With starting quarterback K.J. Costello and backup Davis Mills unavailable, the Stanford Cardinal turned to an inexperienced third-stringer at quarterback. He struggled and the Bruins were able to take advantage of the shorthanded Stanford squad for a much-needed win.
For much of the first half, the Bruins’ defense dominated, totaling five sacks and limiting Stanford’s offense to a single field goal and under 100 yards of total offense.
With their defense finally clicking — the Bruins had totaled only three sacks all season — the Bruins’ offense was able to generate two early touchdowns with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson finding wide receiver Kyle Phillips for both scores.
Despite the Cardinal’s blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, the Bruins were able to rally and string together a six-play, 85-yard scoring drive including a 53-yard sprint by running back Joshua Kelley to take a 21-10 lead into halftime.
The Bruins’ defense didn’t slow down in the third quarter, forcing two punts and a fumble across the Cardinal’s first three offensive possessions of the second half. Though the Bruins’ offense couldn’t punch in a knockout touchdown, kicker JJ Molson converted field goals of 43 and 49 yards to extend UCLA’s lead to 27-10.
The fourth quarter wasn’t much different. The Bruins’ defense squashed any last-ditch attempts at a Cardinal comeback before Joshua Kelley sent everyone home after a 54-yard scoring sprint as UCLA cruised to a 34-16 win to end Stanford’s 11-game winning streak.
With any win, as rare as they may be with this program, it’s still important to temper expectations. As routinely as this defensive unit has been torched by opposing quarterbacks — is there a way to erase Jake Luton’s clinic from memory? — dominating a third-stringer isn’t necessarily cause to celebrate a reborn Jerry Azzinaro.
Nonetheless, a win, especially against the Stanford Cardinal, whom the Bruins hadn’t beaten since 2008, feels particularly gratifying in a season as miserable as this one.
The Arizona State Sun Devils are coming to the Rose Bowl next week.