The UCLA Bruins fell just short in the Pac 12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal, 27-24. The Bruins will have time to look back and try and figure out where they could have been better to change the outcome. One player who won’t have any regrets, however, is running back Jonathan Franklin.
In the season-finale in Pasadena, Franklin had one of his worst outings of the season. He gained just 65 yards on 21 carries for a season-low 3.1 yards per rush as the Bruins got walked over 35-17. In the rematch, the Doak Walker Award finalist was challenged to step his game up and overcome the physical front of Stanford or UCLA’s offense had no chance of getting on track.
He immediately responded. In the first drive of the game, Franklin ran tough and strong, nearly matching his output in the first game in the first five minutes. He punctuated the game-opening drive with a 51-yard touchdown run, setting the tone for his big day to come.
For most of the game, Franklin could be counted on to run for the tough yards, busting through Stanford tacklers as he racked up yardage. He finished the day with 194 yards rushing with two touchdowns. The No. 1 rated rush defense of Stanford averaged giving up just 70 yards per game all season and their previous high allowed was 198 yards given up to the entire Oregon Ducks offense.
It was Franklin’s third-best total on the season and his highest since UCLA’s Week 2 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The performance also put him past Karim Abdul-Jabbar for UCLA’s single season rushing record and past Maurice Jones-Drew for the UCLA all-time all-purpose yards record.
But it wasn’t enough. Despite Franklin’s monster effort, the Bruins couldn’t hold back Stanford who rallied in the second and fourth quarters to erase seven-point leads, ultimately winning by three.
UCLA will have plenty of questions to ask themselves about what could have been and what they could have done differently or better to punch their ticket to the Rose Bowl. Everyone, that is, except Jonathan Franklin who did as much as he could and more than anyone could have asked.