Stanford wins wacky shootout in Pasadena, 49-42, despite a wild late rally by UCLA

November 26, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 26, 2018

K.J. Costello threw for five touchdowns, three to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, to lead a battered Stanford football team past a feisty UCLA squad in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

The 49-42 win moved the Cardinal to 7-4 overall and 5-3 in league ahead of their rescheduled contest at Cal on Dec. 1. The Bruins finished 3-9 (3-6) in their first season under head coach Chip Kelly.

Stanford opened with another characteristically bad first possession, which saw the team lose a yard on three snaps. After Costello threw an unwise pass that Adarius Pickett returned for 22 yards to the Cardinal 23-yard line, Kelly sent out freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback to run a trick play. He tossed the ball to Wilton Speight, the redshirt senior starting quarterback, but his pass fell incomplete. The Bruins were only able to gain two yards before sending out junior kicker J.J. Molson to hit a 38-yard field goal.

Not until the teams swapped punts did Stanford’s offense get into gear. Bryce Love started the drive off with a 12-yard gain on the Cardinal’s first rush of the game. A few snaps later, a UCLA holding penalty on a throw to Arcega-Whiteside gave Stanford a first down at the Bruins 36. Costello then completed a 17-yarder to Trenton Irwin before capping the drive with a 19-yard play-action touchdown to Arcega-Whiteside. (The misdirection here involved some odd crouching by Love and the quarterback, evidently a version of the “fake fumble” ploy that Kevin Hogan, Christian McCaffrey and Michael Rector executed for a 31-yard touchdown in the 2016 Rose Bowl.)

The Bruins quickly punted the ball back after freshman defensive end Andres Fox recorded his first solo sack, one of six times the Cardinal would take Speight down in the backfield on the afternoon. After a 22-yard Irwin return gave the white-clad visitors the ball at the UCLA 37, Love rushed twice for a total of 20 yards. The drive stalled at the 19, but junior kicker Jet Toner booted a 30-yard field goal to put the Cardinal ahead, 10-3.

A roughing-the-passer penalty on third down enabled the UCLA offense to come back with a 35-yard Molson kick as the first quarter wound down. On the ensuing drive, Costello completed throws to Arcega-Whiteside and sophomore tight end Colby Parkinson for 22 and 33 yards, respectively; a short gain by freshman receiver Michael Wilson and a handful of short Love runs culminated in the senior back out of Wake Forest, N.C., rushing for a two-yard touchdown.

The powder blue and gold hosts answered with a touchdown of their own on a 12-yard rush by redshirt junior Joshua Kelley, making the score 17-13 in Stanford’s favor.

After another exchange of punts, Stanford started at the Bruins 37-yard line. Costello threw a pair of incomplete passes before throwing a ball down the right sideline. Irwin and Arcega-Whiteside were traveling in tandem with a pair of defensive backs, but after the latter tripped, Irwin was able to reel in the ball without interference and score his second touchdown of the season.

The Bruins offense was beginning to heat up, and their next drive ended with a one-yard Kelley touchdown with 37 seconds to go in the half. But senior running back Cameron Scarlett ran the kickoff back 74 yards, by far Stanford’s longest return of the season, giving Stanford an excellent opportunity to rebuild their margin. Despite starting at the opposing 26, the Cardinal was forced to summon Toner with six seconds left on the clock. His 20-yard field goal gave the visitors a 27-20 advantage going into the locker rooms.

UCLA still had some momentum entering the third quarter, however. They promptly tied the score on a 12-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Martell Irby.

The Cardinal’s response featured a nice balance of running and passing plays, including a 22-yard Love rush to convert third and nine from the Bruins 40, his biggest gain of the contest. The Cardinal retook the lead on when a running Arcega-Whiteside reached up in the end zone to pluck a Costello bullet over sophomore defensive back Darnay Holmes, who was giving up five inches and 27 pounds.

