CFN Analysis: Stanford Wins The Pac-12
Posted Dec 1, 2012

The Cardinal beat UCLA to earn the trip to the Rose Bowl.

at Stanford 27, UCLA 24

E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow us ... @ColFootballNews 
Stanford might not be flashy like Oregon, or talented like USC, or rising like UCLA, Arizona or Arizona State, but against the Bruins, it showed it's resilient and now it's off to Pasadena.

This wasn't how it was supposed to go. Stanford was expected to get the ground game going early and let the defense take care of the rest, but unlike last week, the Bruins were ready and physical, blasting away for 284 rushing yards. RB Johnathan Franklin came up with a big early touchdown run, and QB Brett Hundley gave the team the game it needed from him, but despite getting outgained by 136 yards, the Cardinal found a way to hold on at home.

The snap was a bit off and the kick never had much of a chance. UCLA's Ka'i Fairbairn had a chance to force overtime with his 52-yard field goal attempt in the final moments, but it was the Stanford defense that held on 3rd-and-five that forced the bomb attempt.

It was the Chase Thomas sack on the previous drive when the Bruins were threatening. It was the speed rush that forced the holding call early in the fourth quarter that killed a UCLA drive before it could get started. It was a team effort when things weren't going well, and now David Shaw has his team going to the Rose Bowl because he has the best team.

- This isn't the last time you'll see this quarterback matchup. Stanford's Kevin Hogan was fantastic, completing 16-of-22 passes for 155 yards and a score, while running for 47 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Meanwhile, UCLA's Brett Hundley completed 23-of-31 passes for 177 yards and a pick, while running for 83 yards and a touchdown.

- Franklin had the game Stepfan Taylor was supposed to come up with. Franklin ran for 194 yards and a score, while Taylor battled to get to 78 yards with a score on 24 carries.

- Chase Thomas came up with the perfect cap to his strong season with ten tackles and two sacks. At times, he looked like the best player on the field.

- As a team, UCLA averaged 7.7 yards per carry. Stanford averaged 4.0.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

- Now THAT's more like it. The prequel to UCLA vs. Stanford was was a box-office bomb, but the sequel was well worth the wait.

- Raise your hand if you saw this matchup coming at the beginning of the year. If you would have told me that neither Oregon or USC would be vying for a Rose Bowl berth, I'd a taken that bet any lost the farm and my first born.

- Speaking of which, David Shaw get a TON more credit for what he's done in Palo Alto? The program looked destined for a slide with the loss of Andrew Luck in combination with the second year of Jim Harbaugh stalking the sidelines in the NFL. Instead, Shaw has stuck with the same ingredients of tough defense, a physical brand of offense, and solid, solid coaching. Well done. Those boys don't miss many tackles.

- We'd be remiss to not mention the job that Jim Mora, Jr. has done as well. Rick Neuheisel left UCLA in a bigger mess than a teenage bedroom, yet Mora surprised everyone by turning the program into a contender in literally no time. The future looks brighter than the sunshine in LA.

- Where would this Stanford team be if it had gone to Kevin Hogan earlier in the year? We might be talking about "the Tree" in the same breath of Notre Dame, Alabama, and Georgia.

- For anyone wondering how to win at a school where academics are priority, study the blueprints in Palo Alto and Northwestern. All we keep hearing is how difficult it is to win at places with higher academic standards, yet the Wildcats, Cardinal, and Irish are all having a good run of things and have all done it in different methods. Bottom line--it CAN be done. Stop the excuses.

- Call me crazy, but I'd love to see a Rose Bowl between Wisconsin and Stanford. It could get more physical than a WWE cage match on a cocktail of growth hormone, testosterone, and steroids. And yes, I know the Badgers have five losses, but the potential Donnybrook is enough to have the mouth watering.

- Yeah, this whole Pac-12 thing will be fun if these two teams can continue to stay in the penthouse with Oregon and USC.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

Sports – in all their diversity and poignancy – provide a full platter of storylines written on the human heart. The games people play manage to leave a substantial imprint on the collective memory, due to the unpredictable plot twists that inevitably emerge when imperfect organisms compete for a big prize under withering pressure. When human beings play (and coach) for the right to go to the Rose Bowl, the high stakes can create the kinds of counterintuitive and ironic narratives that emerged on Friday night in Palo Alto, Calif.

Jim Mora, Jr. did a fantastic job this past regular season as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins. Mora benefited from the fact that for the first time since the 16th century, a UCLA quarterback made it through a full regular season without a severe injury. Nevertheless, Mora injected fresh life and purpose into the UCLA program. The Bruins played with a conviction and clarity that were manifestly lacking under previous coaches Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel. Blame Lane Kiffin if you want, but UCLA earned its way to the top of the heap in the city of Los Angeles and the Pac-12 South Division, forging a record rich in achievement. Mora was centrally responsible for engineering this turnaround in Westwood.

Yet, this same man – in his team's biggest moment of 2012 – plainly dropped the ball. More precisely, he ordered his quarterback, Brett Hundley, to spike it.

Mora led UCLA to the Pac-12 Championship Game and put his team in position to return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1998 season. Yet, when standing on the verge of greatness and an achievement that would live forever in UCLA lore, Mora committed two spectacular coaching mistakes that enabled Stanford to make a long-cherished return to Pasadena instead. It was Mora whom the Cardinal should thank for enabling the Trees to play in the Rose Bowl game for the first time since the 1999 season, when Ty Willingham's team faced Wisconsin in the Granddaddy.

Let's establish this about endgame management: Stopping the ball with a spike should be done only in the final 15 to 20 seconds. Why? It is only in the final 15 to 20 seconds when a team's chances of running three more pre-field goal plays becomes fairly slim. If you're not in the final 20 seconds of regulation, you should easily be able to run three scrimmage plays before a potential kick. Teams have no business spiking the ball outside the final 20 seconds of regulation when in need of a field goal.

Very simply, Mora ordered his quarterback to spike the ball on first down with 47 seconds to go. When UCLA then completed a six-yard pass to the Stanford 34 with over 40 seconds left, the Bruins should have had a second and four situation to deal with, a favorable scenario that could have paved the way for a drive inside the Stanford 20 (if not more). Instead, because of the spiked ball, UCLA faced a third and four. When the Bruins failed, Mora then ordered his kicker to try a 52-yard field goal on a sloppy and rain-soaked natural-grass (not field turf) surface.

David Shaw wasn't exactly impressive with his own late-game decision making. When UCLA had no timeouts and Stanford needed only one more first down to ice the game, Shaw was unwilling to have his quarterback throw beyond the sticks. He therefore gave UCLA one last gleaming opportunity…

… an opportunity Jim Mora, Jr. wanted no part of.