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No. 24 UCLA Bruins visit Stanford Cardinal in epic QB battle

Sep 18, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) looks to pass against Fresno State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Houston (13) in the second quarter at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) looks to pass against Fresno State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Houston (13) in the second quarter at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the top quarterbacks in the Pacific-12 Conference go head-to-head Saturday afternoon when 24th-ranked UCLA visits Stanford.

The Bruins (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) are directed by dual-threat Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who leads the conference with seven touchdown passes in his first three games.

But the uniqueness of Thompson-Robinson comes in the fact that he ranks third in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game at 222.7 while also ranking as the Bruins’ third-leading rusher with 88 yards.

The senior accounted for three touchdowns — two through the air, the third on the ground — when UCLA won 34-21 at Stanford in 2019. It was the only time the Bruins have beaten the Cardinal in the past 13 meetings.

It also was the most recent time UCLA played at Stanford.

Healthy Dorian Thompson-Robinson making difference for UCLA

dorian thompson-robinson
Sep 18, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) looks to pass against Fresno State Bulldogs defensive back Justin Houston (13) in the second quarter at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson-Robinson was off to a fast start in last year’s rematch at home, but he sustained a leg injury in the second quarter of what eventually turned into a 48-47 Cardinal win in overtime. He had completed eight of his first 12 passes for 65 yards and had already run for 46 yards on nine carries.

The injury ended Thompson-Robinson’s season, but he nonetheless finished with the highest passing efficiency (156.29) rating for a UCLA quarterback in 15 years.

The former hotshot prospect from Las Vegas lost a passing duel with Fresno State standout Jake Haener last week in a 40-37 upset defeat. Thompson-Robinson threw for 278 yards and three scores in the loss.

If the UCLA star gets into another shootout this week, chances are he’ll run into more stiff competition, as Stanford (2-1, 1-0) has handed the reins to sophomore Tanner McKee, a former Southern California prep star at Corona Centennial High.

After serving as a backup in the Cardinal’s 24-7 opening loss to Kansas State, McKee has been brilliant as a starter, including going 16-for-23 for 234 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-28 win at Southern California.

The Cardinal lead the Pac-12 North Division on the strength of that win.

McKee followed that up with 218 yards and two more scores in a 41-23 victory at Vanderbilt, which gives Stanford a two-game winning streak.

One other advantage Stanford will have this week is playing at home, which it hasn’t done since Week 2 of the 2020 season. The Cardinal have played their past seven games — including the final four last season — on the road or at a neutral site.

“It’s been a long time,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “We have to give the guys a map to the game-day locker room, we haven’t been there in so long. We’re excited. We’re excited to finally be able to go home. It’s been a long road trip.”

On the other hand, UCLA has yet to leave Los Angeles, beating Hawaii 44-10 and then-No. 16 LSU 38-27 before the Fresno State debacle.

Bruins defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight acknowledged he and his teammates have a greater challenge this week than a one-hour flight north.

“All we have to do is go back to the drawing board, fix this and move on to Pac-12 play,” Knight said. “Now we’re 0-0 in the Pac-12, so that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

–Field Level Media