Bruins maul Stanford, 34-16

October 18, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 18, 2019

Twelve days after turning in their best performance of the season, the Stanford football team put in arguably their worst Thursday evening with a 34-16 home loss to UCLA. The result gave the Bruins (2-5 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) their first win over Stanford since a 23-20 result in Pasadena in 2008, Jim Harbaugh’s second year at the helm of the Cardinal.

The Cardinal offense generated just nine points and 198 yards against the conference’s worst defense in dropping to 3-4 overall and 2-3 in league. The Cardinal defense allowed 455 yards to a Bruins attack that had only been averaging 397 yards to that point in the season.

It was a crushing comedown for a Stanford team that had seemed on the brink of pulling itself together after an injury-riddled start. The defeat left head coach David Shaw’s squad with immense uncertainty after the team’s third-string quarterback, sophomore Jack West, struggled mightily in his first collegiate start.

West, who had five passing attempts entering the game, played behind a patchwork offensive line with three true freshmen, one of whom was making his first start and appearing in just his second game. He got the nod because senior K.J. Costello has an apparent hand injury and junior Davis Mills is suffering from knee tenderness that forced him out of the end of the Washington game. Not since 1974, when Shaw was 2 years old, had the Cardinal has started three different quarterbacks in the same season.

The tentative sophomore made a number of awkward throws and hesitated far too long on several occasions in allowing the UCLA defense to sack him seven times. The Bruins had gotten to the quarterback only nine times in their first six games, the second-worst mark in the Pac-12.

Stanford received the ball on offense to start the game and advanced 51 yards in eight plays. West completed two of four passes on the drive, including a screen that Connor Wedington took for 30 yards. An incomplete pass and a stuffed run by redshirt senior Cameron Scarlett induced Shaw to send out senior Jet Toner to kick a 42-yard field goal on fourth and one.

The Bruins responded with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that put them on top, 7-3, after a 19-yard touchdown throw from sophomore slinger Dorian Thompson-Robinson and redshirt freshman Kyle Phillips.

West was sacked on third and 12 on the ensuing drive. After punter Ryan Sanborn got off a 44-yard kick from the Cardinal 10, UCLA started their next possession at midfield. Five plays later, Thompson-Robinson and Phillips connected on a three-yard touchdown, giving the Bruins an 11-point lead.

Stanford had a three and out on their answering series, but the Cardinal defense forced UCLA to send out their punting unit.

On the snap, freshman safety Spencer Jorgensen deflected the Bruins kick, and sophomore wide receiver Brycen Tremayne recovered the ball in the end zone. The play drew Stanford to 14-10 with 1:29 left in the first quarter.

Following a pair of punt exchanges, Thompson-Robinson led the Bruins on a six-play, 85-yard series that culminated in his one-yard touchdown carry on a decoy run with 5:31 remaining until break. The drive was extended when Stanford was called for an offsides penalty on third and one near midfield.

The Cardinal offense netted just nine yards on the ensuing possession and punted with 2:11 to play in the half. The Bruins quickly moved past the 50-yard line and was threatening to go up by three scores when junior cornerback Paulson Adebo picked off Thompson-Robinson at the home 14-yard line with 34 seconds on the clock.

West threw a couple of completions, but the teams went to the locker rooms with UCLA maintaining their 21-10 advantage. The Cardinal had just 86 yards from scrimmage for the first half.

The Bruins’ first possession of the third quarter ended with senior kicker J.J. Molson nailing a 42-yard field goal to add three points to the UCLA ledger. Molson subsequently added a 49-yarder with 3:12 to go in the third quarter.

In response to Molson’s second field goal, the Cardinal offense advanced farther than it had since its opening possession. Unfortunately, the four-play, 25-yard sally ended prematurely when Scarlett (13 carries, 34 yards) lost a fumble at the end of a 10-yard run.

The contest remained scoreless until the 6:55 mark of the fourth quarter. That was when redshirt senior Joshua Kelley broke a 54-yard touchdown run, his last rush on a sterling 18-carry, 176-yard day. That boosted UCLA’s lead to 34-10.

The Cardinal offense finally began to move the ball, with West completing all four of his official attempts on a seven-play, 75-yard series that Scarlett capped with a six-yard scoring run. West’s throw on the two-point try fell incomplete.

With 2:50 to play and an 18-point lead, all the Bruins had to do to secure victory was gain a few first downs and kneel once. When the clock ran out, UCLA had broken an 11-game losing streak against the Cardinal.

With the quarterback situation once again unsettled and an injured Toner being carted off the field early in the game, nothing will be a given for Stanford the rest of the way. The team next faces Arizona at home on Oct. 26, the result of which will go a long way to determining whether the Cardinal will be able to earn a bowl berth this season.

Helpful links

UCLA-Stanford team statistics — ESPN
UCLA-Stanford box score
UCLA-Stanford play-by-play
UCLA-Stanford interactive box score —
UCLA-Stanford statistics (PDF) —
Stanford 2019–20 football roster
UCLA 2019–20 football roster

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