After physically dominating the UCLA Bruins six days ago, the Stanford Cardinal met the challenge of a feisty Bruins club and clinched the Pac 12 Championship with a 27-24 win in a wet, rainy and sloppy Palo Alto. The win clinches a Rose Bowl berth for Stanford, their first since 2000.
The Bruins came to play in this game and made things difficult on Stanford, jumping out to a 14-7 lead after the first quarter. Stanford would rally once to take a 17-14 lead into the half and then rally again scoring 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Kevin Hogan starred for the Cardinal offense, throwing for 153 yards with a touchdown while rushing for 49 yards with another score on the ground. He showed unbelievable poise in bringing Stanford back twice in the game, extending his record to 4-0 since becoming a starter with four straight wins over ranked opponents and was named the MVP of the Pac 12 Championship.
But the real difference in this game was the Stanford defense. After getting caught off guard by the Bruins’ attack early, the Cardinal stiffened when they were called on and made the plays needed to close out the game.
Ed Reynolds made the play of the game, intercepting Brett Hundley in the second quarter undercutting a deep route and returning it 80 yards to the UCLA one-yard line. The play set up a touchdown run for Stepfan Taylor that tied the game at 14-14, sparking Stanford’s first rally in the second quarter.
Then the Stanford defense rose up again in the fourth quarter. With UCLA backed up deep in their own territory, the Cardinal defense forced a three-and-out which set up the Cardinal with great field position. Hogan drove the Cardinal into field goal range and Stanford converted, scoring the game-winning points in their 27-24 win.
Two-time Pac 12 Coach of the Year David Shaw leads Stanford to his second straight BCS bowl, but his first Rose Bowl, and Stanford’s third straight different BCS bowl.
Stanford has reached the top of the Pac 12 with a combination of toughness, strength and poise that was exemplified in their head coach, quarterback and defense that refused to allow any setback to keep them from their goal.