This wasn’t the David Shaw-Chip Kelly matchup of old. There were no Heisman hopefuls leading either team, nor championship dreams on the line. UCLA came in 1-5 and Stanford came in as the Ship of Theseus. Needless to say both teams entered unranked, and left it even more unranked. Collectively having four straight turnovers on downs will do that.
It would be pretty easy to blame Jack West for this loss. The third string quarterback made his first career start for Stanford, after only taking a handful of snaps to date. He looked skittish out there, holding the ball far too long and short-arming throws.
West’s lack of an internal clock and the patchwork offensive line allowed 7 sacks to a Bruin front that had recorded 9 all season. “Kind of expect three young guys playing up front and a young quarterback starting his first game, but that’s not an excuse,” said Coach Shaw. “There were times we thought we had enough time to get it off and didn’t get it off.” West went just 15-32 against the nation’s second worst pass defense.
But Jack West didn’t let the Bruins run for 263 yards. Adjusting for sacks, they averaged better than 7 yards per carry. Joshua Kelley repeatedly gashed the Cardinal, taking advantage of several big holes and finishing runs effectively. He had two runs of more than 50 yards, and finished the night with 176 on the ground.
The Stanford defense is fairly depleted, particularly at linebacker. But this is more or less the same unit that shut down Washington two weeks ago. They put pressure on Husky QB Jacob Eason, forcing him into rushed reads and errant throws. It didn’t have the same effect against Bruin signal-caller Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
DTR was shifty in the pocket, extending plays and making the Cardinal defense pay with his arm and his legs. By the time they did sack him, the game was no longer in doubt. He took off 10 times for 92 yards, including a 39 yard scamper. “I guess they call him X factor, quick, athletic, explosive,” said Shaw. “You give Chip Kelly a guy like that and we’ve seen that movie before.”
The first drive of the game for the Cardinal looked promising. They dialed up some easy reads to get West comfortable, and it worked. He started with a 4 yard keeper, before hitting Wedington on a pair of short completions that allowed him to run after the catch. A 30 yard connection put them in Bruin territory before the drive stalled, and Jet Toner kicked a 42 yard field goal for a 3-0 start.
On the ensuing kickoff Toner went down with what appeared to be a right leg injury. It was a harbinger of bad news for the Cardinal. The Bruins’ first two drives ended in touchdown tosses to Kyle Philips, and the Stanford offense went dormant. After West and company gained 51 yards on the game’s first drive, they wouldn’t gain another 51 total until late in the third quarter, needing 9 possessions to do so. This was against a defense allowing more than 500 per contest.
The highlight of the game for the Cardinal came late in the first quarter. UCLA was up 14-3 and appeared to be rolling, when the home defense stiffened up and forced a punt. The 31 year old Wade Lees dropped back to kick, but was met by two charging defenders in his face almost immediately. Freshman Spencer Jorgensen blocked the punt, sending the ball careening into the end zone where Brycen Tremayne dived on it. For Jorgensen, it was his first time recording a statistic of any sort. Ryan Sanborn made his first career extra point to narrow the deficit to 14-10.
UCLA responded before halftime, going 85 yards in just 6 plays for a 1 yard DTR scramble to push it to 21-10. In total, they ripped off 20 unanswered to push the lead to 34-10 before a garbage time answer from Stanford made it a final score of 34-16. In their final drive, Jack West hit Simi Fehoko on a 35 yard bomb to get the offense into scoring position. Cam Scarlett put the finishing touches on the drive by flipping through the air and only just breaking the goal line before landing awkwardly on the turf.
One game after a career day, Cam Scarlett had just 13 carries for 34 yards and that acrobatic touchdown. West had only 143 passing yards, with a team-leading 48 going to Wedington. Thomas Booker led the defense with 9 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
DTR was 21-34 for 192 yards, with 2 touchdowns and a pick to Paulson Adebo. He connected with Philips 10 times for 100 yards and both passing scores. This was the first time UCLA got the better of Stanford since 2008. It puts an end to a series-record 11 straight Cardinal wins, and marks the first David Shaw loss to any UC school.
The Cardinal dropped to 3-4, needing to go at least 3-2 the rest of the way to make a bowl game. They’re in action next weekend at home against Arizona. As to whether Davis Mills or KJ Costello might be ready to go for that one? “We’ll see,” said Shaw.