Defense helps No. 13 Stanford smother No. 9 UCLA 

click to enlarge Stanford wide receiver Kodi Whitfield made a leaping, one-handed grab for a touchdown that put Stanford ahead 10-3 in the third quarter. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
  • Stanford wide receiver Kodi Whitfield made a leaping, one-handed grab for a touchdown that put Stanford ahead 10-3 in the third quarter.

STANFORD -- A smothering performance by the Stanford defense propelled the team past No. 9 UCLA for the sixth straight time.

The Cardinal defense held the high-octane Bruins to 266 total yards of offense on Saturday while forcing two turnovers in a 24-10 win at Stanford Stadium.

"It was guys staying disciplined," coach David Shaw said. "When we gave up a big play, we bounced back every single time. That's a sign of team that has a lot of leadership and high character."

With the win, the No. 13 Cardinal (6-1) extended the third-longest home winning streak in the country to 13 games while improving to 5-0 in contests following losses under Shaw.

Stanford hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2009.

The defense limited multi-threat quarterback Brett Hundley to 192 yards passing and 27 yards on the ground. Stanford's Jordan Richards led the charge, picking off two passes, including a fourth-quarter interception that set up the Cardinal's third touchdown, giving the team a 14-point lead with less than two minutes to play.

With Richards' interceptions, the Cardinal have now recorded a takeaway in 32 straight games.

"We wanted to keep [Hundley] in the box," linebacker Trent Murphy said. "Unfortunately, he got out on us a couple of times, but that's going to happen. He's a phenomenal player, he's a great kid -- he holds the key to their offense. ... But the key is us all hunting together, keeping him in the box, putting pressure on every play."

The Bruins entered the game ranked fifth in the nation in third-down conversions (56 percent), but the Cardinal limited them to a 5-of-15 performance (33 percent), forcing five punts on five possessions in the first half.

UCLA kicked a field goal on its first possession of the second half, tying the game at 3-3 while stretching the team's lead over opponents in the third quarter to 73-0 this season.

But Stanford responded with a 76-yard touchdown drive, punctuated by a dazzling one-handed catch by Kodi Whitfield. The sophomore receiver hauled in the 30-yard throw from quarterback Kevin Hogan by fully-extending his right arm and bringing the ball into his chest while falling into the end zone draped by a pair of Bruins defenders. The touchdown put the Cardinal ahead 10-3.

"It was a phenomenal catch," Murphy said. "Once I saw it up in the air, I started running out for the PAT because I knew he was coming down with it."

Hogan added: "I can't wait to see it on 'SportsCenter.'"

Richards recorded his first interception of the afternoon three plays later, giving the Cardinal possession at the UCLA 40-yard line. Stanford stretched the lead to 17-3 by putting together a six-play, 40-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Tyler Gaffney. The biggest play of the drive was a 34-yard back-shoulder catch by Devon Cajuste, who twisted around to give the Cardinal possession at the UCLA 2-yard line.

In addition to the two interceptions, Richards managed to register 10 tackles in the contest.

Shaw said opponents are throwing at Richards to avoid Ed Reynolds, who led the nation in interception return yards last year.

"The ball is going Jordan's way," Shaw said. "Jordan's doing a great job of disguising coverage, leaning back towards the receiver. ... He's athletic, he's smart. He's our other quarterback out there."

The Cardinal's quarterback on offense, Hogan, rebounded from the first loss of his college career by completing 18-of-25 passes for 227 yards. His lone interception was the result of dropped pass by Cajuste.

Hogan carried Stanford to a first-quarter field goal, racking up 24 rushing yards and 46 passing yards on its third possession. With the win, he improved to 7-0 against ranked opponents in his college career.

"I thought he played smart, conservative," Shaw said. "When he needed to make plays, he made the plays."

The third-year coach said the Cardinal bounced back from last week's 27-21 loss to unranked Utah because his players are mentally tough.

"We recruit tough people -- tough-minded people," he said. "People that don't dwell on the past, people that look forward. We recruit character guys that don't hang their heads, guys that don't blame; guys that learn their lessons from last week and move them forward."

NOTE: Cajuste left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. Conrad Ukropina filled in for an injured Jordan Williamson at kicker.

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Paul Gackle

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