Pregame: Let's talk betting lines, very much in the news of late. Stanford by 6.5 seems fair. Michigan by more than a touchdown against an undefeated, top-five team that has won six of the last seven in the series does not. But if most of us squares think that the value's with MSU, of course then the value is with Michigan, and they should be 10-point favorites if not for Joe Public. Heady times under Jim Harbaugh, who, if possible, looks like an even better coach now than a year ago. By extension, David Shaw looks better too, I suppose – he's keeping going what it took one of the game's greatest coaches started. One big difference between Shaw and Harbaugh: Harbaugh largely avoided upsets. (To be fair, he was not always the favorite, ala Shaw, who is merely 90% against favorites.) If Shaw can keep that mojo going tonight, the Pac-12 North race will run through Palo Alto, with the Cardinal having a one-game lead on the field, and most everyone left having to visit the Farm.
Kickoff: McCaffrey keeps cutting inside and gains 25 on the first snap from scrimmage. On a second and short, the Card bomb deep for Hooper down the left sideline. Off his hands, but love taking a deep shot on second and short. Remound Wright is eaten alive on a toss on third and short, and Stanford punts on fourth and two from the UCLA 42. Grr.
UCLA passes for two first downs, but the second comes back on offensive pass interference. So both teams shoot themselves in the foot on third and short. Weak call you rarely see whistled, Stanford catches a break.
Alijah Holder with the game's first big play, picking off Josh Rosen, who was late on an out route to a double-covered man. Holder's catch, requiring he twist his torso 90 degrees and sky for the ball was impressive. His return, which saw him tiptoe the right sideline, then spin out of would-be tackles, and then reverse field and beat the Bruin offense to the far corner of the end zone, was more impressive yet. That's why we play bend-but-don't-break defense and make Josh Rosen throw 45 times a game.
Stanford 7, UCLA 0, 11 minutes remaining, first quarter
Believe that's our first defensive score of the season, couldn't have come at a better time. UCLA responds right where they left off, though, firing two strikes for first downs before Paul Perkins shows why he might be the Pac-12's best back, no offense Devontae Booker, faking three Cardinal out of their jockstraps and advancing to the Cardinal 10. Off a timeout, Perkins scores the next play, but it comes back: The right tackle aligned in the neutral zone, and then UCLA gets whistled for a hold the very next snap. They give up and run on third and goal from the 23, but field goal is true.
Stanford 7, UCLA 3, 7:22 remaining, first quarter
Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines returned their opening kick for a touchdown to set the early tone against Northwestern last week. Today, McCaffrey hits a seem and isn't touched until the diving kicker hits his heel around the Bruin 20, and the cavalry catches up at the Bruin four. Next play, play-action touchdown to a wide-open Austin Hooper.
Stanford 14, UCLA 3, 7:22 remaining, first quarter
Very next snap, Rosen hits a wide-open man on a coverage bust. 70-yard touchdown. Outside cornerback was stuck on his man's short route, and the safety didn't think that the streaking receiver in the slot was his. Bad bust to keep UCLA within striking distance early.
Stanford 14, UCLA 10, 6:41 remaining, first quarter
Sanders, then a scrambling Hogan, and then a third-and-short Remound Wright combine to pick up a first down on the ground. Kyle Murphy false start. Second down, Hogan nearly sacked, and Casey Tucker gets away with an uncalled hold en route to his man beating him. Hogan then with a GREAT throw to Austin Hooper on third down, throwing while running toward the line of scrimmage and placing it on the hip opposite the UCLA defender.
Bryce Love does well to cover up a backward pass that UCLA blitzed right into, unfooled by a fake in the opposite direction. Guess they knew that when Love came in, there was a darn good chance we were going to dial up a package play for him.
Yet again, we go nowhere on first and second downs, but on third down, Hogan fires deep and Hooper hangs on. Keep going to it until they stop it.
McCaffrey with two runs, the latter coming off a power look, to bring up third and short. Wright's turn, and he gets three when we need one. We are who we are, and right now it's working.
Stanford 14, UCLA 10, End First Quarter
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