UCLA drove 87 yards in the last three minutes for the game-winning touchdown in a 23-20 leapfrogging of Stanford. Coach Jim Harbaugh's "blue collar team," as termed by ‘98 Cardinal graduate and former offensive lineman Mike McLaughlin, simply lost the physical battle down the stretch.
The Cardinal went up early, behind Toby Gerhart touchdown runs from three yards and one yard out. The Card looked as if
they would enter halftime in front 14-3, but a 19-yard field goal off the foot
of Kai Forbath left gave the Bruins momentum, narrowing Stanford's halftime lead
Gerhart had 138 yards on the ground, as the Card finished with 301 yards at the Rose Bowl, but Stanford's mistakes proved too much to overcome. Turnovers, a scourge on the Cardinal all year long, proved a thorn in Stanford's side once again, with three cough-ups Saturday. Ten penalties for 103 yards also doomed Stanford's efforts to move within one win of bowl eligibility.
"This is really a tough one," Gerhart
Perhaps the most costly of Stanford's infractions came with UCLA at the Cardinal 15-yard line with under 30 seconds remaining, in need of a touchdown. Clinton Synder was called for pass interference on a Kevin Craft pass, moving the Bruins to the Stanford seven with just 16 seconds remaining. Corey Harkey found room in the end zone to catch the game-winning pass on the very next play.
The Card made a strong bid to put the game away on the preceding drive. In 12 plays, Stanford's ground-oriented attack managed to burn 4:58 off the clock, and move the ball 69 yards, all the way down to the UCLA 11, to set up a 4th and a short 2. Coach Harbaugh elected to kick the chipshot field goal, later citing "faith in [my] defense as rationale, which Aaron Zagory converted to move Stanford ahead 20-16.
UCLA played well against both starting quarterback Tavita Pritchard and backup Alex Loukas. The Bruins held Pritchard to just 51 yards passing and five completions. Loukas managed 51 yards rushing, but only threw once, incomplete. Counterpart Kevin Craft, meanwhile, was 23-of-39, racking up 285 passing yards and the game-winning touchdown with just 10 seconds left on the clock.
Whispers of a bowl game died down as the Cardinal dropped to 4-4 overall, and 3-2 in the Pac-1. Now, in order to get the six wins needed for bowl eligibility, the Card's easiest path is to topple division bottom-dwellers Washington State (1-7) on November 1, as well as either Oregon (5-2), USC (5-1), or Cal (4-2).
UCLA (3-4), meanwhile, can now start to dream of a bowl game themselves. The Bruins have now won five straight against Stanford, with the Card last winning in the Rose Bowl in 1996.
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