The Stanford Cardinal chose to be concerned strictly about themselves on Saturday. That was all that was necessary, and it worked to perfection.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, Kevin Hogan passed for 160 yards and another score, and the 11th-ranked Cardinal beat No. 15 UCLA 35-17 to earn the Pac-12 North title and a rematch with the Bruins in the conference championship game next week.
The Cardinal (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) had to win to qualify for another shot at the Bruins on Friday at home because No. 5 Oregon (11-1, 8-1) beat No. 16 Oregon State 48-24 in a matchup that finished about 10 minutes before Stanford and UCLA began their game at the Rose Bowl.
But coach David Shaw and several of his players swore they didn’t know the outcome of the Oregon-Oregon State game until after their triumph over the Bruins.
”Didn’t watch the game, didn’t think it was important,” Shaw said of the matchup in Corvallis, Ore. ”The only thing that matters is what happens on our field. It’s inconsequential. It didn’t matter. For true competitors, we’ve got a football game to play, we’re going to play it. And our guys approached it that way.”
The Cardinal, who have three straight 10-win seasons for the first time, handed Oregon a 17-14 overtime setback last weekend to put themselves in position to win the North title with a victory over the Pac-12 South champion Bruins (9-3, 6-3), who earned their berth in the title game by beating Southern California 38-28 last weekend.
Since Oregon beat Oregon State, it would have won the Pac-12 North had Stanford lost to UCLA.
Regarding next Friday’s game, Shaw said: ”I expect them to give us everything. I expect this to be a very tough, physical game. It’s going to be 10 times harder than this game was. We’re going to get their best shot.”
The win was the sixth straight for Stanford and their fourth in a row over UCLA, which had a five-game winning streak snapped – its longest in seven years.
”Congratulations to Stanford. They played a heck of a game and they’re a heck of a football team,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ”We have some things that we have to do to get better by Friday night. We’ll get right back to work. We wanted to win this game today. We came up short. There is a lot to learn. We did not play as well as we can.”
Taylor, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior who carried 20 times, didn’t play in the fourth quarter, but Shaw said afterward his star running back was fine. Taylor raised his career rushing total to 4,134 yards and will need 36 yards in the rematch with UCLA to break the Stanford career rushing record of 4,169 yards set by Darrin Nelson in 1977-81.
”I didn’t know (the Oregon result),” Taylor said. ”We came into this game focused on us. That was the main thing this whole week, just worry about us and our details.”
Hogan, a redshirt freshman making his third start, completed 15 of 22 passes without being intercepted and was sacked twice. He has guided the Cardinal to wins over three straight ranked opponents, something they had never accomplished before.
Brett Hundley, UCLA’s redshirt freshman quarterback, was 20 of 38 for 261 yards and a TD with one interception while being sacked seven times, and Johnathan Franklin, the Bruins’ leading career rusher, was held to 65 yards on 21 carries. Stanford entered ranked second nationally in sacks and rushing defense.
”Stanford played sound, fundamental football,” Hundley said. ”They have a great defense, give them credit. We hurt ourselves with too many penalties (12 for 135 yards), we had too many first-and-15s, first-and-20s. I’m the quarterback, and I need to get this team focused. We’ll get it fixed and we’ll bring it next week, and not lag off.”
UCLA was held to 334 yards of total offense while Stanford gained 381 yards overall.
Leading 21-10, the Cardinal broke the game open by scoring twice in a 13-second span midway through the third quarter. Taylor scored on a 1-yard run four plays after Jordan Richards intercepted Hundley’s pass at the UCLA 42-yard line, and Alex Debniak forced a fumble by Kenneth Walker on the ensuing kickoff and Usua Amanam returned it 11 yards for another TD.
Franklin’s 11-yard TD late in the third quarter cut Stanford’s lead to 18 points, and it appeared the Bruins got another shot early in the fourth quarter on Jordan Zumwalt’s interception in Cardinal territory, but it was nullified by a defensive holding penalty.
Stanford’s Jordan Williamson hit the crossbar on a 45-yard field goal attempt with 9:46 remaining, but the Bruins lost the ball on downs after getting as far as the Stanford 38. UCLA reached the Cardinal 14 before turning the ball over on downs again with 2:30 left.
Stanford took a 7-0 lead by moving 75 yards on 12 plays after receiving the opening kickoff, scoring on an 11-yard pass from Hogan to Drew Terrell.
The Bruins needed only two minutes to tie it, getting a 13-yard touchdown pass from Hundley to Joseph Fauria three plays after Hundley hooked up with Shaquelle Evans on a 71-yard pass play. The 6-foot-7 Fauria has 11 TD receptions this season.
Stanford moved 88 yards on 10 plays for a 14-7 lead, scoring on a 10-yard run by Anthony Wilkerson, and the Cardinal scored again less than two minutes later on a 49-yard run by Taylor.
UCLA got a break late in the second quarter when Stanford punter Daniel Zychlinski couldn’t handle a low snap from center and was hit before getting the kick off, setting up a career-best 48-yard field goal by freshman Ka’imi Fairbairn with 1:37 left before halftime, making it 21-10. UCLA didn’t get a first down in the second period.
The game, played before a crowd of 68,228 at the Rose Bowl, was the first between the schools in which both were ranked among the Top 25 since 2001, when No. 20 Stanford beat No. 24 UCLA 38-28.