UCLA Bruins not pointing fingers after loss to Stanford

Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal carries the ball while looking to avoid the tackle of Adarius Pickett #6 of the UCLA Bruins during the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal carries the ball while looking to avoid the tackle of Adarius Pickett #6 of the UCLA Bruins during the first quarter of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

STANFORD >> The four white walls could not shield Jim Mora. The jubilant cheers of Stanford players and fans celebrating their 10th straight victory over UCLA seeped into the head coach’s postgame news conference room as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning at Stanford Stadium.

“It’s excruciating,” Mora said as the sounds almost mocked the sixth-year head coach who has yet to beat Stanford in seven tries after Saturday’s 58-34 loss.

He dropped his head when recalling a pivotal dropped touchdown pass followed by a blocked field goal in the second quarter, then tried to straighten up and confidently say that the Bruins (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) will rebound. With four turnovers on offense and 553 yards allowed on defense, there was plenty of blame to go around. Players and coaches owned it all, from quarterback Josh Rosen to defensive coordinator Tom Bradley.

“What I try to do is look in the mirror, not out the window,” Bradley said. “I look at myself first because if you point a finger, that thumb’s coming right back at you.”

Bradley’s defense is in shambles after the Bruins gave up 405 rushing yards, including 263 to running back Bryce Love. Love victimized UCLA with four runs of 27 yards or longer, while backup quarterback K.J. Costello was 13-of-19 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns after starter Keller Chryst left the game in the first quarter due to injury.

The Bruins allowed only six points and 73 yards on the first five drives. They rode the energy of their senior leaders Jaleel Wadood and Kenny Young, who both returned after a one-game absence. Wadood and Young led the Bruins with 11 tackles each, but the defense slowly unraveled. Missed tackles led to big plays. Fifteen-yard penalties extended drives and the Bruins lost a third player in as many games to targeting when Adarius Pickett was ejected in the first quarter.

“We were playing well on defense and we were stopping the run and we were stopping the pass and then it just, it went south on us,” Mora said. “We couldn’t get stops and the guys started to try too hard and we over-pursued and missed tackles.”

UCLA didn’t dare celebrate its two 100-yard receivers and its first 100-yard rusher since 2015 after giving up four turnovers that resulted in 20 Stanford points. Three of the turnovers occurred in UCLA territory, giving the Cardinal a short field. The Cardinal’s average starting position was 10 yards better than UCLA’s.

“Everyone’s going to start pointing fingers and stuff on the outside, but we screwed our defense over multiple times,” said Rosen, who threw two interceptions, one on a tipped pass and another that came in the fourth quarter on a miscommunication with his intended receiver.

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UCLA is minus-5 in turnover margin, the second worst in the Pac-12 ahead of Oregon State’s minus-6.

“I don’t think there’s a doubt that we can be really good on offense,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. “We can be, but you can’t be if you give the other team the ball.”

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About the Author

Thuc Nhi Nguyen

Thuc Nhi covers UCLA football for the Los Angeles News Group. She is a member of the Sports Journalism Institute's Class of 2014. Follow @thucnhi21 on twitter. Reach the author at thnguyen@scng.com or follow Thuc Nhi on Twitter: @thucnhi21.