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Fresno State Makes UCLA Work for a 17-0 Victory : But Bulldogs' Rushing Total Is a Minus 26

September 20, 1987|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

It was supposed to be the breather between the game at Nebraska and the Pacific 10 opener next week against Arizona.

Rest the aching and the weary, stockpile footage for the highlight films, run up Gaston Green's statistics.

Give the Rose Bowl tailgaters something to cheer about. A good time to be had by all.

But, no. UCLA did not dazzle and delight at the expense of its Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. opponent. In a game that was tedious at best, UCLA recorded a not-at-all spectacular 17-0 victory over Fresno State Saturday.

Fresno State Coach Jim Sweeney called it a great football game from a purist's standpoint.

Not quite, although both defensive teams put on impressive show.

UCLA's defense sacked the Fresno State quarterback 8 times for losses totaling 59 yards and knocked Fresno State's starting quarterback, Eric Buechele, out of the game. The UCLA defense set a school record by holding Fresno State to minus 26 yards rushing.

Fresno State's defense, meanwhile, sacked UCLA's quarterbacks 10 times for losses totaling 61 yards. And to hold UCLA to 17 points and 307 yards in total offense after the Bruins had scored 33 points and had rolled up 361 yards against Nebraska is commendable.

But because penalties bogged down the pace and because Fresno didn't have any serious scoring threats, even defensive purists would be hard-pressed to call it a great game. UCLA had 8 penalties totaling 70 yards, Fresno State 10 totaling 65 yards, and the closest the Bulldogs came to scoring was a missed 54-yard field-goal attempt by Barry Belli.

UCLA Coach Terry Donahue wasn't apologizing for it, though. It was a victory, after all. Or, as he put it, "Like (aircraft) carrier pilots say, if you walk away from it, it was a good landing."

He also noted that the Fresno State team celebrated after the game, gathering in front of the stands holding jubilant Red Wave fans. There were at least 10,000 of them in the crowd of 49,264, since 8,500 tickets were sold in Fresno and at least another 1,500 bought tickets at the game.

"Our program has come a long way when the other team gets beat by 17 points and celebrates," Donahue said.

"I wish we had scored more points and I'm concerned that we couldn't get the ball outside and couldn't protect our quarterback better. But Fresno State gets the credit for that. They played hard and they did well in terms of design."

Fresno State came in with a defense that took away the sweep and the option, two of the Bruins' strongest suits, leaving them a running game up the middle or a passing game.

Green, who had 115 yards in 22 carries, scored the Bruins' first touchdown, less than five minutes into the game, slanting through the middle of the line and then dancing through the secondary for a 33-yard touchdown.

Alfredo Velasco made it a 10-0 game just before the first half ended on a 41-yard field goal.

And the Bruins scored their final touchdown early in the third quarter on a 26-yard pass play from quarterback Troy Aikman to wide receiver Flipper Anderson. The Bruins drove from their 20, mostly on drives up the middle.

The rest of the time, the Bruin offense was struggling.

Offensive tackle David Richards said: "They came out with a defense that we had never seen before. They were running a wide, pressure defense to shut off the outside running game. They had a good defensive plan and they fought for all four quarters.

"We knew we had to go to the passing game, but we were having some trouble with their pass rush. Jethro Franklin (a defensive end who had two sacks) is a very good pass rusher. We were concerned about him all week.

"We needed to get our game going up the middle, too, but there were times when we would open a hole and the defense would just come crashing in."

Aikman said: "They ran some stunts and some stuff we weren't ready for. . . . Today could have been a better day passing, but I was having to throw with a lot of pressure in my face. . . .

"But that's part of the game. The last thing you can do is lose confidence in your line, and I haven't done that. We have a good offensive line. We have some great players. I think we have to get some things ironed out."

Aikman completed 7 of 14 passes for 143 yards and the touchdown to Anderson.

Donahue said that he felt sorry for his quarterbacks. Aikman took eight sacks; McCracken two.

"I don't know if we're slow up front, can't protect the quarterback, if the quarterback is holding onto the ball too long, if the receivers aren't getting open or if they are not giving a target," Donahue said. "I'm sure it's no one factor. We need to really look at it and analyze where we're having problems. I don't think if was a question of the offense not being sharp. It was just good play by Fresno State.

"Fresno State exposed some of our concerns on offense and made us do some things that we have a difficult time doing."

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