PALO ALTO — There was a new twist on UCLA's familiar fourth-quarter pickle Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.
The Bruins found themselves in a big bind not so much because of their defense but because their usually productive offense had sputtered for the first 3 1/2 quarters, mustering a measly three points.
Offensive coordinator Tom Cable, who had derided UCLA's defense for playing soft two weeks ago against Washington State, said he wouldn't have blamed Larry Kerr, his defensive counterpart, for returning the favor with the suddenly flaccid offense.
"If he had wanted to come over and kick someone in the tail," Cable said, "I would have been right there with him."
Nonetheless, the challenge facing UCLA's defense remained the same as it had earlier in the season against Washington, California and Washington State: Stifle the opposing offense and hope quarterback Drew Olson & Co. could engineer another frenzied comeback.
Safety Jarrad Page said he looked at the clock after Stanford had scored with 8 minutes 26 seconds remaining to take a 24-3 lead and, knowing his teammates' tendency to play great late, figured the game wasn't over.
"We had been doing a pretty good job on defense and we knew we just needed to keep it up," Page said before pausing to reflect. "To be down 24-3 and for everyone to stick with it.... I have to put it at the top" of the list of fourth-quarter comebacks.
The Bruin defense has never been as stout as it was in the fourth quarter and extra period of No. 8 UCLA's 30-27 overtime victory, when it held Stanford to 11 yards and one first down on its final four possessions.
"We never give up," said defensive end Justin Hickman, who sacked Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards on each of the Cardinal's last two possessions. "We've done this all year. If we have to, we'll take it every time."
After UCLA scored its first touchdown to trim its deficit to 24-10, Stanford took over with 7:04 remaining -- and proceeded to gain no yards in three running plays.
The Bruins took the punt and scored another touchdown in three passing plays, making it 24-17 and putting the onus back on the defense.
"You just think about doing whatever you can to get back on top," linebacker Justin London said of his mind-set late in the game. "There's nothing you can do but play your heart out."
Stanford had the ball and had to pick up only a couple of first downs to run out the remaining 4:43. But the Cardinal gained one first down before being forced to punt.
UCLA moved downfield for the tying score with 46 seconds left and the defense held Stanford again, with Hickman sacking Edwards for a nine-yard loss before the end of regulation.
In overtime, Hickman sacked Edwards for a seven-yard loss on a naked bootleg call on third down, forcing the Cardinal to kick a 42-yard field goal.
"They had run a naked boot play earlier, so I knew the situation and I made a call to send the end upfield," Kerr said. "His whole job was to watch the quarterback coming out on a bootleg, and Justin executed it perfectly. Sometimes it's really nice when you make the right call.
"We are doing what we have to do to win. Are we the prettiest? No. But I guarantee we are the toughest because we don't stop playing."