|Stanford cornerback Usua Amanam returns a fumble for a touchdown against UCLA on Saturday. (US Presswire)|
Stanford entered the Saturday afternoon matchup against UCLA with its destiny in its own hands.
The Bruins, meanwhile, had nothing in their hands. Not with fingers crossed that they'd avoid another embarassing trip up to Eugene, where they lost in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game to Oregon last year 49-31.
The Cardinal saved UCLA from a second straight conference title matchup with the Oregon Ducks by winning the Pac-12 North title and setting up a rematch with the Bruins next Friday with a 35-17 win at the Rose Bowl.
Only this time, Stanford (10-2, 8-1) will welcome UCLA (9-3, 6-3) to its own home turf, not that location mattered on Saturday.
Stanford took control of the rather anti-climatic matchup by controlling the tempo midway through the first half, riding out an early offensive onslaught by UCLA to shift momentum back in the Cardinal direction.
After allowing 147 first-quarter yards -- including a 71-yard pass connection from redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley to junior wide receiver Shaq Evans -- Stanford held the Bruins to just 18 in the second quarter.
"We were gonna bring it," Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov said about the game plan against the Bruins. "We’re gonna come out swinging, and we're gonna keep going until we impose our will. Hat goes off to them, but we play physical, we play hard, and we wanted to send a message because we’re going to do the exact same thing next week."
Stepfan Taylor had 147 yards on 21 carries as he ran closer to the Cardinal career rushing record. He added touchdowns of 49 yards and 1 yard.
Immediately after Taylor scored from a yard out to give Stanford a 28-10 lead, Cardinal cornerback Usua Amanam recovered a Kenneth Walker fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned it 10 yards for the game-sealing score.
That was just one of several UCLA mistakes as the Bruins dropped passes, committed 12 turnovers for 135 yards and allowed Stanford a handful of clutch third-down conversions.
"You hate to have that happen in a big game like this," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "I can't tell you exactly why right now. We have to go back and think about how we approached this thing. Was there something was off this week?"
The Bruins have six days to find out.
(For more on the game, check out CBSSports.com's Eye on College Football blog)