The No. 8 Stanford Cardinal defeated the UCLA Bruins 27-24 in a nail-biter in Stanford Stadium to win the Pac-12 championship game and a right to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl.
UCLA gave the Cardinal a run for their money all night. The Bruins struck first, as Jonathan Franklin busted a huge 51-yard touchdown run on their first drive.
Stanford responded with a nice 69-yard, eleven play drive led by Kevin Hogan and Stepfan Taylor. After Taylor’s impressive 32-yard reception that brought the Cardinal within UCLA’s five-yard line, Hogan practically walked into the end zone after a perfect play action fake on a bootleg from two yards out to tie the game.
The fireworks continued when UCLA’s quarterback Brett Hundley punched in a five-yard rushing touchdown at the end of the first quarter to retake the lead.
After a beautiful interception and return by Ed Reynolds, who brought the ball all the way back to UCLA’s one-yard line, Taylor answered with his first touchdown of the night to tie the game at 14.
Jordan Williamson hit a 37-yard field goal at the end of the first half to give the Cardinal a 17-14 lead heading into the break.
The game remained close in the second half. However, the third quarter was all UCLA, as Ka’imi Fairbairn hit a 31-yard field goal and Franklin visited the end zone for the second time, this one from 20 yards out.
Hogan answered in a big way with a gorgeous 26-yard touchdown pass to Drew Terrell on third and long to tie the game up at 24 early on in the fourth quarter.
Williamson’s 36-yard field goal on Stanford’s next drive gave the Cardinal a 27-24 lead that they would hold onto for the rest of the night, as Fairbairn missed a 52-yard field goal attempt with only 30 seconds left in the game.
Stanford’s usually impenetrable front seven finally looked human, allowing 201 yards to Franklin on only 18 carries. Nonetheless, the Cardinal defense allowed only 182 yards through the air, and Reynolds’ interception turned the tide of the game.
Kevin Hogan earned MVP honors in the game, in large part due to his impressive poise and leadership. He threw for 153 yards and a touchdown, adding 49 yards and a score on the ground as well.
Stepfan Taylor had a good night as well, posting 130 total yards and a touchdown on the ground. Drew Terrell added to that production on the outside with 70 receiving yards and that touchdown.
After a long, successful regular season, the Cardinal proved to be the best team in the conference on Friday night. Keep an eye on the Nebraska-Wisconsin matchup tomorrow, as the winner will take Stanford on in the Rose Bowl.