PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The game was over almost before it began.
UCLA, a three-touchdown underdog against No. 6 Stanford, had a chance to make a major statement early in the game, but came away with no points after getting a first and goal at the Stanford four yard line on the game's opening drive.
Stanford turned that goal-line stand into a 99-yard touchdown drive and went on to wax the Bruins, 45-19, Saturday night at a sold out Stanford Stadium.
"We leave here feeling like we had a chance," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We had a real chance."
The thing is, UCLA doesn't really have a chance if it can't punch it across in four chances from inside the five yard line. That kind of stand energized the Stanford defense and sucked the fight out of UCLA.
"We've got to find a way to get that ball in there because if we had done that it would have been a whole different ball game," said quarterback Richard Brehaut, who was stuffed at the goal line on fourth and one to end that drive."
The Bruins seemed to be on the wrong end of those momentum-swinging plays all night.
After Stanford scored to make it 7-0, UCLA drove to midfield before Brehaut fumbled and Stanford took possession at the UCLA 28. Seven plays later, it was 14-0.
The score was 24-13 with 4:25 left in the third quarter and UCLA's defense forced a Stanford punt, but Taylor Embree fumbled it, Stanford recovered at the UCLA 34 and scored four plays later for a 31-13 lead.
"We were going to get the ball back in good field position with a chance to go make it a whale of a ball game and it’s just a poor decision," Neuheiusel said.
These things seem to happen to UCLA. The big plays always seem to happen at big moments for the other team. It's a big reason why the Bruins can't seem to get over the hump of mediocrity and get to the level of the elite teams.
Stanford, for instance, drove 99 yards after getting backed up against it's end zone. The Cardinal came out of the locker room and scored on a 51-yard pass two plays into the second half. And Stanford forced UCLA into mistakes, getting turnovers and turning them into touchdowns.
Those things don't seem to happen for UCLA.
"We're close," Embree said. "If we don't have those turnovers, if we score on that fourth and goal, we're looking at being right in this game. Maybe overtime or a chance at a last-second drive."