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Johnathan Franklin's push ends on sad note

His quest for a berth in the Rose Bowl falls short despite a 194-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 27-24 loss to Stanford.

November 30, 2012|By Gary Klein

PALO ALTO -- Johnathan Franklin appeared calm and composed as he took questions outside UCLA's locker room Friday night.

However, the fifth-year senior running back acknowledged that tears had been flowing after the No. 17 Bruins lost to No. 8 Stanford, 27-24, in the Pac-12 Conference championship game at Stanford Stadium.

The defeat meant the humble Franklin and fellow seniors would not finish their careers with an appearance in the Rose Bowl.

"It's been a long time since I cried after a game," he said. "It hurts. But there's a lesson in everything. All I can do is look forward and grow and give praises to God."

Last Saturday in Pasadena, Stanford held Franklin to 65 yards in an 18-point victory over the Bruins.

On Friday, the former Dorsey High star rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in 19 carries, and broke the UCLA single-season rushing record of 1,571 yards set by Karim Abdul-Jabbar in 1995. Franklin has rushed for 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"If you give that guy an inch, he's going to take a mile," Stanford Coach David Shaw said. "And he took a couple miles on us."

Franklin scored on a 51-yard run in the first quarter and a 20-yard run in the third. He also set up a touchdown run by quarterback Brett Hundley as the Bruins overcame a 17-14 halftime deficit to take a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter.

UCLA Coach Jim Mora said no major adjustments were required in the days leading up to the game to spring Franklin.

"I know it sounds overly simplistic, but honestly, we blocked better," Mora said. "People are always looking for 'What did they do different?' 'Did they hold him back?'

"No, we simply blocked better and Johnathan found those holes. It's really as simple as that."

Franklin wasted no time asserting himself, touching the ball six times during an eight-play, 85-yard scoring drive that he finished with his 51-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.

"The offensive line opened up a big hole," he said. "I just ran through it."

On the Bruins' next series, his 19-yard run set up Hundley's touchdown that put the Bruins ahead, 14-7.

Late in the third quarter, with the score tied, 17-17, Franklin appeared to give the Bruins some breathing room with a 20-yard touchdown run.

But Franklin bemoaned a play he did not make late in the fourth quarter when the Bruins trailed, 27-24, and were driving toward a possible tying field goal or game-winning touchdown.

On third down at the Cardinal 44, Hundley passed the ball to a wide-open Franklin in the right flat. However, Franklin momentarily took his eyes off the ball and dropped it.

"Oh man," he said. "That hurt. I've been thinking about that ever since the clock hit zero."

Hundley kept the drive going with a fourth-down completion, but the drive stalled at the Cardinal 34, bringing on Ka'imi Fairbairn for a 52-yard field-goal attempt that fell short.

Now, instead of finishing his career in the Rose Bowl game, Franklin will play in the Alamo Bowl or the Holiday Bowl.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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