Both Stanford and UCLA announced before the game that their respective programs would decline postseason opportunities. But on Saturday, neither team seemed ready for the season to end.
Stanford blew a 17-point lead. UCLA blew a 14-point lead. The game went to overtime and by the second period Chip Kelly had seen enough. Trailing 48-47, Kelly called for running back Brittain Brown to rush for a game-winning two-point conversion.
Instead, sophomore outside linebacker Stephen Herron sealed the deal with his career-best seventh tackle of the game, and Stanford (4-2, 4-2 Pac-12) escaped the Rose Bowl with a 48-47 double overtime win over UCLA (3-4, 3-4 Pac-12).
“Don’t blame Coach Kelly one bit when we hadn’t stopped the run the entire second half to come back and try to win the game on a two point conversion by running the ball right up the middle,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw ’95. “I probably would have done the same thing.”
Four players on Stanford’s defense set career highs in tackles. Fifth year free safety Malik Antoine doubled his previous career best with 14. Herron also had a sack and a forced fumble. Senior outside linebacker Gabe Reid had two sacks.
During the game’s final possession, Reid set up a third-and-18 with a sack that quickly became a touchdown when quarterback Chase Griffin connected from 21 yards out. That is where Kelly found himself making a tough call. In what Reid called a “blur” UCLA failed its first attempt, but offsetting penalties, including a defensive holding that Shaw did not see, gave the Bruins second life. Then Herron came flying in for a stop that really counted.
UCLA was without star running back Demetric Felton Jr., who accounted for a 13th-ranked nationally 115.5 rushing yards per game through his team’s first six games. The Bruins then lost quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the second quarter, and he spent the rest of the game in street clothes and on crutches.
But nothing was lost with Brown in the run game. UCLA came into the game ranked 16th nationally with 220.5 rushing yards per game. Brown rushed for 219 of his own. UCLA had a scoring drive without a completed pass. Still, when called upon, backup quarterback Griffin Chase seemed ready to take over and completed 9-of-11 for 127 yards and four scores.
After halftime, the Bruins scored 31 points before Stanford answered. UCLA snapped Stanford’s 11-game winning streak in the series in Stanford Stadium last season and appeared ready to start a two-game winning streak of its own.
“We looked very inexperienced out there,” Shaw said.
The defense that had bent all year did not break, and when it counted, it did just enough to allow the offense to come through in big ways.