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For Better or Worse, Green Is Consistent : UCLA Tailback Always Gains Yards but Always Seems to Get Hurt

October 21, 1986|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

The good thing about UCLA tailback Gaston Green is also what's bad about him. Green is painfully consistent. He always seems to be gaining a lot of yards and he always seems to be getting hurt.

So while the chances of Green attaining the status of Bo Jackson or Vinny Testaverde have plummeted to just about zero, at least he has improved his chances to emerge as the new commercial spokesman for Band-Aids.

Just think of the possibilities.

Hi, I'm Gaston Green , and whenever I sprain a ligament, pull a hamstring, strain my neck or jam a big toe, know what makes me feel a whole lot better? Bandages. Lots of them. Also ice bags, whirlpools and electronic stimulation. And if I still feel a little sluggish, then I put myself directly in front of a Humphrey Bogart movie. I love them, especially Casablanca. If there is a continuing story line to Gaston Green this season and last, it may be found in Casablanca, from which Bogart was wrongly credited with saying "Play it again, Sam."

At UCLA, they're trying to figure out a way for Green to play again, without getting hurt.

With Gaston Green, it's not two yards and a cloud of dust. It's two aspirin and call me in the morning.

So far, Green has been able to keep a good attitude about it all. He is not the type to get upset. Hurt, maybe, but not upset.

"I just can't seem to get rid of the injuries," he said wistfully. "I can't figure it out.

"I was thinking that I must have done something wrong before and now it's catching up to me," he said.

Strained left knee ligament. Pulled hamstring. Stiff neck. Sore big toe. Each of these ailments have actually happened to Green within a span of his last 18 games. Some of them have paid him second and third visits. There's no need to exaggerate.

Last season, Green missed four full games and most of two others because of a sprained left knee ligament and a pulled hamstring. He still led the Bruins in rushing with 712 yards.

Green topped the season by reinjuring his hamstring in the second quarter of the Rose Bowl, but at least he began this, his junior year, completely healthy.

That lasted all of one game.

Against San Diego State in game No. 2, Green rushed for 131 yards in 16 carries, all the while slowed by a stiff neck. It was during that Sept. 20 game that Green also stubbed his left big toe and it has been bothering him ever since.

Green sat out the Cal State Long Beach game and returned to play briefly and ineffectively against Arizona State in the Bruins' Pacific-10 opener.

Green carried only 6 times for a total of 5 yards and UCLA lost, 16-9.

Under the circumstances, it seems clear that the victory gave Arizona State a toe-hold on the Pac-10 lead that the Sun Devils have never relinquished.

Then came the Arizona game, and it looked as though Green was in good condition. Green finished with 78 yards in 19 carries, but 63 of those yards came on his last 5 carries.

And in those five carries, Green also had touchdown runs of 9 and 32 yards. The Bruins needed Green's second touchdown to defeat the Wildcats, 32-25, and to send themselves to Berkeley with a 1-1 Pac-10 record.

Green had his best game of the season against Cal in the Bruins' 36-10 victory Saturday, but he was again plagued by consistency.

On the same day, Green gained 134 yards, his best game of the season, he also took himself out of the game on the last play of the third quarter when he reinjured his big toe.

Green said a Cal player deliberately twisted his foot during a pileup.

"Somebody meant to do it to me," he said.

Now, Coach Terry Donahue is unsure whether Green's sore toe will mean he cannot play this Saturday against Washington State in the Rose Bowl.

"All I know is that apparently his injury is not as severe as the first time," Donahue said. "List him as very questionable. No, list him as doubtful."

No, list him probable, Green said.

"I'll be ready to go Saturday," he said. "I sure want to play, after all the things that have gone wrong.

"When I'm healthy, I'm doing things pretty well," he said.

But the numbers are small right now. Green only has 388 yards rushing this season, averaging 5.2 yards a carry and 77.6 yards a game.

If his knee/neck/leg/toe don't get hurt any more, Green believes he is capable of posting some impressive numbers.

"I was hoping I'd have a lot more yardage than I have now," he said. "But I think I can finish with 900 yards if I can stay healthy the rest of the way. If I could be like Marcus Allen and get 200 yards a game a couple of times, it would be easier (to gain postseason recognition).

"The lucky thing is that I have another year to be able to play," he said.

"And if I do some pretty good things for the rest of the season, maybe I have a chance at (the Heisman Trophy) next year. At least I want to be on the ballot."

At UCLA, they'd settle for Green being off the medical report.

Bruin Notes The injury report on the Bruins' secondary is not good. Starting left cornerback Chuckie Miller has a torn rib cartilage. Miller, who left the Cal game on a stretcher, won't play Saturday against Washington State. Coach Terry Donahue is not sure when Miller will be back. "It's a matter of how much pain he can play with," he said. "It's an individual thing. Sometimes with an injury like that it hurts to breathe." Starting free safety James Washington is listed as 50-50 after straining his left knee ligaments against Cal. If right cornerback Dennis Price, who has been out with a bad right knee, cannot play, Donahue said he doesn't know how the Bruins will line up. Alan Dial or Jeff Damron will start if he cannot play. . . . Donahue also said that freshman tailback Brian Brown has tendinitis. Donahue said that if he didn't improve quickly, the Bruins may seek to redshirt Brown on medical grounds.

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