Stanford manhandled UCLA this past Saturday. The question has been floated around whether UCLA played hard or not in the game. Photo by Jason Lewis
Stanford had their way with UCLA this past week, and the two teams will face off again for the conference title.
Plain and simple, Stanford rolled up UCLA at the Rose Bowl this past week in a 35-17 victory, and UCLA may be in line for a whole lot more of that when they travel to Stanford for the PAC-12 Championship Game on Friday.
Stanford was bigger, tougher, played smarter and more disciplined, and it was clear who was the superior team. But was UCLA playing coy?
If UCLA had won the game, they would have traveled to Oregon for the conference title game. The common thought is that Stanford would be a much better match up for UCLA, and that playing Stanford would improve UCLA’s chances of making it to the Rose Bowl Game. So it may have been in their best interest to lose the game.
Was that really the case? It is hard to tell. UCLA did not look like the team that defeated USC, when quarterback Brett Hundley completed 22 of 30 passes. In that game, when he was unable to find an open receiver he took off and ran the ball.
Against Stanford, Hundley is credited with eight carries, but seven of those were sacks. He only took off and ran once during the game. Even though Stanford defensive backs stayed with UCLA receivers, which would have given Hundley room to run, he still looked to pass the ball. In the game he completed 20 of 38 passes. Running with the football would have given UCLA a better opportunity to win the game, so it is somewhat questionable why Hundley did not run more.
UCLA kept their starters in through the fourth quarter, so it is hard to say that they were taking the week off, and listening to Head Coach Jim Mora Jr., in his mind they were trying to win the game.
“We’re competitors,” Mora said. “Those guys in there don’t spend all the time that they spend preparing for a game during the offseason and during the week, the sacrifices that they make, to not go out there and give it their best to win every opportunity. So that’s what they did. They gave their best, and we just came up short.”
Hundley echoed that same sentiment.
“I don’t ever like losing,” Hundley said. “I don’t ever like punting to be honest.”
If Mora and Hundley are being honest, and UCLA gave it their best effort to win the game, then they are in trouble when they have to face Stanford again. Because Stanford simply overpowered UCLA.
But if UCLA took the week off to lock in Stanford instead of Oregon as their opponent, then UCLA may have a shot to make it to the Rose Bowl on January 1.