Stanford Overcomes Defensive Woes to Win Pac 12 Championship

By David LaRose

The Stanford Cardinal punched their first ticket to the Rose Bowl since 2000 by defeating UCLA for the second time in less than a week to claim the Pac 12 Championship.

If I were to tell you that Stanford won the game without looking at a box score most people would say they must have done it with defense.

Wrong. Stanford won the game but it wasn’t because of their defense, they won the game due to their offensive efficiency and timely special teams play.

Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor had a solid game rushing for 76 yards and a touchdown while freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan played a smart effective game without making any major mistakes. Hogan impressed with his poise and his smart decisions, especially in the option game where some of his keeps on the option read were key to their success and their ability to stay on the field.

In the special teams game their kicker Jordan Williamson hit two big field goals, one before halftime and one with 6:49 remaining to break the 24-24 tie, while UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a game-tying FG to seal the game. Williamson stepped up once again to lift the Cardinal to a clutch victory just two weeks after kicking the game winner against Oregon to hand the Ducks their first loss of the season and ending their national championship aspirations.

On the other hand, it was an uncharacteristically poor defensive performance from the Cardinal who came into the game with one of the top defenses in the entire country. Not only did they boast one of the top overall defenses but their run defense was exceptionally good but UCLA adjustments and missed assignments led to some big plays for the Bruins offense.

The Cardinal ended up allowing over 450 yards of total offense and 282 rushing yards, easily one of their poorer performances of the season. Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin broke out for 201 yards and two touchdowns after being held to under 70 yards just six days ago. The Bruins put the backs and receivers in motion to get them out in space early to spread out the defense in order to be able to run between the tackles later in the game. It was effective and it almost won them the game but eventually Stanford’s defense stepped up when they needed to seal the game.

This game was much closer than last week’s 35-17 contest that the Cardinal dominated. UCLA created a solid gameplan and made some nice adjustments to expose some the the Stanford linebackers in space.

In the end though it was the Cardinal that once again came out on top and they’ll be making a return trip to Pasadena but this time they will be playing for a much bigger title.

David LaRose is one of the featured College Football writers for Rant Sports covering the Pac 12 and the University of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

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