LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA coach Jim Mora has too often found Stanford standing in the way of his team’s goals, in large part because the Bruins haven’t been able to stand in the way of the Cardinal’s power rushing attack.
Stanford defeated UCLA in the 2012 Pac-12 championship game, and the Bruins were on the verge of winning the Pac-12 South last season until the Cardinal delivered a 31-10 upset in the season finale. The common factor in each of Mora’s four losses to Stanford has been an inability to stop the run, allowing at least 192 yards rushing.
No. 15 Stanford is once again running the ball with physicality and precision, but Mora believes 18th-ranked UCLA will be up to the challenge Thursday night in the Bay Area despite a rash of recent injuries.
”The two practices last week I thought we were good, and then (Sunday) we were on it again,” Mora said. ”We had to rearrange the puzzle a little bit with some guys going down and some guys switching positions.”
Mossi Johnson became the fourth UCLA defender lost for the season when he tore three ligaments – his ACL, MCL and PCL – in practice last week, Mora said. Johnson moved from receiver to safety when the secondary was reconfigured after corner Fabian Moreau suffered a serious foot injury.
Without the top players at each level of the defense available in Moreau, defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (knee) and linebacker Myles Jack (knee), Arizona rushed for 353 yards and Arizona State had 192 yards on the ground. Mora was mostly pleased with how the run defense performed against the Sun Devils, but said they buckled late.
Stanford will try to create the same result by building up a significant time-of-possession disparity. They held the ball for 37:49 last season by continuing the approach first installed under former coach Jim Harbaugh. Coincidentally, the last time UCLA beat Stanford was in the 2007 season opener when Harbaugh was coaching his first game with the Cardinal.
”They don’t hide anything. They are going to line up and run the ball on first and second down, try to get in manageable situations,” outside linebacker Deon Hollins said. ”They have had a lot of success with it. They are really good at what they do, so we just have to be a little bit better.”
Christian McCaffrey, the latest Stanford workhorse, brings a more elusive and explosive element to the backfield than his predecessors. Unlike Toby Gerhart or Stepfan Taylor, who would get what the offensive line could create and rarely more than that, the dynamic sophomore McCaffrey can turn any play into a big gain.
”You have to be disciplined because he does have great change of direction and he’s patient,” Mora said. ”You have got to tackle well because he is a guy that is slippery. His all-purpose yards are off the charts. He is just a really tremendous player, great competitor.”
The Stanford style of play also has an impact on the UCLA offense by shortening the game, making the Bruins acutely aware of the need to make the most of the ”seven or eight drives” when they have the ball, offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch said.
”If you make mistakes, they will beat you,” Benenoch said. ”If you don’t, you can play with them and you can beat them.”