STANFORD, Calif. – Don’t count Stanford out of the Pac-12 race just yet.
The Cardinal’s physical ground game and dominant defense, which disappeared in a loss at Utah last week, showed they can still shut down new-age offenses the old-fashioned way.
Tyler Gaffney ran for a career-high 171 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 13 Stanford smothered Brett Hundley and No. 9 UCLA 24-10 on Saturday with a physical performance on both sides of the ball.
“You hear the expression, ‘Offense is your best defense.’ You keep them off. They can’t do anything,” said Gaffney, who also carried the ball a career-high 36 times.
The Cardinal outgained UCLA 419 yards to 266, won the time of possession 37:11 to 22:49 and again made the big plays when it mattered most.
Kevin Hogan threw for 227 yards and a spectacular touchdown to Kodi Whitfield as the Cardinal (6-1, 4-1) regrouped the way they always seem to over the past four years. Stanford has not lost consecutive games since October 2009.
“It’s been a staple of ours for some time now,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said.
The Bruins entered the game averaging 45.8 points per game. That ranked second in the Pac-12 behind Oregon, which hosts UCLA next week before traveling to North Division rival Stanford on Nov. 7.
Just as they slowed down Marcus Mariota and Oregon last season, the Cardinal hurried Hundley all game to put the brakes on UCLA’s up-tempo offense.
Hundley completed 24 of 39 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions by Jordan Richards – the second with a little more than 2 minutes remaining, leading to another Stanford touchdown that put the first blemish on UCLA’s season. The Bruins (5-1, 2-1) have not started 6-0 since 2005.
“That was just a really difficult loss for this team,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “We struggled to get things going the way we’re capable of getting things going, and that’s not like us offensively.”
The Cardinal came out on top again in a rematch of last season’s Pac-12 title game with a “back-to-basics” formula.
When UCLA’s offense took the field late, the Cardinal harassed Hundley into two incompletions before Richards dived for his second interception at the Bruins’ 32-yard line after receiver Thomas Duarte fell down. Then Gaffney capped off a quick Stanford drive with a 4-yard TD run that put the game out of reach.
“He (Hundley) holds the key to their offense,” said linebacker Trent Murphy, who got Stanford’s fourth sack of Hundley on the final play for the exclamation point. “We wanted to stop him.”