Stanford Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor runs with the ball against… (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )
For weeks, UCLA has been chasing around tofu-like offenses — the spreads, the no-huddle, etc.
Now comes a little meat-and-potatoes. Stanford, UCLA's opponent at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, is strictly no-frills on offense, with Stepfan Taylor running behind a physical line.
Taylor is the first Cardinal running back to have three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He has 1,222 yards this season.
"Like any good back you have to play square, you have to be able to disengage" from a block, UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "You can't give him horizontal or vertical lanes. You have to be able play with leverage. Then you've got to tackle. He bounces off guys a lot."
The Cardinal line makes the task hard, though Mora said, "Our game is physical, so we'll be OK."
The Bruins' defensive front is eager for this type of game.
"Around here we think we've got a pretty talented group of guys," UCLA defensive end Cassius Marsh said. "We'll see who can impose some physicality. I love these games."
Quarterback Andrew Luck dinged the Bruins the last three seasons, but Taylor got his licks in as well. He had 112 yards rushing in a 45-19 victory last season and 81 yards rushing in a 35-0 victory in 2010.
"He runs through tackles," Marsh said. "He's really good at finishing plays. We've got to wrap him up and gang-tackle."
The key will be getting the better of Stanford's line.
"We have to create a new line of scrimmage," linebacker Damien Holmes said. "We have to get penetration and not get pushed off the line. We have to make sure the block is on our terms."
UCLA ranks 44th out of 120 teams nationally against the run, giving up 147.1 yards per game. Only three running backs have cracked 100 yards against the Bruins this season: USC's Curtis McNeal had 161 last weekend, California's C.J. Anderson had 151 yards and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah had 119.
Said linebacker Jordan Zumwalt: "If you're a linebacker or defensive lineman, this is the kind of game you want to play."
USC is behind him
Another verbal dust-up involving Mora and USC hit the airwaves Tuesday, though the coach claimed it was the product of selective editing.
Mora, a guest on "The Dan Patrick Show," was asked about USC and was quoted as saying, "I don't give a rat's [tail] about USC."
Mora said that was only half the comment.
"What I said, without editing, is, 'I don't give a rat's [tail] about USC, we're thinking about Stanford,'" Mora said. "That was not a dig at USC, that was an indication of our focus on Stanford. If it is taken any other way, it's taken wrong."
It was a six-minute interview, with most of the first five minutes spent talking about UCLA playing USC and USC as a team.
When Patrick asked which USC player would have the most success in the NFL, Mora said, "The USC player? … Dan, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I couldn't give a rat's [tail] about USC right now."
Patrick responded, "Well, I'm just curious about Marqise Lee … but I appreciate that, Coach."
Mora responded, "He's a great player…. I'm thinking about Stanford. USC is a million miles behind us. So, I don't care about USC, I don't think about USC. I'm thinking about Stanford."