Going into the UCLA Bruins' game against Stanford in Palo Alto this past Saturday, everyone in blue and gold knew that the main key to success in the contest was to stop the Cardinal's star running back, Toby Gerhart.
Gerhart proved to be everything as advertised, bullying his way to 134 yards on 29 carries with three touchdowns in the Bruins' 24-16 loss to Stanford at the Farm.
UCLA's running game, on both offense and defense, proved to be no match for Stanford, as the Cardinal nearly doubled the Bruins' output on the ground, 174 to 95.
Bruin running back Johnathan Franklin had as disappointing a day as Gerhart had a standout day, rushing for only 58 yards, though he did score a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Two of Stanford's scores came as a result of two key pass completions to Ryan Whalen, as he beat UCLA's freshman defensive back Sheldon Price twice for long gains, including a 46-yard pass off a flea flicker that led to a Cardinal score.
Kevin Craft had one of his best games as a Bruin, as the quarterback completed 22 of 34 passes for 204 yards and most importantly, did not throw an interception.
This loss cannot be blamed on him, but on key mistakes such as holding penalties during the first half that stopped UCLA drives, as well as the lack of a running game on offense and a failure to stop the run-namely Gerhart-on defense.
With their record now standing at 3-0 in the conference (4-1 overall), Stanford has showed that they are a force to be reckoned with-at least at this point. They will certainly be a tough opponent the rest of this season-and have definitely earned my respect.
As for the Bruins, there's no reason to panic.
They ran into a motivated Stanford team on the road, and while they did make a few too many mistakes, I don't have that same foreboding feeling that I and many Bruin fans felt last year.
UCLA's next two games are at home against Oregon and a reeling California team that lost to USC by a 30-3 score on Saturday, and has been outscored 72-6 in their last two contests.
Though Oregon has recovered quite nicely from the LaGarrett Blount incident to become a standout team, outscoring their opponents 94-9 during the past two weeks and earning a No. 13 ranking in the AP Poll, these games are winnable, largely because they will be at the Rose Bowl in front of the UCLA faithful.
Not to mention the fact that as long as the Bruins have the personnel on defense that they have, they will always be in games.
Having played a third of the season, progress is undoubtedly being made; 3-1 is the record that I felt the Bruins would have at this time.
The question for UCLA now is whether or not they can bounce back from this defeat.
I believe that they can and will.