UCLA-Stanford II: Football sequel presents unique challenges
UCLA cornerback Aaron Hester is confident in his preparation for Friday’s Pac-12 championship game against Stanford, a team the Bruins played only last Saturday.
No problem with a quick turnaround?
“I have done this before,” Hester said.
In eighth grade, Hester said, his Gardena Mohicans played the Banning Pilots in a Pop Warner game on a Saturday and then again five days later, winning both.
The scenario, and stakes, will be a lot different when UCLA visits Stanford Stadium for a game that will determine the Pac-12’s representative in the Rose Bowl.
Last week in Pasadena, Stanford defeated the South Division champion Bruins, 35-17, to clinch the North Division title and set up a rare college football rematch.
It will be the first time since 1935 that two major-college teams will play each other in consecutive games in the same season, and the first time since 1919 that teams from the same conference will do so, according to the website footballgeography.com.
In 1935, Detroit defeated Villanova, 19-15, on Oct. 26, and then again, 13-7, on Nov. 2.
In the first two games of the 1919 season, Agricultural College of Colorado, now known as Colorado State, defeated Wyoming on Sept. 27 and Oct. 4 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference games.
In 1916, Washington defeated California in consecutive November games that were played 12 days apart in what was then known as the Pacific Coast Conference.
Nearly a century later, the conference title is up for grabs when UCLA and Stanford play for the second time in less than a week.
“It’s crazy,” UCLA defensive end Datone Jones said. “I feel like this is an NBA game, where we’re in a best-of-seven.”
Though rare for college teams, quick turnarounds matching the same opponents are more common in the NFL.
In the final week of the 2009 season, for example, the New York Jets played the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dallas Cowboys played the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers played the Arizona Cardinals.
Six days later in the playoffs, the Jets defeated the Bengals for the second time in less than a week and the Cowboys topped the Eagles.
A day later, the Cardinals avenged their loss to the Packers.
UCLA Coach Jim Mora, in NFL stints with the San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, never faced the same opponent twice in the span of a week.
But Stanford Coach David Shaw did.
During the 2001 season, Shaw was quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders.
On Jan. 6, 2002, the Raiders played host to the New York Jets in their final regular-season game and lost, 24-22. Six days later, also in Oakland, the Raiders defeated the Jets, 38-24, in a wild-card playoff game.
When reminded of that scenario on Tuesday, Shaw chuckled and said he had forgotten about it.
But it sparked memories.
“We came back for that second game and we didn’t over-hone the game plan,” Shaw said. “We wanted to come out playing smart and strong and staying on the attack.”
Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said coaches and players knew the Jets would be tired from traveling coast to coast in consecutive weeks. So the Raiders pushed the pace. They ran a no-huddle offense and wore out the Jets.
“By the end of the first quarter,” Gannon recalled, “guys were throwing up on the field. You could tell which team had fresher legs.”
UCLA’s trip to the Bay Area requires only about a one-hour flight, so fatigue should not be factor in the Bruins’ rematch with the Cardinal.
But psychological issues could factor into the rematch.
Ken Ravizza, a sports psychology consultant and professor of applied sports psychology at Cal State Fullerton, said neither team should put much stock in last Saturday’s result.
“You’re going to assume things are going to start where they left off,” Ravizza said. “For Stanford it’s, ‘We took care of business.’ But it’s a new day, so they better be ready, and I’m sure the coaches are trying to get them prepared to forget what happened.”
“They’ve shown resiliency by winning on the road at Arizona State and [at home] against USC,” said Ravizza, who added, “Take care of the little things and don’t worry about the big things, especially when you have a bloody lip.
“And UCLA is going to have a bloody lip because of what happened in the last game, and because they’re tough competitors.”
Shaw agrees. “To think that UCLA is going to come up here and roll over for us,” he said, “is completely wrong.”
Mora said the key was getting the “the right mixture of rest and work” so players are sharp.
Both teams are expected to make adjustments based on last week’s outcome. UCLA must protect quarterback Brett Hundley better and prevent long runs by Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor. Stanford must again neutralize Hundley, who is expected to run more often than he did last week.
Mora said neither team had a tactical advantage. “Any familiarity we have with them,” he said, “they have with us. I think it kind of negates each other.”
The day after games, college and pro staffs typically examine film and then begin studying film of the next opponent’s previous game.
“Well,” Mora said, “it’s the same film right now.”
Six days later, UCLA hopes for a different result.
Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this report.
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