UCLA vs. Stanford: Cardinal prove they're Pac-10 challengers with 35-0 victory
Stanford 35, UCLA 0 (final)
Saturday night at the Rose Bowl was a proving ground.
Stanford proved that it can contend for a Pacific 10 Conference title, even on a night when quarterback Andrew Luck looked a little off.
UCLA proved it has a long way to go.
The Bruins have started the season with two consecutive losses after a dreary 35-0 defeat in this conference opener against the Cardinal.
The defense held up for as long as it could, keeping the score reasonably close for two-plus quarters, but the offense never posed much of a threat and key mistakes helped blow the score wide open.
Stanford dominated play throughout, starting with Luck's 16-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Whalen in the first quarter. Over the ensuing minutes, the Cardinal mounted two more drives but was stopped short of the goal line and settled for 23- and 21-yard field goals from Nate Whitaker.
So the score was 13-0 at halftime and UCLA seemed to have a chance. But not for long.
Bruin running back Derrick Coleman was knocked momentarily unconscious in the third quarter and taken to a hospital for precautionary X-rays, though he had movement and sensation in his limbs.
After that, Stanford mounted an 18-play, 68-yard drive -- with a two-point conversion -- that all but put the game away at 21-0.
The gap grew even wider when Cardinal safety Michael Thomas ripped the ball from UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince's hands and sprinted 21 yards for a touchdown. Soon after, Luck capped another drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Coby Fleener and the score as 35-0.
Prince had a rough night, completing six of 12 passes for only 39 yards with an interception, and was replaced by Richard Brehaut at the end of the third quarter.
Even UCLA's star kicker, Kai Forbath, saw his streak of 40 consecutive field goals inside 50 yards end when he missed a 49-yard attempt.
The Bruins face Houston at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
Stanford 35, UCLA 0 (midway through fourth quarter)
Stanford went 51 yards in eight plays to widen its lead over UCLA in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Andrew Luck floated a nifty pass to tight end Coby Fleenerto put the ball near the goal line. Two plays later, he went back to Fleener with a three-yard touchdown pass.
Stanford 28, UCLA 0 (late third quarter)
And then things turned ugly. ...
Moments after giving up a long touchdown drive, UCLA surrendered a lightning-quick score when Stanford free safety Michael Thomas ripped the ball from quarterback Kevin Prince's hands and sprinted 21 yards into the end zone.
Reserve quarterback Richard Brehaut entered the game on UCLA's ensuing possession.
Stanford 21, UCLA 0 (late third quarter)
The Cardinal put together its longest drive of the night, an impressive 68 yards in 18 plays that chewed up over nine minutes on the clock.
Fullback Owen Marecic finished things off by bulling across the line from one yard out on fourth down.
Quarterback Andrew Luck then passed to receiver Doug Baldwin for the two-point conversion.
There was nothing fancy about the drive, the Cardinal gaining yards in modest chunks, mostly on the ground.
Stanford 13, UCLA 0 (early third quarter)
UCLA running back Derrick Coleman was transported to a hospital for precautionary X-rays after being knocked unconscious on a run in the third quarter.
The injury occurred on a play in which Coleman carried up the middle and took a hard shot to the head. He fumbled, the loose ball recovered by a teammate.
Upon regaining consciousness, the junior had movement and sensation in all of his limbs. His head was strapped down to the stretcher as he was wheeled off the field after a 10-minute delay.
Stanford 13, UCLA 0 (halftime)
There was something dreadfully bland about watching UCLA fall behind Stanford in the first half at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
Sure, the Bruins had a few excitingly bad moments, receiver Randall Carroll fumbling at midfield and quarterback Kevin Prince launching an ill-advised pass that was intercepted near the goal line. There was a "Keystone Kops" scenario that included back-to-back timeouts and an illegal substitution penalty.
But mostly, they just got outplayed.
The Cardinal continually dominated the line of scrimmage in amassing 218 yards of offense through two quarters.
Quarterback Andrew Luck, who looked a little off in completing only eight of 18 passes for 117 yards, had time to throw a 16-yard touchdown pass for the game's first score. And the Cardinal running backs benefited from big holes, or a least room to get started, rushing for 101 yards in 21 carries.
The Bruins, meanwhile, managed only 105 total yards, thanks to a brief spurt near the start of the second quarter when running back Malcolm Jones broke free for two big gains.
Prince, who struggled with a sore shoulder all week, completed four of eight passes for 29 yards. His stuttering offense failed to convert on any of its five third-down attempts.
The UCLA defense looked a little better, at least inside its own 10-yard-line.
Twice the Bruins put together defensive stands, forcing the Cardinal to settle for 23- and 21-yard field goals from kicker Nate Whitaker.
It wasn't enough to stop boos from raining down as the team jogged off the field at halftime.
Stanford 13, UCLA 0 (midway through second quarter)
As if things weren't going badly enough for UCLA, the Bruins set up yet another Stanford scoring drive when receiver Randall Carroll fumbled on a rushing play, turning the ball over near midfield.
From there, the Cardinal moved quickly as Andrew Luck floated a deep pass down the left side to receiver Doug Baldwin, who beat UCLA cornerback Aaron Hester to the ball for a 34-yard gain.
Once again, Stanford could not punch the ball across the goal line from short range. Nate Whitaker made a 21-yard attempt for his second field goal of the game.
Stanford 10, UCLA 0 (late in first quarter)
The good news: UCLA held Stanford on three plays near the goal line to force a field-goal attempt.
The bad news: That was about the only thing the Bruins did right on defense as they fell farther behind.
Early in the drive, they looked befuddled in calling back-to-back timeouts. Later, with Stanford in hurry-up mode, they were hit with an illegal substitution penalty. The Cardinal quickly moved to the 10-yard-line.
Only then did UCLA pull things together. After a short run and two incomplete passes, Stanford settled for kicker Nate Whitaker's 23-yard field goal.
Stanford 7, UCLA 0 (midway through first quarter)
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck figures to be one of the top passers in the Pac-10 this season, but his legs did much of the damage as the Cardinal struck first at the Rose Bowl.
Shortly after his team took possession at its 39-yard line, Luck ran 16 yards on a keeper. He later scrambled 11 yards for another key first down.
Stanford's seven-play, 61-yard drive ended with Luck rolling left and doing what he does best, tossing a 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ryan Whalen in the corner of the end zone.
UCLA isn't the only team with quarterback health issues. Houston, which brings its high-powered offense to the Rose Bowl next week, has worries about Case Keenum.
Keenum had to leave the Cougars' game against Texas El Paso, feeling woozy after trying to make a tackle following an interception.
According to the Houston Chronicle, team officials will not release any information on Keenum's condition until Sunday night.
After a week in which he sat out much of practice because of shoulder soreness, UCLA quarterback Kevin Princelooked to be throwing the ball with zip during warmups for the Bruins' game against Stanford tonight at the Rose Bowl.
Prince had been feeling pain in his throwing shoulder, the same spot where he suffered a mild sprain against USC last season.
Coach Rick Neuheisel, who limited his top passer's work through Thursday, has said all along that Prince would be the starter for tonight's Pacific 10 Conference opener.
-- David Wharton
Photo: Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor breaks through a hole in the Bruins defense on Saturday. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times