The UCLA Bruins fell to the Stanford Cardinal, 48-47, in dramatic fashion, taking two overtimes and lasting what felt like a lifetime.
Or maybe that’s what the tale of two halves did to you when watching it, took your breath away one too many times. More so like a tale of timezones as each team had their times to dominate including multiple large scoring runs from each team, a blown fourth-quarter lead and a botched, choppy 2-point situation to end the game.
It all started, however, with perhaps one of the worst halves of football UCLA played all season long, the Bruins looked disorganized and off in every facet during the first half. They’re lone great play, a touchdown run that would have even the game at 7-7, was called back on a silly holding penalty that could have been avoided mentally.
Instead, the Bruins settled for three points and watched as the Cardinal offense could literally do anything they wanted, in their very plain, ‘vanilla’ offensive gameplan.
Stanford outgained UCLA 265-161 in the first half, scoring three touchdowns from inside the two-yard line. Austin Jones took two carries in from one yard out while wildcat QB Isaiah Sanders ran in another one from two yards away that pushed the halftime lead to 20-3 in favor for Stanford.
Thompson-Robinson finished the first half, and game, by averaging just 5.4 yards per pass while Brittain Brown, a bright spot in the first half, led all ball carriers with 53 yards on just eight attempts through two quarters.
Thompson-Robinson exited the game in the second quarter and was spotted after the half with a brace on his leg, ice taped around his knee and on crutches.
But then something changed.
With DTR out in the second half, Chase Griffin relieved him in the backfield and it was a heavy dose of the run game for the Bruins.
And with Griffin, came a resurgence for UCLA. Griffin led the Bruins on two straight scoring drives in the third quarter. Keegan Jones punched a run in from nine yards out to bring the score to two possessions and Griffin found Greg Dulcich for his first catch of the night, which went for 17 yards and six points to cut the lead to just three.
UCLA intercepted Stanford QB Davis Mills two times in the third quarter and Griffin led the team on their third-straight scoring drive when he connected with Chase Cota for a 23-yard touchdown to open the fourth quarter, giving UCLA their first lead of the game.
What began as a 31-7 run for UCLA in the second half became a fight for their life, however. Despite three interceptions including a pick-six from Jay Shaw to push the Bruins lead to 34-20, Mills and Stanford marched down the field to bring the game back to a single possession. A failed onside kick attempt put the game essentially out of reach but a botched handoff attempt gave Stanford new life with just under two minutes to play, down 34-27.
And that new life they used to torch the UCLA secondary as Mills was able to go 4-of-6 passing for 63 yards and a score on the game-tying drive by Stanford. The secondary left Fehoko wide open on a throw over the middle of the field for the score that tied the game at 34 points apiece.
A 31-0 UCLA run was answered by a 14-0 Stanford run and the teams were deadlocked after 60 minutes of play.
It took two plays for the Bruins to take the lead early in the first overtime period. Brown ran for four yards and Griffin once against connected with Dulcich for a 21-yard touchdown to give UCLA a 41-34 lead, putting the Bruins’ defense on the field. And the Bruins’ defense was not up to the challenge.
Despite that, and despite a 4th & 18 situation in the second half of the second overtime, Griffin bought time and threw a strike to Kyle Phillips for 21 yards and a score that brought the game to within a point.
Kelly’s aggressive play-calling was mirrored by his player's attitudes, or so it seemed on the field, as the Bruins went for the two-point conversion to win or lose the game in the second overtime. Offsetting penalties, however, wanted to extend the game even longer.
After the penalties, the Bruins still marched the 2-point team out but Brown was unable to gain the final yard he needed on a career day.
Brown finished the day with 219 yards on 29 carries while Griffin finished the evening in relief of DTR, completing 9-of-11 for 127 yards and four touchdowns.
It was a bittersweet end to a trying season for the Bruins as they fell to 3-4 on the year with combined losses all equaling just 15 points.
Now, we go on Chip Kelly watch.
So long football program, it was a wild ride in 2020.