Speight lost the ball on the ensuing play from scrimmage, which junior defensive end Jovan Swann recovered for Stanford at the Bruins 21. In short order, Love ran for seven yards, Parkinson made a 12-yard reception and then Arcega-Whiteside caught a two-yard touchdown, his third of the day and school-record-tying 14th of the year.

The Cardinal, holding a 41-27 lead late in the third quarter, seemed to be in control. UCLA quickly marched the ball the other way, but Stanford seemed to solidify its hold on the game when sophomore cornerback Paulson Adebo made a diving interception at the 3-yard line.

However, the offensive line did a terrible job on the ensuing handoff, allowing Love to be dropped in the end zone for a safety by sophomore defensive lineman Martin Andrus Jr.

Matters would deteriorate even more drastically on the very next play. Holmes ran back the Cardinal kickoff 93 yards for a score, by far the longest return Stanford special teams had allowed this season. Rather than narrowing the UCLA deficit by seven or eight points with a touchdown, Speight’s errant pass had enabled his team to score nine points in six seconds without their offense possessing the ball.

Head coach David Shaw’s team appeared to be in full self-destruct mode as they punted after a six-play, 18-yard series that ended less than a minute into the fourth quarter. UCLA went the other way with a 13-play, 90-yard march that ended with a one-yard Speight touchdown rush. That put the hosts ahead, 42-41, for the first time in nearly 30 minutes of game time. The lead would have been even larger if Adebo hadn’t been able to deflect the Bruins’ two-point pass attempt with a dynamic play.

Stanford started its response by running Scarlett twice, for 12 and then 11 yards. On the next snap, Costello faked a handoff to Love and unleashed a beautiful throw that sophomore receiver Osiris St. Brown caught at the 15 and took into the end zone unimpeded. A rested Love then powered through the defense for a two-point conversion to give his team a 49-42 lead with eight minutes and 19 seconds remaining.

A pair of catch-and-runs quickly gave UCLA the ball in Stanford territory, but on second and 10 from the Cardinal 29, freshman cornerback Kendall Williamson dropped Kelley for a nine-yard loss. Two plays later, Molson attempted a 53-yard field goal but missed to the right with 5:09 in the game. (The longest successful kick in his career is from 50 yards out.)

Shaw and offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard dialed up three straight Love runs, but he was stuffed on third and one at the 45, and the Cardinal was forced to punt back to UCLA with 3:34 left.

Speight threw to redshirt junior tight end Caleb Wilson for a 66-yard gain to give the hosts first down at Stanford’s 19. But sophomore outside linebacker Gabe Reid sacked Speight for a five-yard loss on first down and junior free safety Malik Antoine bagged him on fourth down for an eight-yard loss.

With 2:05 to play, the Cardinal were close to locking down a win, but Stanford couldn’t gain a first down and once again punted.

Speight immediately threw to Wilson for a 19-yard play, but momentum appeared to shift in Stanford’s favor when the tight end seemingly fumbled at the end of the play that Williamson recovered. After a video review, however, officials not only allowed UCLA to keep the ball and awarded them a 15-yard personal foul call against Stanford, putting the Bruins at the Cardinal 45.

After a holding penalty on the offense and a 12-yard reception by freshman wideout Chase Cota, the Bruins needed to move from the Cardinal 43 to their 35 on third and fourth downs. When Speight’s two throws to Cota fell incomplete, Stanford regained the ball on downs with 30 seconds left. After an incredibly worrisome late-game stretch, the Cardinal just needed to kneel once to put the finishing touch on a strangely fraught 49-42 road win.


Helpful links

Stanford-‪UCLA team statistics — ESPN
Stanford-UCLA box score
Stanford-UCLA play-by-play
Stanford-UCLA interactive box score —
Stanford-UCLA static box score —
Stanford 2018–19 football roster
UCLA 2018–19 football roster
Game (and some other) tweets — @memomoment

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