Stanford looks to end season on high note vs. UCLA

Field Level Media

December 15, 2020 at 11:30 pm.

Two teams hoping to finish with a winning record go head-to-head when Stanford visits UCLA on Saturday night in Pasadena, Calif.

The game pits a hot Stanford club (3-2) that’s won three in a row against a UCLA squad (3-3) that would like to believe one more win would be a springboard to a bowl bid.

Both teams have helped put entertainment back into Pac-12 football this season, with Stanford’s last four games having been decided by a total of 12 points, while UCLA’s three losses have been by a cumulative 14 points.

There’s been nothing competitive about recent Stanford-UCLA matchups. The Cardinal had won 11 in a row — including a meeting in the 2012 Pac-12 championship game — before UCLA went north and clobbered the Cardinal 34-16 last season.

Joshua Kelley ran all over Stanford that day with 176 yards, and even without the since-graduated star, the Bruins had a nice thing going on the ground last week in a 43-38 loss to Southern Cal, riding Demetric Felton (90 yards) and Dorian Thompson-Robinson (50) to a 185-yard day.

Ethan Fernea hauled in a TD pass from Thompson-Robinson in the loss, a setback that didn’t necessarily eliminate the Bruins from bowl consideration. The Bruins haven’t been to a bowl since 2017, and they haven’t finished with a winning record since 2015.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re not bowl-eligible until we have a winning season,” Fernea noted. “So we have to win that Stanford game before we start thinking about other stuff.”

Stanford announced this week it would not accept a bowl bid if offered. So the Cardinal, who have beaten California, Washington and Oregon State their last three times out behind the strong play of quarterback Davis Mills, have been fully focused on UCLA this week as they’ve prepared for the game in nearby Santa Barbara.

“For this team to come back after being on the road the last few weeks and be on a three-game win streak, facing all kinds of odds,” Stanford coach David Shaw gushed this week. “We talk so much about character and recruiting the right guys. We push each other; we support each other.”

The Cardinal had a run of 10 straight years in a bowl game snapped last season, when they went 4-8. Stanford currently has the same record as Oregon (3-2), but the Ducks were chosen to represent the Pac-12 North in the conference championship game this week by virtue of a season-opening win over the Cardinal.

Mills did not play in that game. He has completed 71 percent of his passes (65-for-91) in the three-game winning streak.

UCLA’s Thompson-Robinson has seen his completion percentage improve in each of his four starts, capped by a near-perfect, 30-for-36, 364-yard, four-TD effort last week against Southern Cal.