes for 202 yards and two scores, but had little success in the fourth quarter.
Goal line stand sets tone: The Stanford defense was tested early, when UCLA took the ball to the Stanford 1-yard line on its first drive of the game. The defense managed to hold strong, and stuffed the Bruin rushing attack on fourth down to keep the game scoreless and get the ball back to the offense. "It was huge," Shaw said. "Ball's on the one yard line it's an opportunity for greatness. Our guys stepped up to the challenge and did a good job."
Luck continues to shine: Of course, no discussion of Stanford football is complete without talking about quarterback Andrew Luck, who consistently found ways to complete passes against the Bruins. The quarterback completed 23 passes on 27 attempts for 227 yards and three touchdowns, and had a great sideline catch on a trick play in the first quarter. Luck made a lot of short throws underneath, with the Bruin secondary guarding against the deep throw throughout most of the game. Luck also took command of a surprisingly up-tempo offense, calling plays as the Cardinal utilized the no-huddle to confuse the UCLA defense.
"They were playing really deep," Shaw said. "We didn't think we could get behind them, so we kept throwing the ball in front of them."
Skov replacements fill in well: With Shayne Skov out for the season, all eyes were on Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley, the two players Shaw designated as his replacements earlier in the week. Lancaster was designated as the starter and got the lion's share of the playing time, rewarding the coaching staff's faith in him with seven tackles and a good night of getting pressure on the quarterback. Though Lancaster won't make anyone forget Skov, he played well enough to put to rest some of the concerns swirling around the defense prior to last night's game. "I'm proud of those guys," said safety Michael Thomas, one of the team's defensive leaders. "They went out there on a big stage, when the light was on them, and they did their job. They played a hell of a game."
Drew Terrell showcases versatility: Stanford receiver Drew Terrell, while staying mostly quiet in this game, did have an interesting night. Terrell threw a pass to Luck on the trick play, had one run for four yards on a sweep, and caught two passes for 17 yards, giving him yards in all three offensive categories.
Black uniforms make a comeback: Stanford played in the all-black uniforms that first made a debut last season against Wake Forest. The uniforms won't be the only departure from its traditional look that Stanford uses this season: it will unveil a set of all-new Nike uniforms in its regular-season finale against Notre Dame.
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