It was more of the same in a series that seems stuck on repeat.
UCLA had some momentum and some hope against Stanford. Then things fell apart in a big way.
Crucial mistakes by Bruins receivers and a badly faltering defense were at the center of the latest implosion, helping the Cardinal run away with a 58-34 victory Saturday night before 48,042 at Stanford Stadium .
Stanford notched a 10th consecutive victory over the Bruins despite shuffling through three quarterbacks after starter Keller Chryst was hurt midway through the first quarter. Somewhat surprisingly, its offense did not solely consist of tailback Bryce Love from the moment Chryst left the game.
Cardinal backup quarterback K.J. Costello, who alternated series with Ryan Burns, completed his first two career touchdown passes and ran for another score. Love also shredded UCLA’s defense for 263 yards in 30 carries, including a 69-yard touchdown that extended the Cardinal’s cushion to 51-34 in the fourth quarter that was part of eight consecutive Stanford drives that ended in scores.
UCLA’s offense continually stumbled over itself. Receiver Theo Howard dropped a potential touchdown and lost a fumble after making a catch. Bruins receiver Christian Pabico also lost a fumble after making what appeared to be a first-down catch.
Those errors hurt quarterback Josh Rosen’s bid to rally the Bruins (2-2 overall, 0-1 Pac-12 Conference) after acknowledging earlier in the week that there would be special significance to beating Stanford (2-2, 1-1) given that Bruins coach Jim Mora had never beaten the Cardinal since coming to Westwood.
Rosen completed 40 of 60 passes for 480 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions and the Bruins managed a semblance of a running game with Soso Jamabo’s 100 yards in 12 carries making him the first UCLA tailback to reach triple digits in rushing yards since Paul Perkins in November 2015.
It wasn’t nearly enough to help Mora from falling to 0-7 against the Cardinal after the UCLA defense let Stanford pile up 553 yards of offense, including 405 rushing yards.
Things had unraveled for UCLA in the third quarter when Pabico appeared to have a first down on a third-and-20 play. Pabico caught a pass from Rosen and was surging ahead amid a scrum of players when Stanford cornerback Quenton Meeks stripped the ball and cornerback Alameen Murphy recovered.
UCLA’s defense appeared to hold when Stanford lined up for a 50-yard field goal, but the Cardinal were called for a delay of game. That brought Stanford’s offense back onto the field, facing fourth and sixth, and the Cardinal converted when Costello completed a nine-yard pass to tight end Dalton Schultz.
After a few big runs by Love, fellow running back Cameron Scarlett plunged into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown that gave the Cardinal a 37-20 lead. It was pretty much the ballgame.
UCLA was hoping that its run game could take another step toward respectability while making its offense more dynamic. Power run games had helped USC and San Diego State control the game during victories over Stanford in recent weeks.
There was some significant progress for the Bruins late in the first quarter. Jamabo, playing for the first time since the season opener, cut outside for a 49-yard run that was longer than any UCLA had managed last season. Jamabo added a three-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter that pulled the Bruins to within 23-20.
The Bruins’ uphill slog to nowhere started before halftime.
Howard made a catch but fumbled in the second quarter after he had the ball stripped by Stanford cornerback Alijah Holder and Cardinal linebacker Kevin Palma recovered at the Bruins’ 30-yard line. Stanford kicker Jet Toner’s third field goal of the game, a 39-yarder on the final play of the first half, gave the Cardinal a 23-13 lead.
The Bruins had largely contained Love before letting him loose late in the second quarter. Love generated runs of 32 and 27 yards before Scarlett dove into the end zone on a two-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 13-13.
Rosen brushed off a shaky first quarter to lead the Bruins 71 yards for a score in only five plays early in the second quarter. Rosen connected with receiver Jordan Lasley over the middle for a 48-yard gain before finding Darren Andrews open in the back of the end zone two plays later for a 12-yard touchdown that nudged the Bruins ahead 13-6.
UCLA squandered a chance to extend that lead on its next drive when it reached the Cardinal three-yard line before Howard dropped a pass at the goal line on third down and kicker J.J. Molson’s chip-shot field goal was blocked by defensive tackle Harrison Phillips.
UCLA lost safety Adarius Pickett in the first half when he was called for targeting and ejected after delivering a hit on Schultz. Pickett commented on the play on social media only minutes later, tweeting, “I get kicked out the game because I’m hitting to hard against a guy that is 6’6 are you kidding me. Tell me how I’m suppose to play please.”
Stanford lost Holder in the third quarter after he was called for targeting on a hit on UCLA receiver Eldridge Massington. Chryst went down midway through the first quarter when he was sandwiched by UCLA defensive end Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Pickett.