UCLA looked to have the edge when the game started, and they looked to have the better of it coming out of the halftime locker room as well. Stanford could do nothing with its opening possession of the quarter, while UCLA again exploited a Stanford defense that looks 2006-like (okay, 2010-like) in space. This time, the Bruins started at their 40 and used bubble screens to receivers and a fake end-around to good effect. But give Stanford credit as their defense held in the red zone, dropping Brett Hundley on a third-down coverage sack and forcing the Bruins to settle for Ka'imi Fairbairn's 31-yard field goal to retie the contest at 17.
Do the Stanford coaches get any credit if former Stanford recruits look really good… against Stanford? Luke Kuechly, a one-time mid-level Stanford recruit, became a top-ten NFL Draft pick at Boston College, and the Cardinal's roster is full of two-star recruits cum All-Americans, so the staff's ability to evaluate talent is well-documented. But in this contest, it's the former Cardinal recruits in baby blue who are having disproportionate impact, with, for example, Jordan Zumwalt hearing his name called repeatedly (not to mention Brett Hundley) and Xavier Su'a-Filo getting a huge first-half block on Shayne Skov. This series, it was linebacker Anthony Barr who decleated Ryan Hewitt on a dump off as a Stanford series again ends in a punt.
Quick quarter, as Stanford has all of one first down in the period and only 3:30 remains. (One benefit to an interminable halftime is that TV has to keep the breaks short in the second half.) UCLA is on their second long drive of the quarter, with three third-down conversions keeping the possession alive: first, a 20-yard out route to Shaq Evans, then a two-yard Hundley sneak, and then a five-yard Hundley keeper. The next snap, Hundley gives to Jonathan Franklin, who runs untouched for 20 yards and the period's only touchdown.
Play of the quarter: This one is all on Jim Mora Jr. and the UCLA coaching staff, as they have been carving up Stanford with a lethal inside-outside combination. As the period came to the end, UCLA drove down the field with an outside-oriented attack. Stanford defensive backs were late getting off blocks, Cardinal linebackers were getting turned around in space and UCLA was marching. Stanford's defensive coaches didn't go from the envy of the NFL to brain-dead in a game, and so the Cardinal adjusted by getting wider more quickly. UCLA, of course, then counterpunched, giving it up the middle to Franklin for the go-ahead score. If you're Stanford's defensive coordinator, it's a classic case of darned if you do and darned if you don't, but you have 15 minutes to make one last adjustment and keep Rose Bowl hopes alive.
Stat of the quarter: 8.6/3.6. UCLA is averaging 8.6 yards per carry. Stanford is averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Lately, Cardinal fans have been used to seeing those numbers in reverse. Still, Stanford was driving for a potential tying score as the quarter drove to a close.
Final: Stanford 17, UCLA 14
Stanford rode Stepfan Taylor to start the final quarter, and the move paid off. As Fox's announcers note, he should be fresh for the stretch tonight after resting much of last week's second half in Westwood. He first fought an extra few seconds to keep alive a play that went nowhere -- but netted a 15-yard facemask penalty for his efforts. Then, on third and three at UCLA's 25, Taylor powered through initial contact to pick up just enough, moving the chains with a four-yard gain. It all paid off snaps later, as on third and long, Hogan found Drew Terrell sufficiently open in the back right corner of the end zone such that the cheers started before the ball arrived. The game stands 24-24 with 11:21 to go.
UCLA went backwards their next drive, with holds on their kickoff return and first-down run forcing the Bruins into second and 14 at their four. They clammed up and punted, with Drew Terrell netting 18 yards on the return to give Stanford the field possession edge, as the ball rested on the UCLA 43.
The next snap saw more Cardinal speed and explosion, as the wildcat – for the second straight week – paid off. Kelsey Young took the Anthony Wilkerson handoff for 23 yards to the UCLA 20, and though the Cardinal could advance the ball but two yards further, that was enough for Jordan Williamson to knock through a 35-yarder with 6:47 to play.
Trailing 27-24, UCLA turned to the no-huddle to write their fairy-tale ending, and quickly picked up rushing first downs on three straight plays. Then, the Stanford front seven turned the game around. The front stuffed a first down and Chase Thomas registered second-down sack to force third and long at the Cardinal 45. Brett Hundley fired to A.J. Tarpley, who couldn't hang onto a likely pick-six, but the resulting UCLA punt gave Stanford the ball back with 4:39 left and a three-point lead nonetheless.
Taylor for seven, UCLA timeout. (Our sentences get choppier as the game pace picks up.) Taylor for one, again out of a heavy set, UCLA's final timeout. Zone read fake to Taylor, Hogan keeps for 11. That, quite literally, is a call that gets you to the Rose Bowl. First down, snap with under four minutes left. Stanford runs twice to bring the clock down to 2:30 and then, in a beautiful reversal from the season's first month, David Shaw calls a timeout to prevent his quarterback from picking up a delay of game call. But Levine Toilolo drops a third down that would have been short anyway, giving the Bruins one last shot with 2:18 left and the ball at their 19.
Skov drops Hundley in bounds for two. Skov again drops UCLA in bounds on second, but a huge late hit call on Trent Murphy gives UCLA yet more life. (With the benefit of TV replay, that was a 50/50 call. Could have gone either way and neither team would have had the right to complain.) UCLA doesn't do much for a series, dropping an open pass on third down, but on fourth and ballgame, finds tight end Joe Fauria at the Stanford 34 to keep their hopes alive with 50 seconds left.
Spike, then a five-yard out route to Devin Fuller, and then a ball gets pinballed between two Stanford defenders and a slanting UCLA receiver and falls harmlessly to the turf. Fourth and five from the 34, down by three with under a minute to go – what choice do you have but to try for the field goal, even with a struggling kicker? Ka'imi Fairbairn gave it a game try, and the attempt looked long enough (or at least close), but his 51-yarder was wide left. We feel bad for the kid, but there's no style points necessary in this victory: Stanford just earned itself a trip to the Rose Bowl!
Play of the quarter: Coach, you were right and we were wrong. Some older Stanford fans were considering for their tombstones an epitaph denouncing the wildcat, but when it mattered most, the play came up, well, roses. Wilkerson gave to speedster Kelsey Young, and Young's speed was no match for a UCLA defense handicapped by a wet track. Twenty-one yards later, Stanford needed no more offense to score all the points they would need to win the Pac-12 Championship.
We're sorry, Coach. Now, if only we can get you to do something about the fade…
Stat of the quarter: 73-50. Whistled eight times to Stanford's five, UCLA accumulated a majority of penalty yardage. Making matters worse for the Bruins, many of those whistles came in crunch time. Stepfan Taylor drew a facemask call to extend the game-tying touchdown drive. On the ensuing possession, UCLA started at the eight because of holding on the kickoff return, lost four yards the next snap on another holding call and punted that same series. Stanford assumed possession on the Bruin 43 and scored the game-winning points that very drive. The Cardinal played with fire themselves, as a late hit call on Trent Murphy on UCLA's last drive nearly cost them dearly, but the Stanford D rallied and held.
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