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A Closer Look at the Rose Bowl Thriller

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Stanford topples the Bruins in dramatic fashion

NCAA Football: Stanford at UCLA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

What a thrilling game as an instant classic goes down in the Rose Bowl as Stanford outlasts UCLA in a 22-13 battle of the trenches. Stanford showed their toughness late as it took a touchdown drive and strip sack returned for a touchdown in the last two minutes of the game.

It was established early on that this was not going to be the usual game between these two, the tone was set early as UCLA refused to be dominated on the line of scrimmage by Stanford. As both Takkarist McKinley and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner were both big on the defensive line for UCLA.

Despite the impressive show of physicality from the Bruins’ defensive line, their secondary may have been even more impressive. One of the early scores for UCLA was provided courtesy of the Secondary while the touchdown came off of an interception from linebacker Kenny Young. After the touchdown safety Tahaan Goodman popped Francis Owusu on a promising Stanford drive, forcing the fumble. After looking at the play again this was somehow not called for targeting which lead to a field goal. Goodman had a great game with the forced fumble, a pair of tackles and a passed defended. Then there is veteran corner Fabian Moreau who held Michael Rector to three yards through the game. This unit did a great job in this one.

Then there is UCLA’s offense which struggled early to move the ball. Then both starting corners went out for the Cardinal and the mistakes began to happen. Nate Iese, UCLA’s tight end, was constantly left alone and ended with 89 yards and the Bruins lone touchdown. The running game had it’s bright spots as did Rosen. The defense on Stanford’s part did a really good job without stud players for most of the game. While Josh did have some great throws he also had a number of misses yet again, most notably missing a wide open Iese down the seam on more than one occasion.

On Stanford’s side of the ball everything that could go wrong for them probably did. Christian McCaffrey did have 138 rushing yards but was kept from really getting loose in the open field and was bottled up in the red zone. That was truly the most concerning thing on the night for the Cardinal as every drive into the red zone but the final one was abruptly halted leading them to kick three field goals before the last two minutes. Then they lost a fumble on what should have been targeting and on defense they saw both Holder and Meeks go down in the first half.

Even the play calling was peculiar as twice David Shaw seemed to call a third down play to set up a fourth down and inches or a yard. And both times instead of going for it he punted. He also refused to take more shots to try and free up the box for his running game. The fact that so much could go sideways on the Cardinal and they still were able to pull out the win says a lot about this team and hopefully means they can put their one bad game behind them.

With that bad discussed, lets highlight some of the great things Stanford did, like letting Solomon Thomas loose. Thomas was a beast all game long, constantly getting pressure, which was highlighted by the fumble recovery returned for a touchdown to cap off the game. The running game also churned out 189 yards and Bryce Love had a solid game and was a great change of pace back. Look for him to have an expanded roll in this offense.

Ryan Burns also looked great in the final drive as he threw for 66 yards and a touchdown after only gaining 71 passing yards and an interception to that point. He was calm and composed as he drove done 70 yards with an offense that has not gone hurry up this year or scored a touchdown in the game.

Final Takeaway

Despite the long night for Stanford on both sides of the ball they showed toughness late in the game to pull out a win and stay perfect on the year. There is a lot to love about Ryan Burns after the way he led the team down to win the game. There is also a lot to love about how well the defense played even with the injuries. Solomon Thomas and Harrison Phillips both looked great on the night.

The two big concerns are Stanford’s miserable play in the redone and the injuries. If Meeks and Holder have to sit out against Washington that would be a huge blow to the Stanford defense.