Stanford took care of business at home on Saturday against previously undefeated UCLA, defeating the Bruins 24-10.
From start to finish, the Cardinal dominated the action, outgaining their opponent by 153 yards and forcing Brett Hundley into two critical turnovers.
After being upset by Utah last weekend, this was the kind of response you'd expect from a team many thought would contend for a national championship this season.
This game marked the third time these two Pac-12 rivals have gone against one another in the last 11 months. Stanford had won five straight against UCLA coming in, as ESPN Stats & Info passed along:
UCLA/Stanford meet for 3rd time in last 11 months. Stanford hasn't lost 2 straight since '09 (lost last week) & have won 5 straight vs UCLA— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 19, 2013
The first half of this game was a defensive struggle. The Cardinal completely stymied the Bruins, who picked up just 84 total yards. Stanford racked up 207 yards and dominated the time-of-possession battle, as the AP's Antonio Gonzalez relayed:
Total yards: Stanford 207, UCLA 84. Time of possession: Stanford 20:30, UCLA 9:30. Score: Stanford 3, UCLA 0. Halftime.— Antonio Gonzalez (@agonzalezAP) October 19, 2013
But the only points of the half came on a 31-yard field goal by Conrad Ukropina—his first career attempt, as noted by Kyle Bonagura:
On his first career FG attempt, Ukropina nails a 31-yard field goal. Stanford 3, UCLA 0.— Kyle Bonagura (@KyleBonagura) October 19, 2013
Stanford took a tenuous 3-0 lead into halftime, but thankfully the game opened up a bit after the short break.
After being held to just 37 yards passing in the first half, Hundley opened the second half by moving his team down the field with his legs. He took off on a busted play and rushed for 30 yards before adding another 14 yards on a designed draw play up the middle to put UCLA into scoring range.
Unfortunately, the drive stalled, and the Bruins settled for three points to tie the game.
It appeared, at this point, that UCLA was starting to find some momentum, but a couple of monster plays by Stanford quickly changed the outlook of the game.
In response to UCLA's scoring drive, Kevin Hogan led Stanford on a seven-play drive that ended with a stunning 30-yard, one-handed touchdown catch by Kodi Whitfield.
That gave the Cardinal a 10-3 lead, putting the pressure on Hundley to respond.
Unfortunately, he responded by giving up the football. Throwing into double coverage down the right sideline, Hundley put the ball into a spot where safety Jordan Richards was lying in wait. Richards returned the interception for a touchdown, but the return was called back due to a holding penalty.
It didn't take long for Stanford to capitalize on the turnover, however, as six plays later Tyler Gaffney put his team ahead by two touchdowns on a one-yard score.
Hundley finally got off the schneid shortly thereafter. He led the Bruins on an 11-play drive that chewed up 75 yards in under four minutes, finishing it off with a three-yard touchdown pass to Shaquelle Evans.
With UCLA's offense showing signs of life, Stanford needed a long scoring drive to seal the win at home.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, the Cardinal rode Gaffney hard on a nine-play drive to give Ukropina a shot at a 46-yard field-goal attempt to go up by two scores. However, he missed his attempt wide right, giving Hundley and the Bruins a shot to even up the score.
They couldn't take advantage, and the teams traded punts yet again. Then, with less than three minutes to go, Stanford's defensive front dominated UCLA's offensive line, as it had all afternoon, forcing pressure on Hundley. He tossed his second interception of the day to give Stanford the victory on a silver platter.
The Cardinal sealed the deal with a 32-yard drive capped by a four-yard Gaffney touchdown.
As head coach David Shaw indicated after the game, this was the sort of strong finish Stanford needed:
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Hundley was ineffective all game long. He was confused by the blitz packages Stanford sent and was under heavy pressure on most passing plays.
Andy Drukarev of Stanford.Rivals.com provides this quote from Hundley, who spoke about Stanford's ability to make him uncomfortable without bringing additional pass rushers:
Brett Hundley: "Stanford did a really good job of bringing pressure. Not even blitzing, but just using their front four defensive line."— Andy Drukarev (@StanfordRivals) October 20, 2013
He finished the game with 192 yards passing, having thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. He added 27 yards on the ground, but aside from a couple of big runs in the third quarter, he was stymied.
It was easily Hundley's worst outing of the season, and his poor play was the main reason his team lost the game, along with any hope of a national title.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Given the way UCLA's offense was struggling for most of the game, Stanford didn't need an explosive passing game to win.
Gaffney was a workhorse for head coach David Shaw, rushing the ball 36 times for 171 yards with two touchdowns. He didn't turn the ball over and helped his team absolutely dominate the time-of-possession battle, which kept Hundley off the field.
His solid play was the catalyst for Stanford's win.
Heading into the game, UCLA featured the nation's No. 7-ranked scoring offense (45.8 points per game) and its No. 5-ranked offense in terms of yards per game (547).
Utilizing a sound scheme that brought relentless pressure against Hundley, this unit shut down the Bruins to the tune of 266 yards with just one touchdown.
Shayne Skov and the rest of Stanford's front seven owned the line of scrimmage, and the team's secondary intercepted two passes on the game.
Things don't get any easier for UCLA after losing its first game of the season. The Bruins will head north to face Oregon next Saturday, and after the way Stanford owned this game, it won't shock anyone to see UCLA lose its second game in a row.
Stanford faces Pac-12 rival Oregon State in Corvallis, and though the Beavers feature a high-powered offense, this is a game the Cardinal should win easily.
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