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Stanford's Andrew Luck crushes UCLA and looks good doing it

Stanford beats UCLA, 45-19 for its 12th win in a row. Luck, subject of a low-key Heisman Trophy campaign, plays a relentlessly efficient game sure to impress Heisman voters and NFL scouts.

October 01, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Stanford receiver Chris Owusu is brought down by UCLA defensive back Andrew Abbott during the second half Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.
Stanford receiver Chris Owusu is brought down by UCLA defensive back Andrew… (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )

Reporting from Palo Alto -- Rumor has it there is a Heisman Trophy candidate is wandering around Stanford.

Finding evidence of that is CSI-hard … off the field. But quarterback Andrew Luck's Heisman Trophy campaign is being done between the lines.

UCLA was the supporting cast for that show Saturday.

Luck was methodical and relentless in a 45-19 victory at Stanford Stadium. It was another step for the sixth-ranked Cardinal, which has national title aspirations.

The upside for UCLA was the loss was expected, and with the Bruins being in a lower Pacific 12 Conference tax bracket, potentially benign.

The Bruins (2-3 overall, 1-1 in conference play) are on a scavenger hunt for any bowl game, and six victories will make them bowl eligible. A victory over Washington State next Saturday gets them halfway there.

So Saturday's game was more a referendum on Luck's status as Heisman Trophy front-runner. He produced a 12th consecutive win for Stanford (4-0, 2-0), the longest active streak in the nation.

Luck completed 23 of 27 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns, showing the type of skill and poise that makes NFL scouts salivate and Heisman observers pontificate.

Opponents are just impressed.

"I have never seen someone with that much football intelligence," UCLA safety Tony Dye said. "He knows where you're going to be in the defense before the snap. So he already knows where he is going."

That's type of testimonial that shows up on "Andrew Central" on Stanford's football website, which is where the low-key Heisman Trophy campaign resides.

While other football schools hawk their Heisman candidates, Stanford officials remain more or less mum, and the "Andrew Luck Central" link sits just above the "depth chart" link.

Jim Plunkett is the only Stanford player to have won the Heisman Trophy. The university's campaign in 1970 consisted of brochures that cost a total of $200.

This time, even less appears to have been spent.

But every time the Bruins tried to make a game of it Saturday, Luck reminded Heisman voters what he was capable of doing. He threw touchdown passes of 18 and 51 yards to tight end Coby Fleener and five yards to Chris Owusu.

"I've seen him throw a 15-yard out from the opposite hash mark," UCLA cornerback Aaron Hester said. "That's about the hardest throw to make, and the ball is always right on target."

Stanford backed Luck with a bruising running game, gaining 202 yards. Running back Stepfan Taylor had 112 yards, with touchdown runs of one and two yards.

The Cardinal didn't need any help, but it got some. UCLA had two fumbles, by quarterback Richard Brehaut and punt returner Taylor Embree. Both led to touchdowns.

UCLA was nearly perfect on the opening drive, going 79 yards in 13 plays. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they needed to go 80.

On fourth and goal from the two-yard line, Neuheisel decided against the field goal and Brehaut was met by a team photo of the Stanford defense, coming up a yard short.

It was all downhill for the Bruins from that point.

Stanford went 99 yards, twice overcoming penalties with the ball inside the UCLA 10-yard line — for delay of game and offensive pass interference. Luck still got the Cardinal into the end zone, throwing an 18-yard scoring pass to Fleener.

Luck not only completed six of seven passes for 68 yards on the drive, but he also made a one-handed, 13 yard reception on a reverse pass from receiver Drew Terrell.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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