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UCLA football smashes Stanford in career night for Zach Charbonnet

Senior running back Zach Charbonnet sprints towards the end zone. Charbonnet rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns Saturday night in No. 12 UCLA football’s win over Stanford. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)

Football


Stanford13
No. 12 UCLA38

By Francis Moon

Oct. 29, 2022 11:22 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 30 at 10:00 p.m.

With seconds remaining in a scoreless third quarter, Zach Charbonnet took the handoff.

The senior running back immediately found a hole and took it up the middle before juking out a defender, bouncing off another and breaking a third tackle to leave nothing but open space between himself and the goal line as he secured his second hat trick of the season.

Powered by a career-high 259 scrimmage yards from Charbonnet, No. 12 UCLA football (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) put Stanford (3-5, 1-5) in the dirt Saturday night, securing a 38-13 win to stay undefeated at home. The win marks the first time the blue and gold has overcome the Cardinal at the Rose Bowl since 2008, most recently falling short of a double-overtime comeback attempt in 2020.

Stanford had no answer for Charbonnet, as he came just short of singlehandedly outgaining the visitors – who mustered 270 total yards – by turning 21 carries into 198 yards on the ground while notching a team-high 61 receiving yards on five catches.

“He’s a three-down back – that’s why he’s going to have a career after UCLA,” said coach Chip Kelly. “He can do it all: He can pick up a pass protection, he’s a weapon coming out of the backfield, and obviously we saw what he’s like when he runs the football. I thought Zach played outstanding today.”

After deferring the opening kickoff, the Bruins allowed the Cardinal to quickly drive downfield and get on the board first behind a 22-yard field goal. But the next time Stanford’s offense saw the field, the blue and gold picked off quarterback Tanner McKee before forcing three straight punts.

UCLA took advantage of Stanford’s stalling offense with a 24-0 run that featured three rushing touchdowns. The Cardinal were unable to score again until they hit a 49-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, and were held without a touchdown until late in the final frame.

Redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson got things started by capping off the Bruins’ opening drive – which included 69 scrimmage yards from Charbonnet – with a three-yard rushing score nine minutes into the game. Thompson-Robinson rushed for 50 yards on the night, but failed to throw for a touchdown for the first time this season.

“I had a few bad passes that I would like back,” Thompson-Robinson said. “The best part about this offense is … there’s not any pointing fingers or anything like that. It’s always self-improvement and how can we do better as individuals, and it all comes together collectively as a group.”

With senior linebacker Darius Muasau’s interception setting the offense up at the 23-yard line moments later, Charbonnet wasted no time recording UCLA’s second rushing touchdown in the span of 20 seconds. 

Muasau said he anticipated the play after watching film on Stanford’s most recent game during the bus ride to the stadium.

“I was waiting for that play since the beginning of the game,” Muasau said. “They tried to run a little power, get the linebackers to bite on the run, and they just do a little pop pass over the linebacker – but I was waiting for it.”

Senior linebacker Darius Muasau secures the ball after intercepting Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

Charbonnet compiled 115 rushing yards in the first half on 12 carries – as well as two receptions for 22 yards – and punched it in from the 1-yard line five minutes into the second quarter for his second touchdown of the half. The Bruins entered halftime holding a 24-6 lead and more than 300 yards of total offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Bruins’ defense continued to control the game, preventing the Cardinal from even making it past the 50-yard line in the third period. But the lead remained at 18 as the two teams traded punts, until Charbonnet broke the slump by running it into the end zone from 37 yards out with just three seconds left in the quarter.

The performance came without defensive coordinator Bill McGovern, who was unable to be with the team Saturday because of an illness. Kelly said it was a seamless transition with analyst Clancy Pendergast up in the coaches’ box because of the defense’s discipline.

“It was a collaboration through our whole defensive group,” Kelly said. “Billy (McGovern) was here all week long to help institute the game plan, and I thought our players really executed. … We FaceTimed him in the locker room. He celebrated with us. I think he poured water on himself.”

After a three-and-out from Stanford to start the final frame, redshirt junior wide receiver Kazmeir Allen broke off for the longest play of the day, finding an opening to run 72 yards for UCLA’s fifth rushing touchdown of the game and to extend the lead to 38-6.

However, the Cardinal managed to respond by reaching the red zone for the first time all half, mixing in packages designed for third-string quarterback Ashton Daniels as McKee struggled to reach the 100-yard mark through the air. At 4th and goal on his longest drive of the night, McKee threw for a two-yard score – Stanford’s first touchdown through the air since Oct. 8.

But it didn’t matter for the Bruins, who came away with their fourth 20-plus point victory of the season to remain in the mix for a Pac-12 championship berth. 

Approaching the final weeks of his college football career, Thompson-Robinson said he wants to make the most of his team’s success and continue to strive for more.

“This is what we wanted, this is what we expected, and now that it’s here, it’s time for the real work to start,” Thompson-Robinson said.

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Francis Moon | Sports senior staff
Moon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, track and field and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and women's tennis beats, while also contributing for Arts. He is a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student.
Moon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, track and field and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and women's tennis beats, while also contributing for Arts. He is a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student.
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