As the vast majority of you know, head coach Jim Mora has led a resurgence of the UCLA football program over his four-year tenure. He has played a significant role in transforming UCLA football from a fledgling and mediocre program into one that can now be classified as one of the best teams in the Pac-12 over the course of his time in Pasadena.
For all that success however, one team still remains the Bruins’ kryptonite to this day: Stanford.
UCLA is not only winless in tilts against the northern California school in Mora’s time — the Bruins have not tasted victory against the Cardinal since 2008. To put that into full context, Kevin Craft was UCLA’s quarterback in that win, and Rick Neuheisel was in his first year roaming the Bruin sideline.
Yes, it has been a long time indeed.
So the ultimate question is: why can’t the Bruins beat the Cardinal?
To start, one of the main elements in Stanford’s control over UCLA is the Cardinal’s dominance on the offensive line. Stanford has had a great offensive line during this entire stretch and they have definitely kept the Bruins at bay.
Going hand in hand with that is Stanford’s strong running game. From the Toby Gerhart era to most recently Stepfan Taylor and Christian McCaffrey, the Bruins cannot seem to get a handle on the Cardinal running backs. The success of Taylor in particular illustrates the skill set of the Stanford O-line, considering UCLA had a great defensive line to counter that during Taylor’s time and yet still could not contain their running attack.
Stanford’s pro style, run-first offense has surely been their trademark over the years, but the Cardinal also have had good talent defensively over during UCLA’s skid against them, particularly at linebacker. This has disrupted the Bruins’ run game over that time and has also slowed down UCLA in the passing game. Combine that with their tendency to blitz from the linebacker position, and overall, you surely have a very solid defense.
Add in all of those elements, and that is why the Bruins cannot beat Stanford. It will certainly be difficult on Thursday night given UCLA’s inconsistency thus far this season, but hopefully they can pull off an excellent win tomorrow and finally buck the trend.
And with that, I say…