UCLA safety Adarius Pickett made the first big play in his final college game, reading quarterback K.J. Costello on third down and stepping in front of his pass for an interception.
Pickett returned the ball 22 yards to the Stanford 23-yard line. The Bruins then tried an odd formation on first down, with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson running behind center for the snap and pitching the ball to quarterback Wilton Speight, who rolled out and threw an incomplete pass intended for Christian Pabico.
UCLA couldn’t move the ball and had to settle for J.J. Molson’s 38-yard field goal that gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter.
It might be a bit much to consider UCLA’s game against Stanford on Saturday a referendum on the Bruins’ season, but it certainly could go a long way toward giving players more tangible validation of the team’s rebuilding efforts under coach Chip Kelly.
The Bruins will return the bulk of their team in 2019, so there should be considerable carryover from the improvement they have made late in the season.
Beating USC and Stanford in back-to-back weeks could provide some inspiration for the Bruins’ offseason workouts. It also could remove the terrible taste that’s been lingering for more than a decade with the Cardinal having won the last 10 games in the series.
UCLA could be on the verge of a catchy new cheer: the 4-8 clap.
A victory over Stanford on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl wouldn’t do much to salvage the Bruins’ final record, but it would provide further evidence of the possibility of eventual salvation under coach Chip Kelly as his first season comes to a close.
The Bruins, 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the Pac-12, already dispatched their archrival, USC. Now they get a chance to beat the team that’s been a giant sequoia blocking their path to supremacy in the Pac-12 over the last decade.