UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut lies on the ground after getting sacked… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)
Walking away from a 45-19 loss to seventh-ranked Stanford, UCLA players were confident of one thing.
"I know we just got beat, but I didn't feel they had more talent," linebacker Patrick Larimore said.
Safety Dietrich Riley concurred, saying, "We have an equal amount of talent."
Yet the Cardinal has beaten the Bruins by a combined score of 80-19 the last two seasons. The difference, players said Saturday night, was that Stanford executed better.
What are the Bruins lacking in that area, and how they can catch up to Stanford? Running back Johnathan Franklin said it falls on the players.
"We have to practice with a hunger and carry that into game day," Franklin said. "I feel the team's leadership has to step up."
Coach Rick Neuheisel said, "We certainly take responsibility as coaches. You never point fingers." But, he repeated, "we certainly take responsibility."
Neuheisel said Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck lived up to his billing as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and the Cardinal has a "great fleet of tight ends." He also said Stanford's experience was a factor.
Stanford started 15 players who were juniors and seniors, a group that had 177 starts before this season.
Neuheisel also said size was a difference.
"They were clearly bigger across the offensive line," Neuheisel said. However, UCLA's starting offensive line averages 315 pounds, and Stanford's averages 303.
"We have to continue to build on our strengths and recruit bigger," Neuheisel added.
Recruiting at UCLA has always been a little harder, athletic department officials have often said, because of the university's enrollment standards. Stanford, with even higher standards, has become a national power in a short time.
Neuheisel said the UCLA program is "not far away."
UCLA used to be a lot closer to Stanford.
The Cardinal was 1-11 in 2006, the season before Jim Harbaugh arrived in Palo Alto. He jumped to the San Francisco 49ers last off-season, leaving behind a team that finished 12-1 and won the 2011 Orange Bowl.
Neuheisel took over a program that finished 6-7 and went to the Las Vegas Bowl in 2007. The Bruins have a 17-27 record since.
Neuheisel noted the Bruins have lost some key players in that span, including tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who went on a two-year Mormon mission after the 2009 season, and tackle Nick Abel, who had to quit football because of a neck injury two years ago.
Neuheisel did say that "there are a number of things you could talk about, but they are all worthless. The point of the matter is we've got to get better."
Graham goes in
Cornerback Jamie Graham finally made his UCLA debut Saturday.
Graham, a transfer from Vanderbilt, played on special teams and in the secondary for a limited amount. He has been out since having knee surgery in August.
"I was on the sidelines just waiting on the opportunity," Graham said. "Once I got in, I think I did my job. The leg felt good, the mind felt good, everything was good."
Graham's return was needed. The Bruins are thin at cornerback, a situation that became worse when starter Sheldon Price injured his knee against Oregon State. It is not known when Price will return.