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September 2, 2007Game Ticker | box score
STANFORD, Calif.(AP) As soon as UCLA opened up its offense in the second half, Ben Olson spoiled Jim Harbaugh's debut at Stanford. Olson threw three of his five touchdown passes after halftime and Kahlil Bell ran for a career-high 195 yards to lead the 14th-ranked Bruins to a 45-17 victory Saturday in Harbaugh's first game as the Cardinal coach. "We kind of had a little bit of sputtering at the beginning of the game,"Olson said. "But then we settled in and overcame some of the issues that we had." Olson's cool efficiency in his return to the starting lineup and 20 returning starters for the Bruins (1-0, 1-0 Pac-10) were too much for the emotion-fueled Cardinal (0-1, 0-1), who tried to match the high energy level of their new head coach.
Coaching across the street from where he went to high school, Harbaugh's imprint on Stanford's offense was evident as the Cardinal moved the ball much better than they did in a 1-11 season a year ago that led to Walt Harris' firing. "I don't think the score was very indicative of how we played," Harbaugh said. "I believe we have a football team now." Harbaugh still has a long way to go to make Stanford a winner as the defense still struggled with missed tackles and gave up 624 total yards to new coordinator Jay Norvell's offense. After being outscored 165-33 in losing all five games at its remodeled stadium in 2006, Stanford was competitive for a little more than a half this game. The Cardinal trailed 14-7 at halftime and were within 21-10 late in the third quarter. Olson came through with the big plays throughout and the Bruins lived up to their highest preseason ranking since 1998.
"We feel we have a lot of potential," coach Karl Dorrell said. "A lot of potential to do great things." UCLA exploited Stanford with a flea-flicker and numerous wide receiver screens in the second half, including a 77-yarder for a touchdown to Joe Cowan that gave the Bruins a 28-10 lead. Olson added a 15-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter to Brandon Breazell, who had six catches for 111 yards. "We knew we needed to open up the offense a little bit more," Dorrell said. "I think we were just a touch conservative in the first half. We just decided to get the ball to some of our playmakers and see if they can make some plays." Olson started the first five games last season before being sidelined with a left knee injury against Arizona. He returned to practice a month later but remained the backup to Patrick Cowan for the final four games. Olson won the starting job in training camp and showed he has no intentions of giving it up soon. Olson finished 16-for-29 for 286 yards as UCLA won in its first season opener against a conference opponent since 1997.
"He (Olson) needed this," Breazell said. "After sitting out a whole year then waiting a whole summer to face someone else, finally day one comes and we get to release all our anger. It was nice to get to play and relax."
Senior T.C. Ostrander, beginning the season as the starter for the first time in his career, was 27-for-59 for 331 yards - all career highs - and two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder to Richard Sherman in the fourth quarter.
"I started a little shaky," Ostrander said. "It took a while to get my rhythm but I was better than I have been. The game was closer than the score. I felt we were very competitive for a great majority of the game.
The Harbaugh era got off to an inauspicious start when Ostrander was stripped on a sack by a blitzing Trey Brown on the third play of the game, giving UCLA the ball at the Cardinal 12 after Bruce Davis' recovery.
Stanford's defense held the Bruins and Kai Forbath missed a 28-yard field goal to keep the game scoreless. But the Cardinal could not shut down the Bruins for long.
An 11-yard punt by Jay Ottovegio gave UCLA the ball on its own 40 midway through the first quarter. Four plays later, Breazell made a leaping 19-yard touchdown grab over Tim Sims to give UCLA the lead.
Sims was victimized again early in the second quarter, when Gavin Ketchum beat him for a 6-yard score that was set up by Bell's 59-yard run.
While the Cardinal played with more enthusiasm than last year, the offense didn't show much more effectiveness until Ostrander led the team on an 80-yard drive in the final minutes of the opening half. He went 4-for-6 for 45 yards on the drive, capping it with a 9-yard score to Jim Dray.
The touchdown at home was so rare - Stanford had only three on offense in five home games last year - that the scoreboard operator originally gave the points to UCLA.