PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Nothing was going to surprise Stanford coach David Shaw at the end of 19 straight days on the road, including his team squandering a large halftime lead to UCLA, falling behind by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and then rallying to win it in double overtime.
The Cardinal capped their season with a 48-47 victory over the Bruins on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, ending a three-week odyssey that saw them win three straight road games and practice in three states due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“This team, this is just our path. This year was difficult, was going to be hard. We’re going to have to bite and scratch and claw our way to victory,” Shaw said. “This team should go down in Stanford history as one of, if not the most, resilient teams ever given what they faced.”
Davis Mills threw for 428 yards and three touchdowns, including a 14-yard score to Simi Fehoko in the second overtime. Fehoko set a school record with 16 receptions and his 230 receiving yards are the third most in program history.
After Fehoko’s TD and Jet Toner’s extra point, the Bruins got the ball one more time. Chase Griffin, who came on for the injured Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the second quarter, threw a 21-yard touchdown to Kyle Phillips on fourth-and-18. UCLA (3-4) went for the 2-point conversion, but Brittain Brown – who ran for a career-high 219 yards – was stopped short of the end zone.
Bruins coach Chip Kelly said he opted to go for the win because of attrition.
“We were running out of some guys. I didn’t know how much longer we could go and I took a shot,” Kelly said. “It looked like Brittain was on top of the pile but came up short.”
Mills, who completed 32 of 47 passes for his second career 400-yard game, bounced back from three second-half interceptions, including a 39-yard pick-6 to Jay Shaw that gave UCLA a 34-20 lead with 5:39 remaining. But the Cardinal scored on their final two drives – both on Mills’ TD passes to Fehoko – to force overtime.
Fehoko’s 21-yarder with 18 seconds remaining in regulation came after Dalyn Wade-Perry recovered Griffin’s fumble at the Stanford 28 with 1:38 remaining.
“It was the first pick-6 I’ve ever thrown in my life, so I thought about that for a second,” said Mills, who had a string of 222 attempts without a pick snapped during the third quarter. “But once I was back on the sideline my eyes went back snap forward and did what we had to do to get through the rest of the game.”
Griffin completed 9 of 11 passes for 127 yards and four touchdowns after Thompson-Robinson suffered a right knee injury late in the first half. Stanford led 20-3 at halftime on a pair of Austin Jones 1-yard runs and Isaiah Sanders’ 2-yard keeper.
Griffin, a redshirt freshman, directed the Bruins to touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half – Keegan Jones’ 9-yard run, Craig Dulcich’s 17-yard reception and Chase Cota’s 23-yard grab on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Bruins up 24-20.
Saturday’s game was the season finale for both teams after they announced earlier they would decline any bowl invitations.
Stanford finished the year with wins in four straight road games. Following a 24-23 win at California on Nov. 27, Shaw’s squad had to leave campus on Dec. 1 after Santa Clara County prohibited contact sports due to COVID-19. Stanford (4-2) prepared for this week’s game in Santa Barbara after spending two weeks in Washington and Oregon.
“Number one on the docket is everybody sleeping in their own beds. I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated just that idea of getting back to my room,” Shaw said. “We made a decision to do this and we poured our souls into it, but it’s time for everybody to get a break. We all need a break.”
Sanders was in for only his second snap of the season when he ran for a 2-yard TD to put the Cardinal up 13-3 early in the second quarter. His previous action came in the Nov. 27 game against California. He also came on late and had a 3-yard score during the first overtime.
Sanders is only the second graduate transfer in program history. He graduated from the Air Force Academy, where he played three seasons and accounted for 13 touchdowns (nine rushing, four passing).
QUITE THE DUO
Brown’s big day on the ground marks the first time that UCLA has had two running backs have 200-yard games in the same season. Felton rushed for 206 yards during a Nov. 28 win over Arizona.
Gaston Green (1986), Karim Abdul-Jabbar (1995) and Johnathan Franklin (2012) had posted multiple 200-yard games in the same season.
Saturday’s game marked the first time a Pac-12 game had been officiated by an all-Black crew.
Michael Mothershed was the referee. The crew also included Michael Stephens (umpire), Darryl Johnson (head line judge), Harold Mitchell, Jr. (line judge), Gary Reed (side judge), Michael Hall (field judge), Antony Little (back judge), Michael Marsh (center judge), Judson Howard (replay official) and Cleo Robinson (replay assistant) and Javarro ”Jay” Edwards (alternate official)
Stanford: The Cardinal will have plenty of experience returning at the skill positions next year, including Jones, who had 92 yards on 13 carries. The sophomore gained 356 yards in his last three games.
UCLA: Chip Kelly’s program is showing signs of progress. There were doubts about Kelly’s future after only seven wins his first two years, but this season’s results should at least get him to the end of his five-year contract.