Stanford football (3-5, 1-5 Pac-12) suffered a decisive road loss against No. 12 UCLA Saturday night, falling 38-13 at the Rose Bowl.
The Cardinal rode down to Pasadena, Calif. on the back of a two-game win streak after eking out victories against Notre Dame and Arizona State. After losing junior running back EJ Smith for the year just two weeks into the season, the squad learned this week that junior running back Casey Filkins would miss significant time as well. Stanford would need to overcome a depleted running back room and offensive line, as well as the absence of senior wide receiver Michael Wilson, to keep up with the high-octane Bruins offense.
The Cardinal got the ball first, and got off to a strong start. Junior running back Caleb Robinson rushed for 25 yards on the opening drive, but Stanford was stalled in the red zone. Picking up where he left off last week, junior kicker Joshua Karty knocked through the 22-yard chip shot.
The 3-0 lead did not last long. UCLA converted a key fourth-and-six in Stanford territory and as part of a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a three-yard run UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. On the first play of Stanford’s next drive, junior quarterback Tanner McKee was intercepted by linebacker Darius Muasau. And on the very next play, UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet broke a 23-yard run to the endzone. UCLA had 73 rushing yards through two possessions, and found themselves leading 14-3 midway through the first quarter.
The Cardinal offense was stalled again, and the Bruins put together another strong drive. However, this time Stanford was able to get a stop, and UCLA was forced to settle for a field goal. UCLA forced Stanford to punt, and put together another methodical drive. The 11-play, 80-yard score was capped off by a one-yard run by Charbonnet, giving the Bruins a 24-3 lead with under five to go before the half.
Stanford had to punt again, but fifth-year wide receiver Brycen Tremayne hit the UCLA punt returner, wide receiver Logan Loya, and forced a fumble to give Stanford the ball back. In what became a common theme throughout the game, the offense could not capitalize, as Karty had to be trotted out again for a field goal attempt. From 49 yards, Karty delivered once again.
UCLA got the ball back with 1:23 to go in the first half, and UCLA moved it down the field once again. Senior EDGE Stephen Herron recorded a key sack in the red zone and UCLA kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira pushed the 41-yard attempt wide. The UCLA led stood at 24-6 heading into the half.
“We just can’t come down and play the field goal game with this team, they’re too talented and have some elite players, ” said head coach David Shaw. “You have to score touchdowns to beat teams like [UCLA].”
The second half got off to a slow start, as both teams had to punt on their first two possessions. Just as it looked like the teams would play a scoreless third quarter, Charbonnet broke off another huge run, making multiple Stanford defenders miss en route to a 37-yard touchdown. Barr-Mira tacked on the point after, and the Bruins headed into the fourth quarter up 31-6.
The Bruins got another stop, and turned it into more points once again. Despite the Cardinal pinning them at their own one-yard line, UCLA ran the ball six times for 99 yards, with wide receiver Kazmeir Allen finding a hole for a 72-yard touchdown run. McKee stayed in the game and Stanford’s offense was able to put up a nice drive in response, going 75 yards in 14 plays. Coach Shaw elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line, and McKee found junior tight end Benjamin Yurosek for a tough touchdown grab.
That score snapped a streak of 10 straight quarters without a touchdown for the Stanford offense, and Karty tacked on the point after to cut the UCLA lead to 38-13 with under five minutes to go. Both sides played conservatively to run out the clock, and it finished with that scoreline.
Charbonnet was the star offensively, recording 198 yards on the evening as part of a UCLA rushing attack that put up a total of 324 yards on the ground against the Cardinal defense.
“Probably the most physical [running back] we’ll see this year,” said fifth-year inside linebacker Ricky Miezan. “One of the harder running backs to tackle in all of college football. You really have to bring your feet, take up space, wrap up, all of that. We had opportunities to do that, sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t. You saw what happened when we didn’t, he got free and made some plays.”
It was another disappointing game for the Cardinal offense, who have now failed to record 30 points in 12 straight games against FBS competition. McKee finished 13-for-29 for 115 yards.
“A couple times we didn’t get good releases at the receiver position,” Shaw said. “A couple times we didn’t get the throw we needed from the quarterback. More than a few times, we didn’t get the protection that we needed. Twice, possibly three times, we had guys going down the middle with opportunities to score a touchdown or change field position, and we didn’t have time to make the throw. It’s part pass protection, part releases, part making the throws we need to make.”
Stanford drops to 3-5 on the season and must win three of their last four games to attain bowl eligibility. The Cardinal return home this week to face Washington State (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12), and unless the Cardinal can pull off a massive upset at No. 12 Utah in two weeks, this one is a must-win to keep bowl hopes alive. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. PT.