The UCLA defense appeared ready to break out the champagne on Saturday after holding the Stanford Cardinal to 25 points, 346 total yards, an average of 6.1 yards per play and 19 first downs.
Against Stanford, Coach Bill Walsh's latest offensive incarnation, the Bruins were thrilled to give up a mere 25 points.
"It's one of the best offenses in the country," Bruin defensive lineman Matt Werner said afterward.
In the winner's locker room, 25 looked good--"especially if you score 28," Werner said.
UCLA won despite Cardinal quarterback Steve Stenstrom, who got up off the deck and nearly pulled out his third come-from-behind victory in as many weeks.
"They didn't play the Bruins those other two times," said UCLA's Jamir Miller, who sacked Stenstrom three times. "That's why they didn't come back."
In the final minutes, the Cardinal was driving toward a possible tying field goal when time expired.
"I was running up and down the sidelines yelling, 'None of this last-minute heroic stuff!' " Werner said.
UCLA Coach Terry Donahue called the Bruin defense "tremendous."
Using primarily a four-man rush, UCLA sacked Stenstrom five times and backup Mark Butterfield once. It also forced four Stanford turnovers.
Miller, probably the Bruins' best defensive player, introduced himself to Stenstrom after a five-yard sack in the first quarter.
"It gave me a chance to tell Stenstrom I'd be in his face all day," Miller said.
In a crucial stand with less than five minutes remaining and Stanford trailing by 11, the Bruins got three consecutive sacks. Miller nailed Stenstrom on first and second downs, shaking the quarterback briefly, and Werner dropped backup Butterfield on third and long.
"Defensively, we knew we had to take it to them now or we were going to lose the game," Miller recalled of the sack sequence. "We needed someone to step up, and I'm not a freshman anymore."
Miller elected himself.
It forced a punt and allowed the UCLA offense to take some time off of the clock.
"Seconds are eternity," Bob Field, UCLA's defensive coordinator, said of time as it relates to the Cardinal offense.
The Bruins had forced three fumbles and an interception, but still couldn't deliver a knockout blow.
Late in the third quarter, after Donnie Edwards stripped Cardinal runner Mike Mitchell of the ball, safety Marvin Goodwin scooped it up and ran 36 yards for a touchdown to give the Bruins a 22-10 lead.
The defense pestered and badgered, but Stenstrom wouldn't give up. With 2:16 left, he tossed a perfect scoring pass to Justin Armour in the left corner of the end zone. Cornerback Carl Greenwood and Goodwin had Armour smothered in double coverage.
"They have Bill Walsh's offense," Goodwin said. "He's an offensive genius, most people say. Their defense isn't that great. They know they have to score a lot of points. They take a lot of chances on offense."
Said Werner: "They had to play 60 minutes to beat us and they couldn't do it."