When it comes to playing UCLA at the Rose
Bowl, Stanford hasn't found a lot of success in recent years. The
Cardinal has dropped six consecutive games in Pasadena where the Bruins are
an impressive 31-13 over the past seven seasons.
But this isn't your
dad's brawny Bruins and this surely isn't the same Stanford squad that allowed a
game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds on the clock in 2008.
We know that
wasn't the best memory to recall, but it's something that had to be
addressed in order to rid the Cardinal of this baby blue curse. Or perhaps it's
just a road hex.
"We've got to pack
our defense to win on the road," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It's a tough
conference to play on the road and sometimes it's harder to play offensive
football on the road."
Even though the
Cardinal averaged 35.4 points per game last season away from home, they went
just 2-3 and haven't been able to label themselves "road warriors" in quite some
time. Stanford is a miserable 13-32 on the road since
against UCLA will be the first of a handful of contests that will go a long way
in determining the success of the program this year. Along with UCLA, Stanford
will take on Notre Dame and Oregon in famously hostile
"We'll know where we
stand after the first six weeks of the season," Harbaugh said. "We did a lot of
preparing for it and wanted to come out of training camp with the best
foundation we possibly could. I think these next games will tell a lot more
about our football team."
The Bruins suffered
their first loss on the road to Kansas State last week, 33-21. Multiple missed
tackles by the linebackers allowed running back Daniel Thomas to roll up 235
yards on 28 carries and William Powell to add 72 yards on six
attempts. Still, UCLA was never really out of the game and pulled within
one point late in the fourth quarter. As expected, Harbaugh thinks the better
"There is no question
after watching the game I think the better team was UCLA. But Daniel Thomas is a
heck of a football player," he said.
Gone from last year's
vaunted defense is All-American Brian Price, who clogged up the middle, as well
as linebackers Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth. The Bruins' starting defense
last week featured just four players who started more than one game in
But Akeem Ayers and
Rahim Moore are Pac-10 standouts still donning the light blue and gold and
can have a game-changing impact on any given play. Ayers is a linebacker
that can put his hand on the ground as a pass rusher or sit back in coverage.
Harbaugh contends that Moore and Tony Dye create the best safety tandem in the
"They have a bunch of
athletes. They have a bunch of new guys that are athletic and two really good
football players in Ayers and Moore," Andrew Luck said. "We definitely have our
work cut out for us."
Rick Neuheisel said
that he expects to see the traditional power-running attack from Stanford on
Saturday. And why wouldn't they after K-State put up those kinds of numbers.
With four sets of fresh legs pounding the rock, the Cardinal should be able to
wear the UCLA defense down. While it's not the same situation as Toby Gerhart
carrying the load, Stepfan Taylor says he doesn't mind the committee
"With all these
tailbacks, it's making us compete and we can step our ‘A' game up and bring it
to the field every day," he said.
Much like last
season, it appears as if the Bruins are going to struggle offensively. They did
put up 193 yards rushing last week but Kevin Prince was just 9-of-26 for 120
yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
the Pac-10's version of Tim Tebow, except not nearly as good. He is a
mobile quarterback that isn't afraid to drop his helmet and take on a defender.
Prince has only been practicing about two weeks now and the word "rusty" was
used to describe his performance after the K-State loss.
Prince has been asked
to run the "pistol" offense this season, made popular by Chris Ault at Nevada,
and Stanford has been preparing for it all week.
"Norm Chow does a
great job in making variations of their plays," Chase Thomas said. "It's
definitely challenging preparing for their offense. That pistol is confusing
because it can go both ways and run multiple formations."
It would be wise for
the Bruins to keep a steady dose of running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman going throughout the game. Thomas said the Stanford defense
predominately played in a 4-2-5 alignment to key in on the run last weekend and
expects the same Saturday.
"For the most part we
were playing a 4-2-5 because Sacramento State runs that single-back formation,"
he said. "UCLA has a bunch of single-back stuff so I wouldn't be surprised if we
ran the same type of scheme."
It doesn't sound like
Chris Owusu, Shayne Skov or Jeremy Stewart will be available for Saturday's
contest. We just hope they don't start falling into the Erik Lorig "we'll see"
category each and every week.
Owusu's extraordinary kick-return
skills might not be missed much Saturday, however, because you can't talk
about UCLA without talking about its two all-star kickers. Punter and kickoff
specialist Jeff Locke put four of five kickoffs in the end zone for
touchbacks last week. Returning Lou Groza Award winner Kai Forbath was 3-for-3
on field goal attempts and has now connected on 40 consecutive field goals
inside the 50-yard line.
We almost forgot to
mention, the Cardinal snuck into the Associated Press Poll after that dominating
performance over Sacramento State, positioned at No. 25. Stanford opened as an
8-point favorite for Saturday's contest but that spread has dropped to a current
number of 6.
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