In a nightmare game fraught with failed offensive execution, injuries to key contributors and abundant penalties, the Stanford Cardinal faced its scariest scenario of the evening with two minutes and five seconds remaining.
Down 13-9 with no time outs and a starting quarterback making his first road start who had completed just one pass in the second half — not to mention fell short of leading a touchdown drive all game — the young Cardinal grew up quickly and drove down the field for a 10-play, 70-yard series culminating in senior quarterback Ryan Burns connecting with receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside on a fade route for the game-winning score.
“It shows a lot about the character of our football team,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said. “Now, the youth of our football team showed in the first three quarters — just the fact that we were in somebody else’s house…We didn’t play well. We took a lot of body blows.”
“Everybody that we put in there stepped up and played well,” Shaw went on to say. “That’s what happens when you recruit well and you recruit great kids, tough kids, smart kids, guys that don’t bat an eyelash when things get difficult.”
After scoring its first touchdown of the night and getting its first lead since a 3-0 advantage following the game’s opening possession, Stanford proceeded to slow down Josh Rosen and the UCLA offense in the final 24 seconds of the game, capping off the game with a Solomon Thomas scoop-and-score touchdown as time expired to give Stanford (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12) a 22-13 victory over the Bruins (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) at the Rose Bowl.
In a venue that has hosted moments of both extreme jubilation and disappointment for the Cardinal fanbase this decade, this game encapsulated the emotions of both extremes.
Burns finished his night on a high note with a final stat line of 13-25 for 137 yards with a touchdown and an interception while the Bruins’ revamped run defense held Christian McCaffrey in check for most of the night as No. 5 finished with 138 yards rushing on 26 carries and 165 all-purpose yards — nearly 20 yards below his season average.
Stanford will return to action on a short week, traveling up to Washington next Friday to take on the Huskies at 6 p.m. in another nationally televised game.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.