UCLA vs. Stanford: 10 Things We Learned in Bruins' Loss
In a game that seemed to be dominated by Stanford, UCLA had chances to tie the game late, but the Bruins ultimately fell to the defending Pac-12 champions by a score of 24-10.
Despite completely dominating time of possession in the first half, the Cardinal only managed a field goal and took a 3-0 lead into halftime. Eventually, the Bruins defense wore down from being on the field for 75 plays, allowing the game-clinching touchdown with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
It all began up front with Stanford's offensive line and the bruising running style of Tyler Gaffney, who had a career day, rushing for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. The Cardinal defense also made life difficult for Heisman hopeful Brett Gardner, who threw two interceptions to safety Jordan Richards.
It was a nice bounce-back win for Stanford and a discouraging defeat for the formerly undefeated Bruins. Even still, not all hope is lost for UCLA. Here are 10 things we learned from its loss to David Shaw's bunch.
Tyler Gaffney Is a Workhorse
There was a universal belief that Stanford's rushing attack would take a step back after losing Stepfan Taylor to the NFL draft.
Tyler Gaffney would have you believe otherwise based on his performance against UCLA.
His 171 yards were a career-best, and his ability to always push forward and get a few extra yards was what kept the Bruins defense on the field for extended periods of time, wearing them out as the game moved along.
As a senior, this is Gaffney's first chance as the featured back for the Cardinal. Just as Taylor was a workhorse during his final season at Stanford, Gaffney is replicating his role. A lot of the credit has to go to that dominant Stanford offensive line, but Gaffney showed us something today against a quality opponent.
Penalties Are Still Killing UCLA
The Bruins entered their game at Stanford as the second-most-penalized team in the Pac-12, and they didn't do themselves any favors on Saturday.
While committing seven penalties for 43 yards doesn't sound like the end of the world, it was the timing of the penalties that really hurt UCLA. A false start here and a hold call there were even more costly considering how well a fresh Cardinal defense was playing.
Clearly, this is a problem head coach Jim Mora and the rest of the Bruins' coaching staff needs to continue to address. They even brought in a specialist during practice leading up to the game in Palo Alto, but it was to no avail.
They may have still managed to hang with Stanford despite the penalties, but the Bruins really can't afford those miscues next week up in Eugene, Oregon.
Brett Hundley Is out of the Heisman Race
He was probably still on the outside looking in coming into Saturday's game against Stanford, but sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley probably eliminated himself from Heisman Trophy contention.
For one, UCLA was likely going to have to run the table considering the numbers other quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel are putting up this season. Hundley's weren't too far behind entering Week 8 (68.1 completion percentage, 15 total touchdowns), but he was shut down by a Cardinal defense far more renowned for stuffing the run than defending the pass.
Hundley went 24-of-39 for 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and the dual-threat quarterback only managed 27 rushing yards on 11 attempts. We knew it was going to be difficult for Hundley to escape Stanford's talented linebacker corps, but he only had success throwing the football in the third quarter.
There's just too much talent at the quarterback position in college football this season. Hundley is out of the Heisman race.
The Bruins' D Is Still Legitimate
One thing is for certain—you can't pin this loss on UCLA's defense.
Giving up 419 yards to a Stanford offense that isn't exactly respected as one of the county's elite might not support its case, but the Bruins defense was on the field for over 37 minutes.
That largely had to do with the UCLA offense's inability to sustain a drive. By the second half, the defense was completely worn down.
UCLA entered Week 8 with a Top 20 defense, and it kept the Bruins and their inept offense in the game until nearly the final whistle. Great individual efforts from Randall Goforth (19 tackles) and Ishmael Adams (10 tackles, interception) were a huge reason why, and it didn't help that Eric Kendricks, who had eight tackles, had to go to the hospital at halftime with a kidney issue.
Fortunately, the initial news on Kendricks appears to be positive, according to Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register.
Anthony Barr Is a 1st-Round Draft Pick
Great college football players are often characterized by their athleticism, work ethic, strength and upside, but there aren't many student-athletes playing football who are smarter than UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
Many project Barr, who is a senior, to be selected in the first round of next year's NFL draft. While his game against Stanford wasn't his best by any means, there were still instances that showed Barr already has the mental capacity to play at the next level.
