The pain from last year's loss to UCLA stung the Stanford Cardinal and motivated the team during the off-season.
Saturday's starter at quarterback, Kevin Craft, was sacked seven times and threw some ugly passes at times, connected with Cory Harkey for a 7-yard touchdown with 10 seconds remaining to lift UCLA to a 23-20 victory over Stanford.
Craft completed six passes against Stanford during an 11-play drive that began at the UCLA 13 with 2:23 remaining. He finished it off when he sprinted toward the right sideline and, after defenders rushed toward him, threw to the wide-open tight end in the right side of the end zone.
We talked to safety Bo McNally on how that loss motivated the team and how he has seen the secondary improve this season.
The secondary seems to have found itself the last two games I think it definitely took us a couple of games, and that is because no matter how much you practice something it is going to be different in the game. In terms of communication and getting a fell for each other it definitely took a couple of games. I think t really showed in the first couple of games, we had some miscues and blown coverages. The last two games I think we have really stepped it up and are starting to gel as a unit.
Coach Lynn mentioned a problem early one was being able to trust each other on the defense, knowing they would do their job Trust is huge. Especially for a guy like me and a guy like Clint (Snyder). Sometimes when you don't trust you feel like you kind of have to keep an eye on other things going on. And that ends up you making mistakes and just makes for a much less sound defense. The first couple of games I felt some of us were playing like that, myself included.
Has Delano Howell improved his coverage skills? He gets better ever week. Like I said before, everything is always different in a game compared to practice. And I think in man-to-man, he is great. Put him on one guy he can cover them, he is just a natural athlete but the zone stuff he kind of struggled with early on he has picked up really well. And he has worked really hard, watching film and working on his drops. And I think you saw that improvement, both of his picks were in zone coverage.
The DB's seem to have found some depth with corner Kris Evans and safety Austin Yancy Against that is trust, having confidence in more than one guy at each position. Being able to roll guy and not have a drop-off at all is something great programs have. And it is something Stanford has lacked in the past and to have that in our arsenal is outstanding. It's huge because it gives guys a breather, at corner those guys are running 50-60 yards a snap.
I feel like that is what lost it for us at the Wake Forest game, not really the physical tiredness but the mental fatigue of having so many things being thrown at you it really would have helped to have some guys be able to come in.
Talk about the challenge the UCLA offense presents Their offense has coach Norm Chow leading the way so that is a challenge itself. They have great athletes at receiver. And Craft is now at quarterback, I have seen all three games and there is no dropoff at quarterback. He is doing a great job. We have our hands full but again, I said the same thing last week about Washington we have a really good game plan for a lot of things they like to do. And I am confident in our coaches and what we need to stop against them.
How bad was the loss to UCLA last year? That game left a sick feeling in my stomach. That was the game that kept us out of a bowl game. And the biggest thing about that game when you look back at it and that last drive it wasn't just the scheme and getting beat, it was our effort. It wasn't the kind of team we strive to be and the kind of team we say we are.
That really hurt and that really hit home for a lot of guys. In the off-season a bunch of us would get together and watch that game and we would say this is not what we want to be, this is not what we want our reputation to be. That game alone made us focus on the two-minute drill, finishing those drills when we are tired. Pushing ourselves to finish.
That sting from that game was huge for us mentally this off-season.
On Jeremy Stewart: He hasn't practiced all this week. They predicted he would be available Friday and we are going to take a look at him then.
Did the loss to UCLA give extra motivation to the team as they prepared for this season? It was a bitter defeat. Everyone wanted to come back and make darn sure it never happened again. This team is chasing perfection, and you are ever going to get to perfection but hopefully somewhere along the line you will reach excellence.
And I think it was something that stuck in everybody's craw in the offseason and motivated this team to finish all their workouts, practice and everything they are doing. Every time you lose it's bitter, especially that one.