STANFORD, Calif. -- Given a dominant offensive line and a spectacular Christian McCaffrey, David Shaw didn't need to be creative. He was anyway, and Stanford stomped UCLA 56-35 behind an overwhelming display of running might.
McCaffrey rushed for a school-record 243 yards and four touchdowns. He also racked up 369 all-purpose yards, just missing Glyn Milburn's Stanford mark in that category by 10 yards. The previous single-game rushing record belonged to Toby Gerhart, who ran for 223 yards against Oregon in 2009.
Stanford never relinquished that early lead, and it tacked on an exclamation point with a spectacular trick play in the third quarter: On a reverse out of the Wildcat formation, Kevin Hogan threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Francis Owusu, who caught the ball -- despite heavy pass interference -- reaching behind the back of UCLA's Jaleel Wadood.
What this win means for Stanford: It would now be more than fair to consider the Cardinal the Pac-12 North favorite. Offensive consistency was this program's big issue, especially after the ugly 16-6 season-opening loss to Northwestern. Stanford has since ripped off four consecutive dominant offensive performances in league play.
The offensive line looks to have turned back the clock to 2011, when they regularly delivered similar road-grading performances. The Cardinal's defense is also improving, and the schedule sets up favorably for this 5-1 team: Games against the Washington schools and Colorado are next.
What this loss means for UCLA: The Bruins are likely eliminated from College Football Playoff contention, and this was their second consecutive damaging loss in Pac-12 play. It's clear that UCLA is suffering from the losses of Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack in their defensive front seven, but the good news is that Stanford's rushing attack will almost certainly be the toughest one they face all season.
The bad news: A high-powered California offense visits the Rose Bowl next week. Righting the ship against Jared Goff & Co. won't be easy. The Bruins should start that effort by cleaning up their play: 10 penalties for 93 yards put an otherwise efficient offense in a big hole early.
Player of the game: McCaffrey. He's obviously a Heisman Trophy candidate, and -- given the statistical evidence -- one can make the argument that he should be the early leader for the award. His Thursday line looked like this: 25 carries, 243 yards, 9.7 yards per carry, four touchdowns, 369 all-purpose yards. There's nary a moment when McCaffrey is not on the field -- he even had a 96-yard kickoff return in this one -- and he now leads the nation in all-purpose yardage. McCaffrey's 369 all-purpose yards were the most of any FBS player in a single game this season.
Stat of the game: Stanford scored 56 points on only 50 plays. Perhaps more remarkably, it only took the Cardinal three quarters and 14 passes to rack up this gaudy total. McCaffrey's play was obviously a major component of this success, but much credit should go to an offensive line that's performing at a dominant level. The Cardinal have rushed for 300 yards in three consecutive games now -- something that they had never even done twice in a row previously in the Jim Harbaugh-Shaw era.