Southern California, that’s a given, it goes without saying, the USC game is always a must win. Now, Stanford, they are different. They have become the UCLA Bruins' measuring stick in recent years. No Pac-12 team, and I mean no Pac-12 team, has garnered as much recent attention from UCLA football than Stanford and no Pac-12 team has smacked the Bruins around as much as the Cardinal have.
There was the infamous “tank game” in 2012, where Jim Mora was questioned about whether he lost to Stanford on purpose so the Bruins would not have to play the then high-powered Oregon team, coached by, guess who, Chip Kelly.
UCLA and Jim Mora, then, went on a quest to be able to match Stanford down in the trenches, as Mora believed that mentality over scheme would get UCLA past Stanford. Well, we all know how that turned out for Mora. Mora ended his UCLA coaching career 0-7 against Stanford and the Stanford Cardinal were one of the main reasons Mora was fired.
So, how did Chip Kelly, who went into today’s game with a 2-2 record as a head coach against Stanford do today?
UCLA hung with Stanford during the first half of football. UCLA was able to score 20 points, and the UCLA defense, although allowing 27 points to the Cardinal, did hold the Cardinal to 1/5 on 3rd down and, thus, allowing the Bruins' offense the opportunity to move the ball. Again, the tired song that is the UCLA special teams, let the Bruins down right before the half as they allowed a Cameron Scarlett return for 74 yards that helped set up a Stanford field goal to put the Cardinal up 27-20.
UCLA came out of the half and immediately drove down the field, converted a huge 4th and 5 with a Wilton Speight pass completion to Devin Asiasi for 25 yards to the Stanford 12 yard line. UCLA and Martell Irby wasted no time in tying up the game as Irby ran to the right for 12 yards for a UCLA TD to tie the game up, 27-27.
The UCLA defense continued to struggle putting any kind of pressure on Costello, as Stanford's next drive consisted of 10 plays and 7 of them were passes, capped off with a K.J. Costello pass right over the head of Darnay Holmes to JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a 23-yard TD.
Wilton Speight fumbled the very first snap of UCLA’s next drive and the ball was recovered by Stanford at the UCLA 21-yard line. The Cardinal wasted no time converting the turnover into a touchdown as Costello threw another jump ball to JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a 2-yard TD, and Whiteside’s third touchdown of the day to put Stanford up, 41-27.
Wilton Speight did his best to keep UCLA close, as the 14 point deficit pretty much put the ball in his hands and, while he drove the Bruins down the field, he capped off a beautiful drive with another turnover as he threw an errant pass to Demetric Felton that was intercepted by Stanford’s Paulson Adebo.
However, the UCLA turnover actually ended up working out for the Bruins as Costello dropped back on the very next play after the interception by Speight and handed it off to Bryce Love. Love was met with hate, UCLA Bruin Martin Andrus kind of hate to be specific. Andrus tackled Love in then end zone for a safety. Stanford then kicked off to UCLA and dare I say the UCLA special teams unit (not named JJ Molson) made a play? Yes, I dare say it as Darnay Holmes took the kickoff after the safety 93 yards for a TD to pull the Bruins within five, 41-36.
The UCLA defense held the Cardinal on their next possession and the UCLA offense took over at their own 10-yard line. UCLA went on a 13-play Speight drive, because Wilton Speight was the igniter of the drive. Speight completed seven passes to five different receivers on the drive and capped things off with a read option where he kept it for an easy TD. Speight and the Bruins went for two, and Speight did miss an open Wilson early in the play and threw late in the end zone for an incomplete pass, but the Bruins took the lead 42-41 with 9:27 remaining in the game.
The UCLA lead lasted for a little over a minute, as Stanford immediately answered in the fashion we grew accustomed to in this game -- through the air. K.J. Costello threw a nice ball to Osiris St. Brown for a 52-yard touchdown. A play in which UCLA had no safeties on the particular defensive play call. The Cardinal also converted on their two-point play to go up 49-42 at the 8:19 mark.
UCLA tried to answer the Stanford score, and drove down the field. However, on 2nd and 10 on the Stanford 29-yard line, Kelley tried to run right, but was stopped, he reversed field and ended up losing 9 yards on the run. This put UCLA in a 3rd and 19 position, where on the next play Speight scrambled for a short gain. Kelly then called on Molson to attempt a 53-yard field goal that was not even close with 5:09 remaining.
UCLA’s defense held Stanford on a 3rd and 1 play, where Lokeni Toailoa shot the gap and tackled Love for no gain. Stanford was forced to punt the ball to the UCLA 15-yard line.
Wilton Speight, on the second play of the drive, hit a wide open Caleb Wilson on a corner rout and Wilson tip-toed down the left sideline for a 66-yard completion. Speight and UCLA could do nothing after that and on 4th and 15 Speight did the unthinkable and took a sack.
UCLA’s defense held again and forced the Cardinal to a three and out and punt. Theo Howard caught the punt at the 20-yard line and Speight came on the field with no timeouts and a 1:03 left in the game. His first pass was completed to Caleb Wilson on a beautiful crossing pattern, but Bobby Okereke punched at the ball, Wilson fumbled and Stanford recovered the ball. However, Stanford was called for targeting on the hit on Wilson and UCLA retained possession of the ball and picked up an extra 15 yards. A holding penalty really put UCLA behind the sticks and UCLA could not convert on a 4th and 8 as Speight threw incomplete to Chase Cota
- Something changed in this match-up. Well, it changed a little. Instead of Stanford running the ball at will and down our throats, they passed the ball on the UCLA defense at will.
- Both LOS’s were still controlled by Stanford.
- Six Stanford sacks and UCLA had ZERO!!! This cannot happen and has to be addressed.
- Still do not understand all the free releases of the big Stanford receivers. With the threat of the TE’s, I know safety help would be difficult, but they needed to upset something on some of those releases and didn’t.
- Stanford upping its win streak to 11 games and Shaw being 9-0 against UCLA are both unacceptable.
- Speight was the key to keeping UCLA in this game. Granted, he had a couple of turnovers, but UCLA would not have been in this game without his poise and experience.
- UCLA outgained Stanford 528 yards to 470.
- Caleb Wilson was amazing. He was targeted 15 times and walked away with 9 receptions for 184 yards. He had a few drops, but he was still amazing.
- There was definitely progress in this season, especially as the season ended, but it was not the kind of season most of us expected.
- Chip is now 1-0 against SC, but 0-1 against Stanford. Signature win this year was NOT achieved by Kelly in my opinion.
- Chip and his crew have a lot of work to do, but they have some great pieces to build on. Recruiting has been slow and, since we know Chip is not afraid to use freshmen, this staff better get on the recruiting trail TONIGHT!
I could share a lot of other final thoughts, but I would love to hear all of yours below in the comments section. I can’t believe that UCLA Football is over for the 2018 season. I look forward to hopefully someday soon being able to write in these articles about games that really matter and UCLA Football is able to get back to where it belongs, among the elite in the Pac-12 and country. I think we are headed in the right direction.