YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

ROSE BOWL : Green Experiences the Thrill in Winning, the Pain in Watching

January 02, 1986|MIKE KUPPER | Times Assistant Sports Editor

The time-honored definition of mixed emotions: The feelings you get watching your worst enemy drive off a cliff in your new car.

Gaston Green knows about mixed emotions.

Green, UCLA's starting tailback, was planning to have a big day against Iowa in the Rose Bowl game Wednesday while the Bruins were feeding the Big Ten a few more courses of West Coast football.

Instead, he had to watch most of the proceedings from the sideline while his replacement, Eric Ball, turned in an all-universe performance in leading the Bruins to their 45-28 win.

He was mighty pleased with the big victory and he was happy for Ball, but he couldn't help thinking that he would have been in for some of that gravy if only he hadn't pulled a hamstring early in the second quarter.

"I had trouble getting untracked all season," he said. "I had a knee injury in the season and then I come up to the Rose Bowl, the biggest game of all . . . "

It isn't as if Green didn't contribute to the Bruins' success, though. In his usual workhorse role, he did carry the ball 13 times for 46 yards. In fact, he was heavily into contributing when he was hurt.

UCLA recovered an Iowa fumble, one of Ronnie Harmon's specialties, late in the first quarter and immediately turned the ball over to Green. He carried on the last two plays of the first quarter, then was given the ball on the first three of the second. The third, a sweep, was apparently one play too many. When it was over, Green limped off, his game over, too.

"Nobody hit me or anything," he said. "I ran the sweep one way, then I ran it the other way and I just felt the pull. I knew when I got to the sideline I wouldn't be going back out. We put ice on it right away but it just stiffened up. I couldn't run.

"I knew right away what it was. It happened to me in high school once, but I tore it then.

"I was sad and upset because it was my first Rose Bowl and I wanted to do real well, a hundred yards, maybe, or MVP, something like that."

As disappointed as he was about his own misfortune, however, Green said that he got as big a kick as any other Bruin fan watching Iowa trying to follow the bouncing Ball.

"I was proud and happy to see what Eric did," he said. What Eric did, of course, was gain 227 yards and score 4 touchdowns. "He came over to me when he found out I wasn't going to play anymore and he told me he was going to get it for me," Green said of Ball. "He sure did."

If that indeed is what Ball said, he couldn't remember it later. "I felt bad for him," Ball said. "I just wanted to make sure he was all right."

Actually, Ball had given strong indications that he was going to have a big game even before Green went out. He scored UCLA's first touchdown on as pretty a 30-yard run as any football aficionado could hope to see.

Norm Andersen, the assistant coach who works with UCLA's running backs, couldn't possibly have programmed Ball's performance but said that when Green had to leave the game, there was no panic on the sideline.

"We kind of build our whole deal on if somebody gets hurt, somebody else is there," Andersen said. "Eric seized his opportunity and did one hell of a job. I was just concerned about Gaston. He worked so hard and was slated to have a great game, but it just wasn't in the stars. But there'll be another day for him."

Maybe there will. Judging from previous performances, probably there will. But it won't be in his first Rose Bowl game. And that's what he had really wanted. Celebrating your replacement's MVP honor isn't quite the same as celebrating your own.

Los Angeles Times Articles