It’s pretty difficult to deny what most UCLA fans are thinking about the Bruins’ awful loss to Stanford on Saturday afternoon.
It’s hard tonot suggest these Bruins, coming off an emotional win and having a Pac-12 South title locked up, just let whatever transpired on the field result from a passive, listless performance.
And we’re sure this is coupled with Stanford needing a win in order to get to the Pac-12 title game.
Because this UCLA team didn’t look like the slayers they were against USC a week ago and against Arizona three weeks ago. This UCLA team was dropping passes, getting lazy in pass protection, and allowing themselves to get dominated in the trenches.
This UCLA offense was largely out of sync and incredibly conservative. After getting off to a fast start, tying Stanford with a 7-7 score early on, the Bruins trailed off. They were no longer hitting receivers and attacking the secondary, insisting they keep it on the ground. They had committed penalties that were quite the rarity for this UCLA squad — holding and false starts are not in UCLA’s repertoire; think pass interference and penalties on the defensive side of the ball — and were failing to move the chains consistently.
And sure, it’s the Stanford defense, one that held Oregon to 14 just last week. Sure, the Cardinal’s big uglies will always be fantastic in putting pressure on the quarterback to prevent their secondary from being exposed.
But it didn’t look like UCLA came out with the fire that they normally do. Perhaps it’s a letdown game, with the emotional win against USC still fresh in the memories of these Bruins. Maybe the season’s worn on them, and they’re better off playing as if they’ve already won their division (note: they have).
(Losing to avoid Oregon seems silly, though; that’d be on the bottom of any reasons-why-to-tank-vs-Stanford lists.)
Meanwhile, that UCLA defense wasn’t as aggressive, rushing three or four on every down, in stark contrast to bombarding those QBs with the likes of Anthony Barr and Damien Holmes. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan had all the time in the world in his pocket, it seemed, and that Stanford offensive line got the right push up front, coupled with Stepfan Taylor’s unbelievable strength and size.
UCLA called off the dogs, and while that’s hard to accept, it’s a hell of a lot easier than accepting that UCLA played its asses off and still wound up a few touchdowns short.
There isn’t much to say about this game because, it seems, that we didn’t see the real UCLA against Stanford.
No, “real UCLA” could show up against Stanford on Friday and whatever’s been said in this post might be totally irrelevant.
Who knows? We’ll find out in five days.