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Pac-12 title game looks more attractive this year

UCLA will face Stanford in a matchup of two ranked teams. Last season the Bruins represented the South Division with a 6-6 record.

November 24, 2012|By Chris Foster
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A year later, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has a conference championship game worth talking about.

UCLA will face Stanford in Palo Alto on Friday.

"There is a lot of excitement around this game, the fact that we got a championship game with two highly ranked teams," Scott said.

Well, ranked teams anyway. UCLA was ranked 15th in the Associated Press poll coming into Saturday's game. Stanford was 11th.

It is a significant improvement over last season, when the Bruins went to the conference title game with a 6-6 record.

USC won the South Division in 2011, wrapping it up with a 50-0 victory over UCLA. The Trojans were on NCAA probation and ineligible for postseason play.

The Bruins went to Eugene to play Oregon, which was Rick Neuheisel's last game as UCLA's coach.

"Of course, I acknowledge the disappointment over the fact that we have a 6-6 team that fired its coach this week," Scott said before last season's game.

This year, Scott said the game looks more attractive.

"For UCLA to earn their way back is great, especially for them," Scott said.

Long distance

UCLA kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn ended concerns about his range Saturday.

Fairbairn, a freshman, buried a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter against Stanford. It was his longest field goal of the season.

UCLA Coach Jim Mora has been reluctant to send Fairbairn in for longer kicks, saying he wanted Fairbairn to have a chance to succeed. He did Saturday.

Fairbairn's previous longest kick was 35 yards. He had missed all three attempts from 40 or more yards.

Fauria again

UCLA receiver Joseph Fauria snagged a 13-yard touchdown pass from Brett Hundley on a third-and-goal play in the first quarter. It was Fauria's fifth touchdown reception in the last five games.

Fauria has 11 touchdown receptions this season, the second most in UCLA history. Sean LaChapelle had 11 in 1991. J.J. Stokes had 17 in 1993.

It was also Fauria's 19th touchdown catch of his career, tying him for fifth on the UCLA career list. Craig Bragg (2001-2004) and Danny Farmer (1996-99) both had 19. Stokes had 29 in his career.

Fauria had four receptions for 66 yards.

Franklin on charts

UCLA's Johnathan Franklin became the fifth-leading rusher in Pac-12 history. Franklin had 65 yards rushing, giving him 4,175 for his career, moving him ahead of Stanford's Darrin Nelson.

Nelson had 4,169 yards from 1977-81.

Fourth place is out of reach for Franklin. USC's Marcus Allen had 4,810 yards from 1978-81.

Thigpen hole

The Bruins missed running back Damien Thigpen, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last week. Thigpen filled a variety of roles for the Bruins.

He provided Franklin with rest. Other than Franklin, UCLA had eight yards rushing.

Thigpen also returned kickoffs. Kenneth Walker, filling in on returns, fumbled a third-quarter kickoff. Stanford's Usua Amanam returned the fumble 11 yards for a touchdown.

Punter blocked

UCLA blocked a punt for the third consecutive game … or, rather, the Bruins smothered a punt.

A bad snap left Stanford punter David Zychlinski exposed. He still attempted the kick but was slammed to the ground by UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.

Zychlinski did not return to the game. Ben Rhyne handled the punting for the Cardinal.

It was Barr who knocked USC quarterback Matt Barkley out of the game a week ago.

Quick hits

Stanford was without nose tackle Terrence Stevens Stephens. He did not make the trip because of "personal reasons," a Stanford official said. … UCLA tackle Simon Goines left the game in the first quarter. He has been slowed by a injured right knee for more than a month. Jeff Baca moved from guard to tackle and Alberto Cid slipped into his guard spot … Scott said the Pac-12 and DirecTV were not currently in negotiations.

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