Thursday, October 17, 2013
Planning for success: Stanford
By Kyle Bonagura
Life is good at UCLA.
On the heels of their fifth straight win to open the season Saturday vs. Cal, the Bruins jumped into the AP Top 10 for the first time since 2005. Quarterback Brett Hundley's 410 yards passing was the school's third-highest single-game output in history, and linebacker Anthony Barr has made a strong case to be considered the best defensive player in the nation.
Brett Hundley has thrown for 12 touchdowns and four interceptions this season for the Bruins.
With wins at then-No. 23 Nebraska and Utah, the Bruins have already shown they can take their show on the road, but this week's trip to No. 13 Stanford (5-1, 3-1) presents a whole new set of challenges. Over its last 13 games, UCLA has dropped just three games -- two of them in a six-day span to the Cardinal, including one in the Pac-12 Championship.
Those games left an impression and UCLA coach Jim Mora didn't hold back in his praise of the Cardinal on Tuesday.
"They've got no weakness," he said. "That's the thing when you look at them. You see no weakness in their team."
So surely Mora was surprised that the team without a weakness lost at Utah, right?
"We played Utah the week prior and they're a heck of a football team," Mora said. "Didn't surprise me at all that they came away with a tough victory at home."
For UCLA to mimic Utah's success, Mora's formula is straightforward.
"In order to have a chance against a team like Stanford, you have to play as mistake-free as possible," he said. "They are what they are, which is a tough physical team that doesn't make mistakes that hurt themselves."
While Mora was gushing over the Cardinal, Stanford coach David Shaw was simultaneously lobbing a bevy of compliments toward the Bruins too -- most of them in the direction of Barr, whom he compared to former NFL great Jevon Kearse.
"He's the best defensive player we've probably seen in this conference in the last few years and I don't think it's close," Shaw said. "Just watching football, the kid is unbelievable. As good as he was last year, he's better. He's bigger, stronger, faster."
Stanford hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2009 and has won the last five games against UCLA. With a national title now seemingly out of the picture, the Cardinal is still in position to make a run at a fourth consecutive BCS bowl.
When Shaw addressed the team after the loss to Utah, his message was about perspective.
"Let's look at where we are, let's look at how we got here and let's look at where we're going," he told the team. "That's the most important thing to me, which in order to go forward, you have to look at where you are."
For Stanford to get where it wants to be -- back to the Rose Bowl -- there can't be any performances that resemble what happened in Salt Lake City.