No. 25 Stanford shuts out UCLA
PASADENA – Winning at the Rose Bowl in September is one thing. Making a return trip in January is what Stanford’s players really want.
Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes and safety Michael Thomas led a hard-hitting defensive effort with a 21-yard fumble return for a TD to lead the No. 25 Cardinal to a 35-0 win over the bumbling UCLA Bruins on Saturday night in the first game of the Pac-10 schedule.
The Cardinal (2-0, 1-0) ended a six-game losing streak to UCLA at the Rose Bowl, winning at Pasadena for the first time since 1996. Stanford was shut out twice during that losing streak. The Cardinal also lost to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2000.
“It means a lot,” Thomas said. “No doubt about it, we’ve been hearing it. Last time we won here was 1996. Shoot, let’s get it done. A win here at the Rose Bowl, this is where we want to get back to. Getting the first win here, just get that taste in your mouth, see the atmosphere and you’re like, ‘Man, I’ve got to get back here,’ so it was great.”
It was Stanford’s first road shutout since winning 17-0 at Oregon in 1974.
UCLA running back Derrick Coleman was wheeled off the field on a stretcher and taken to a hospital as a precaution after being knocked out at the end of a 9-yard run early in the third quarter. Coleman regained consciousness and had movement and sensation in all his extremities, the school said. He was tended to for several minutes before being taken off the field.
UCLA (0-2, 0-1) committed four turnovers, leading to 10 points for the Cardinal. UCLA was shut out for the first time since losing 59-0 at BYU on Sept. 13, 2008, and the first time at home since a 17-0 loss to Cal on Oct. 16, 1999.
“Tonight was an offensive disaster. There is no other way to say it,” coach Rick Neuheisel said. “We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and fix it.”
Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince botched a handoff late in the third quarter, then had the ball stripped by Thomas, who ran 21 yards for a touchdown and a 28-0 lead.
“That play is like something that you visualize when you dream the night before the game,” Thomas said. “When an opportunity like that happens, you’ve got to take advantage. That’s all that was. He might have been trying to give me a gift.”
Coach Jim Harbaugh, who has rebuilt the Cardinal into a prime Pac-10 contender, was impressed with the defense.
“We just talked a lot about packing the defense for a road game,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something we needed to play better on the road and we certainly packed the defense this week.”
That miscue was it for Prince, who was replaced by Richard Brehaut at the start of the next Bruins possession.
Thomas’ score came moments after fullback Owen Marecic scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal. Luck threw a conversion pass to Doug Baldwin. Luck had scrambled for an apparent 5-yard TD the play before, but it was reviewed and the officials ruled that his knee was down just before he crossed the goal line.
That 18-play drive covered 68 yards and consumed 9:25.
“It was a great drive,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not easy to do that, a 20-play drive.”
Luck threw a 3-yard TD pass to tight end Coby Fleener, who was wide open in the right corner of the end zone with 8:38 to play. Luck’s first TD pass of the night was a 16-yarder to Ryan Whalen midway through the first quarter.
Stanford gained 362 yards, including 211 on the ground.
“Defensively we played valiantly until we unfortunately ran out of steam,” Neuheisel said. “We can’t leave the defense on the field as much as we have the first two weeks.”
Stanford’s Nate Whitaker kicked field goals of 23 and 21 yards to give the Cardinal a 13-0 halftime lead.
The Bruins had two costly turnovers in the first 30 minutes.
Randall Carroll fumbled when he was hit by Michael Thomas, with Chase Thomas recovering at the UCLA 46. That set up Whitaker’s 21-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
UCLA moved to the Stanford 28 on the next drive but Prince was sacked for a loss of 6 yards by Matt Masifilo, then was intercepted at the 3 by Richard Sherman.
Prince completed 6 of 12 passes for 39 yards and was sacked twice. He and Brehaut each threw one interception.
Luck, who was 11 of 24 for 151 yards, made way for backup quarterback Alex Loukas after Thomas Keiser intercepted Brehaut with about 5 minutes left. Luck also ran seven times for 63 yards.