Stanford rallied in the fourth quarter to clinch their first trip to the Rose Bowl in over a decade, beating UCLA for a second straight week and winning the Pac 12 Championship 27-24 in Palo Alto Friday night.
Trailing 24-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, Stanford scored the game’s final ten points halfway through the fourth quarter and held for the win when a UCLA field goal attempt from 35 yards failed to go through the uprights with under two minutes remaining.
Stanford head coach John Shaw knows there is work to be done if Stanford is going to end the season with their first Rose Bowl victory since 1972.
“I can’t help it, but it’s just how I’m built, I want to play better,” Shaw said following the game. Stanford allowed 22 first downs, 461 yards of total offense and was gashed on the ground for 284 yards by UCLA, led by James Franklins rushing for a Pac 12 Championship Game record 194 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Franklin opened the scoring early in the game with a 51-yard touchdown run just minutes in to give UCLA a fast 7-0 lead. His 20-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter gave the Bruins a 24-17 lead heading in to the fourth quarter, but Stanford’s defense was able to manage the game in the final quarter, giving the offense an opportunity to come back.
For Shaw, it showed his team is mentally strong as much as it is physically.
“Character,” Shaw called it after the win. “Even when we don’t play well, we still play hard. Our guys played with such heart. We made plays when we needed to make plays. The pass to (Drew) Terrell was unbelievable, a great play by him. Our defense stepped it up; we made plays when we had to, and got the stop when we needed the stop.”
Stanford’s ability to continue to perform well in the Pac 12 despite sending a good amount of talent to the NFL in recent years is a true testament to the quality program Stanford has worked to establish. It was not long ago bulky running back Toby Gerhart was a rising star that helped put Stanford on the map in the sport. Quarterback Andrew Luck and head coach Jim Harbaugh continued to prove a winning program could be possible at Stanford.
After Harbaugh left Stanford for a chance to coach in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Stanford was thought to be riding on the coattails of Luck for one more year while David Shaw took over. Now, with Luck gone, we know that Shaw is a coach to be reckoned with in college football, having continued to succeed at Stanford at levels once thought to be very more difficult. Shaw has now done something Harbaugh never did with Gerhart and Luck.
The player who had the unenviable task this season of being the one who followed Luck, Kevin Hogan, was named Pac 12 Championship Game MVP after completing 16 of 22 passes for 155 yards and one touchdown and rushing for another 59 yards and another touchdown. Hogan, like many of his Cardinal teammates, is excited to lead his team to the Rose Bowl.
“I’m excited to go there,” Hogan said. “Whatever team we play whether it’s Nebraska or Wisconsin, they’re going to give us everything they have. So it’ll be fun.” Nebraska and Wisconsin will play in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis Saturday night to determine the Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl.
Senior running back Stepfan Taylor became Stanford’s all-time career rusher by bringing his four-year total to 4,175 yards with a 10-yard run late in the first half.
Though UCLA managed to pile up some yards against the Cardinal, Stanford’s defense was led by Jordan Richards and Chase Thomas, each recorded double-digit tackles, and Shayne Skov, who added another nine tackles.
UCLA’s Franklin moved in to first place on the school’s all-time all-purpose yardage list, passing Maurice Jones-Drew. Franklin also set a new school record for most rushing yards in a single season for UCLA, passing Karim Abdul-Jabbar’s mark of 1,571 yards in 1995.
“I have a great offensive line that open some big holes and great receivers being unselfish blocking downfield,” Franklin said after the game. “But all credit to them. It’s all them.”
Stanford will play in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2013 against the Big Ten champion, which will be determined Saturday night in Indianapolis. Nebraska takes on Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship. Wisconsin is looking to play in their third consecutive Rose Bowl. The Badgers are whom Stanford faced the last time the Cardinal played in the Rose Bowl in 2000, with Wisconsin taking a 17-9 decision.
Nebraska will look to make their first Rose Bowl trip since playing in the BCS Championship game in Pasadena in 2002 (2001 season). The Cornhuskers fell to Miami, 37-14. Nebraska has played in two Rose Bowl games, with the only other trip coming in 1941. Ironically, Nebraska played Stanford, and lost to the Cardinal by a score of 21-13.
Stanford and Nebraska’s only game between the two took place in the 1941 Rose Bowl.
UCLA’s bowl destination remains to be seen. The official bowl line-up will be unveiled Sunday, with the Holiday Bowl a potential destination for the Bruins.
Kevin is a national college football writer for rootshed.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on Twitter. Email Kevin at email@example.com.