Struggling Stanford still presents big threat for UCLA – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — Jim Mora is not fooled by the two-game losing streak or the uncharacteristically porous run defense. The team UCLA faces in its conference opener is still, and will always be, a threat.

“They’re still Stanford,” Mora said. “They’re smart, they’re tough, they’re physical, they’re disciplined.”

For the first time since 2009, the Bruins and Cardinal will meet as unranked teams on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Stanford Stadium. Both fell from the AP rankings last week after a pair of upsets and are hoping to steer their seasons back on track.

“In spurts, they can be dominant offensively, in spurts they can be dominant defensively,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said of the Bruins. “They’re doing the same thing we are. We’re just searching for a way to play at your best at all times.”

The typically stout Stanford defense allowed 478 rushing yards in the past two games with a 208-yard average across three games. UCLA is slowly building its running threat, going from a lowly 63 rushing yards in its season opener to 132 against Hawaii to 170 against Memphis last weekend. Against a vulnerable Stanford defense, the Bruins (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) hope to continue their upward trend.

“It’s not so much that they’re struggling with (run defense), it’s just the offenses are executing well,” offensive lineman Michael Alves said. “Every block they’re making perfectly, so all we have to do is make our blocks and there should be holes there.”

Who the Bruins have to run through those holes is still in question. Senior Nate Starks has been ruled out for a significant amount of time with a medial collateral ligament injury. Junior Soso Jamabo has missed two straight games with nagging injuries. However, UCLA got a boost from sophomore Jalen Starks against Memphis, who had six carries for 20 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 70 yards.

“I thought he ran the football well, I thought he protected really, really well,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. “He caught the ball well. … And he’s a big, 255-pound tailback that’s hard to bring down. So everyone’s excited about Jalen.”

PUNTER POWER

Punters are often the butt of football jokes, so even when Stefan Flintoft is, by Mora’s assessment, “killing it,” he can’t escape good-natured ribbing.

The redshirt junior punted only once against Hawaii two weeks ago and the team fell 2 yards short of its weekly goal of winning the net punting average….

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