If there was a blueprint to tracking Stanford’s success over the past five years, it was on full display in Saturday’s 24-10 win over No. 9 UCLA. Led by RB Tyler Gaffney and a stout defensive effort, the Cardinal handed the Bruins their first loss of the season. While the outcome of the game wasn’t overly surprising, the way Stanford beat them was a great sign to see for Cardinal fans.
In a preview column of the game last week, I gave the edge to UCLA’s offense over Stanford’s defense. After all, the Bruins came in averaging nearly 46 points per game and Stanford’s defense has looked shaky at times this season, including their loss at Utah. The tides turned Saturday when the Bruins were held to 266 yards of total offense, about half of their season average. Stud QB Brett Hundley was flustered all day throwing for just 192 yards and two interceptions. Prior to scoring just 10 points against Stanford, UCLA’s lowest scoring total this season was 34 points against Utah. If the Cardinal can get back to shutting people down on defense, it will make their team a real threat in the National Championship race.
Offensively, Stanford did what it does best on Saturday, pounding the ball with Tyler Gaffney and controlling the time of possession. Gaffney carried the ball a season-high 36 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, Gaffney is averaging 5.1 yards per carry to go along with 10 total touchdowns in just seven games. The key statistic in their victory was time of possesion. Stanford held the ball for 37:11 to just 22:49 for UCLA. This allowed Stanford to have long successful drives on offense while keeping UCLA’s high-powered offense off the field. This idea of “ground and pound” football is something Stanford has embraced during their recent success, but had gotten away from in the early parts of this season. On the backs of Tyler Gaffney and a really good front seven on defense, Stanford can beat anyone in the country. They just have to stick to the formula that has gotten them where they are today.