STANFORD, Calif. — Wow. What an exciting football game, and what a gut punch for the UCLA players. (Game story here.) Some quick takeaways:
Franklin’s dominance: Johnathan Franklin came through with easily his best performance of the season. The Doak Walker finalist bounced back from his 65-yard showing a week ago, running roughshod over the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense. In front of a national audience — even LeBron James watched at least part of the game — Franklin grinded out 194 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries. (Why not more touches?!) No other back had run for more yards against the Cardinal, and only one team had more (Oregon, 198).
“We blocked better,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said. “We found some seams. We got to the second level. … Johnathan’s a hard runner. He’s a guy that’s tough to bring down.”
That All-Pac-12 first team snub looks worse by the day.
Youth hurts: As splendid as Brett Hundley has been this season, his second-quarter interception to Ed Reynolds sucked away all of UCLA’s momentum. The redshirt freshman quarterback nearly threw another pick to A.J. Tarpley, but the linebacker bobbled a gift of a throw.
Only the beginning? Fans can take some solace in the fact that UCLA absolutely won the offseason hiring battle. Getting Jim Mora wasn’t a widely lauded move, but he’s Better yet, he doesn’t seem like a coach that will move on anytime soon. He spent over two decades in the NFL, and said he had doubted his coaching future after the Seahawks fired him. There may be some allure in trying to prove himself again as a pro, but he seems comfortable at the college level, and likely doesn’t want to uproot his family.
There’s little shame in losing to a Stanford team that has now swept the other three California schools for a third year straight.
“They should be proud of what they accomplished,” Mora said. “You did poll people at the start of the season. If anybody thought that we’d have been sitting here tonight with less than 45 seconds left on the clock to tie it or even win it, I’m not sure anyone would have taken that bet. …
“I think there are a lot of bright things on the horizon for UCLA football.”
Going bowling: Stanford is going to the Rose Bowl and Oregon is a lock for the Fiesta. UCLA will end up in either the Alamo Bowl, which has the next pick out of the Pac-12, or the Holiday Bowl. That means a third- or fourth-place Big 12 opponent, with the choices being Oklahoma State, Texas or TCU. Oregon State, whose fans tend to travel better, will end up in whatever bowl doesn’t take the Bruins. UCLA has the Los Angeles TV market on its side. At this point, I’d still bet on the destination being Alamo Bowl. We’ll find out Saturday evening.