The Stanford Cardinal have been a thorn in the side of UCLA football for a while now, winning the last 11 consecutive games. It hasn’t seemed to matter where the game is played or who is coaching the UCLA Bruins—these guys have UCLA’s number. Stanford is coming off of a nine-win 2018 season. While that seems like just a dream for Bruin fans, Stanford folks were still looking for more.
However, this season is playing out quite a bit differently than expected and the Cardinal may be feeling the loss of 2017 Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey and his 2018 replacement, Bryce Love. Both carved up the field and took pressure off the passing game.
But, here they sit, halfway through the 2019 season with a 3-3 record. While even three wins would be acceptable in Westwood, David Shaw may be on the hot seat. After the Bruins lost to Oregon State and now travel to Stanford on a Thursday, what will UCLA have to do in order to bring home the win? Here is a look at the Stanford Cardinal offense.
Stanford started the season with senior K.J. Costello, but he was sidelined with a concussion in their first game of the season against Northwestern, only to return for two weeks and suffer a hand injury. He is listed as questionable, but didn’t have the greatest stats when he came back to the game. His completion percentage was right about 56% and he had a QB rating of 101.2 overall, but had just a 21.1 rating in their 21-6 loss against #16 Oregon back on September 21.
While Costello has been out, junior Davis Mills has been filling in and he looks to have righted the ship. While they barely beat Oregon State 31-28 on September 28, they pulled off a 23-13 win against #15 Washington on October 5. In that contest, Mills was 21 of 30 with one touchdown and no interceptions, and the offensive line was able to hold, not allowing Washington to notch a single sack. He has five touchdowns on the season to Costello’s two. So, Stanford does not seem to have skipped a beat in the QB change.
Here is yet another scenario where UCLA has the potential to make a back-up look like a Heisman candidate. Mills is on a hot streak and, with UCLA’s weak defense and complete lack of a pass rush, people will be saying, “K.J. who?” when Mills throws lights out on Thursday.
Junior Drew Dalman, who started the year on the Rimington Trophy watch list and was also named the Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week on October 7 for his performance in Stanford’s victory over Washington, will start at center. On the left, junior Deverey Hamilton will be at guard and freshman Walter Rouse will start in place of the injured Walker Little, who is out with a season-ending knee injury. Rouse has an absolutely ridiculous resume, which includes lettering in football, track, and basketball in high school, and attendance at the Perelman School of Medicine Medical and Surgical program at University of Pennsylvania. Yes, he is a freshman, but this guy is not to be taken lightly.
On the right, senior Henry Hattis will get the start at guard and junior Foster Sarell will be at tackle.
Stanford’s offensive line has always been known as one of the best in the conference, outmanning opponents in both size and skill. This is a unit that UCLA is going to have to be ready for because they definitely have the ability to stand up the Bruin defensive line and both protect the quarterback while opening holes for the run game.
At 127 carries, senior Cameron Scarlett is the go-to man for the ground game. He has 564 yards for the year and two touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He has also seen time as a kick returner and started this year on the Doak Walker Award watch list.
Senior Dorian Maddox and freshman Austin Jones will also see a few carries here and there, and don’t forget about quarterback movement. Mills has run a few downs out of the pocket and so has Costello. So, even if there is a breakdown in the passing game, both quarterbacks can gain at least a few yards if they need to.
The Cardinal has spread passes out fairly evenly between three players. Sophomore wide receiver Michael Wilson tops the list with 25 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns so far this year and junior Connor Wedington has logged 29 receptions for 252 yards and one touchdown. As far as wide receivers go, these two are the favorite targets for both quarterbacks.
Additionally, junior tight end Colby Parkinson has caught 22 passes and a touchdown. At 6’7”, he is one of the bigger guys on the team and has definitely earned his spot on the John Mackey Award watch list and the preseason All-Pac-12 First Team.
Junior wide receiver Osiris St. Brown may be a target as well as Scarlett. So, Mills will be able to spread the passing game across several options.
With Stanford on a two-game winning streak and Mills hitting his stride and adding in the fact that UCLA is travelling to Palo Alto on a Thursday and the game will be televised on ESPN, all signs points to more of the same. One can hope, but one must also be realistic.