PALO ATLO, California – In what proved to be an exciting matchup between two Pac-12 teams looking to build momentum, the No. 24th ranked UCLA Bruins beat the Stanford Cardinal 35-24. For the Cardinal, today’s loss was a letdown after they beat the then No. 14th ranked USC Trojans and the SEC’s Vanderbilt in recent weeks, to begin the season 2-1, and in first place in the Pac-12 North.
Meanwhile, for the Bruins, today’s victory was a great way to get back on track after the exhilarating win over LSU a few weeks ago, followed by a letdown in a loss to Fresno State last week. Led by QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (19-30, 212 yds, 2 TD, and two rushing TDs), Zach Charbonnet and WR Kylie Phillips (5 rec, 111 yds, 2 TD) UCLA came through a seesaw game in which Stanford – led by Coach David Shaw – kept fighting until a missed field goal with 4 seconds left to play sealed the win.
UCLA got off to a great start, when Phillips made his presence known with a great punt return, to set up first and goal on the 13 yard line. DTR scored on a one-yard touchdown several plays later, to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead. Charbonnet – who finished with 25 carries for 209 yards, 1 TD — also got in on the action, with an 81-yard rush to set up another Bruins score. Despite keeping things interesting early, it seemed like UCLA might blowout Stanford.
Midway through the second quarter, however, it appeared that Stanford was finally starting to find its footing on offense. QB Tanner McKee connected with WR Bryce Farrell on a 30-yard pass play. Two plays later McKee threw a screen pass to WR Bryce Tremayne to get to the 21 yard line. Even though the Bruins’ defense seemed set to take back momentum with a sack, McKee had a nifty run for seven yards, and then connected with Tremayne on a 19-yard touchdown pass just before halftime, to cut the Bruins lead to 14-7. But the Cardinal left the Bruins with just enough time for DTR to execute the two-minute offense and get into the end zone on a two-yard run, to make the score 21-7 to end the half.
“Oh, man that was great. Dorian literally put the team on his back,” said UCLA player Qwuantrezz Knight.
In the second half Stanford mounted a comeback. The Cardinal made it 21-14 late in the third quarter, when McKee hit WR Elijah Higgins on a 56-yard touchdown pass. Several drives later, McKee evaded a corner blitz and hit Farrell for a 46-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 21-21 early in the fourth quarter. The momentum had fully shifted to the Cardinals, much to the delight of the record-setting home crowd. But on UCLA’s very next drive, DTR hit a wide-open Phillips for a 75-yard touchdown, to retake the lead, 28-21.
After Stanford made it 28-24, UCLA appeared to be driving towards a game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter, when DTR got tackled hard near the 7-yard line. Backup, redshirt Freshman QB Ethan Garbers came in for one play, before DTR came back to throw a dart to Phillips in the end zone, to pull the Bruins further ahead of the Cardinal, 35-24, with 2:30 remaining in the game. From there, the Bruins’ defense held serve. The game essentially ended when the Cardinals – down by 11 and needing two scores – missed a field goal with 4 seconds left to play.
After years of falling to Stanford, today’s win for UCLA had to be feel a little sweeter, while also serving as a satisfying way to open to Pac-12 Conference play.
Next week, the Coach Chip Kelly and the Bruins head back home to the Rose Bowl to take on the preseason Pac-12 South favorite Arizona State Sun Devils. The Stanford Cardinal have another home game next week against No. 3 ranked, Pac-12 North foe Oregon Ducks.