LOS ANGELES — It’s the worst kind of hangover. UCLA, ranked in the top 10 for the first time since in eight years, came back to Southern California after being handed its first loss of the season.
What went wrong? Mounting injuries to the offense, most notably on the line, against one of the most difficult defenses in the Pac-12 disrupted the offensive rhythm the Bruins so closely rely on.
The result was a 14-point loss, a spot outside of the top 10 (No. 12) in the first BCS standings and a much tougher road to the Pac-12 Championship Game.
“You’ve heard that term like a machine,” said wide receiver Jordan Payton. “If one part of the machine is not working, we can’t go.”
The offense gained only 266 yards — the lowest since the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl — and try as he might, quarterback Brett Hundley wasn’t able to steer the ship after it drifted off course.
“This offense is a lot of a tempo-paced offense,” Hundley said. “The thing that we try to do is stay on our rhythm and our pace and there was a lot of times where we were getting knocked back and we can’t have that.”
Credit the UCLA defense that was on the field nearly 14 minutes longer than the offense. The Bruins nearly held the Cardinal to a season-low in points, the front seven allowed only few long runs and they matched Stanford hit-for-hit with big, physical play making but the offense was drowning.
For a brief moment, the offense found their footing. An 80-yard touchdown drive put the Bruins back by only seven but penalties, third-down conversion troubles and the offenses own undoing kept them from scoring another.
“You’ve got to realize that you’re going up against Stanford – and they do play real football,” Payton said. “Not to discredit any other team, but they play tough and physical football and they know that on third down, that’s the down they have to win.
“That’s playing a top-10 team.”
This week the Bruins will need to execute to the best of their abilities in nearly all facets against No. 3 Oregon. The Bruins might be considered the underdogs heading up to Eugene, but it’s an up-tempo spread offense that heavily utilizes the read option, which is exactly the type of team the UCLA defense is designed to shut down.
“I think we match up with them a little better,” said linebacker Anthony Barr. “In terms of our athletes, our athleticism and our speed it’s a challenge nonetheless, but I think it’s going to be a little bit better of a matchup.”