Stanford's running game and punishing offensive line helped to neutralize Barr, but he made a great read on a reverse that resulted in an eight-yard loss. He had eight tackles in all.
Barr, who has received comparisons to Jevon Kearse, is plenty talented, but it's what's between his ears that will benefit him the most in the NFL.
Stanford, UCLA Still Control Own Destiny
Both Stanford and UCLA have now lost one conference game just a few weeks into Pac-12 play, but here's the thing—we're only a few weeks into Pac-12 play.
What's most important is that each team controls its own destiny. While realistically, competing for a BCS National Championship is out of the question, a trip to the Rose Bowl is still a possibility.
The Cardinal play in the tougher division, but they will benefit from playing Oregon in Stanford. As we mentioned before, the Bruins have to travel to play the Ducks one week after getting punched in the mouth by Stanford.
But Arizona State appears to be the only real threat to pull out the Pac-12 South.
A loss is never a good thing, especially in a season that only consists of 12 games, but there's still a big prize awaiting at the end of the regular season. That dream is still a reality for UCLA and Stanford.
Injuries at Left Tackle Hurt UCLA
Regardless of how healthy the Bruins were at offensive line, it was going to be tough to move the football on the ground against a stout Stanford front seven.
It didn't get any easier when original starting left tackle Torian White was ruled out for the season earlier this month, but then White's backup, Simon Goines, went out, then in, and then back out against Stanford with an injury.
It didn't stop there; third-string left tackle Conor McDermott got hurt a mere two plays after he entered the game.
Maybe it didn't make all that much of a difference for the running game, but the left tackle protects Brett Hundley's blind side and is an integral part of pass protection. Stanford had four sacks and seven tackles for a loss. The Cardinal held UCLA to just 74 rushing yards.
Losing White, then Goines and then McDermott left the Bruins with their worst-case scenario at left tackle, and that's never what you want to hear.
So Did Injury at Running Back
For the second straight week, the Bruins were without their No. 1 tailback, Jordon James.
Early on, UCLA showed some nice bursts out of the backfield, but the holes slowly closed up as the game went along.
In four games, James rushed 74 times for 463 yards and five touchdowns, but an ankle injury has sidelined him of late. With James out, it was Malcolm Jones getting the most carries among Bruin running backs—a grand total of five.
Between Jones, Paul Perkins, Damien Thigpen and Steven Manfro, UCLA's running backs had 15 carries for 48 yards. James' presence was dearly missed, even though it was going to be an uphill battle for the Bruins' backfield against Stanford.
UCLA Needs a Playmaker at Receiver
The stats across the board were pretty underwhelming for the UCLA offense.
Hundley couldn't even manage 200 passing yards or 30 rushing yards, two numbers the sophomore quarterback had topped in four of his five starts this season before Saturday.
The running game was notably poor as well. But what about the Bruins' wide receiver corps?
Coming into the Stanford game, not one UCLA receiver had more than 300 yards on the season, showing that Hundley spread the wealth among his wideouts. However, without a true No. 1 receiver to turn to, moving the football through the air can become difficult, which is what we saw against the Cardinal.
The Bruins' leading receiver on Saturday was Jordan Payton, who caught five passes for 43 yards. Shaquelle Evans caught UCLA's only touchdown pass and had 30 yards receiving, but beyond that, there wasn't much doing for the Bruins.
Receivers weren't getting open downfield, and that made life difficult for Hundley.
Kodi Whitfield Might Have Made the Catch of the Year
It would be criminal not to link to this phenomenal one-handed grab by Stanford's Kodi Whitfield.
Not only was it a bona fide Top 10 play on SportsCenter, but it could very well be the catch of the year in college football. What's even better about the catch is that it was in double coverage and resulted in a touchdown, and paydirt was hard to come by today in Palo Alto.
Oh, and it also happened to be Whitfield's first career touchdown catch.
Those are usually hard to forget no matter how they occur, but Whitfield's first touchdown grab might very well be the best he will ever make. The catch broke a 3-3 tie in the third quarter and helped propel Stanford to a pivotal Pac-12 victory over the Bruins.
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