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COLLEGE FOOTBALL : Cal Has an Offense That's Taylor-Made : Young Quarterback Doesn't Get Down, but Goes Down Swinging Against UCLA

October 25, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

Third down, early in the third quarter and here's the veteran quarterback dropping back to pass from the opponents' seven-yard line. The play is crucial because his team already trails by 11 points.

The veteran quarterback drifts to his left and feels the pressure of the rush. Tapping his deep well of experience, he turns back to his right, looking for an open receiver in the end zone, and . . . well, let him tell it:

"I was looking upfield when somebody closed in my face. Then I saw Mike (Smith) right behind the cornerback and I knew I had to put it right over his head without pushing it out (of the end zone), so I just tried to pull the string. Luckily, I made a nice throw, and he did a great job of getting his foot down (inside the back line)."

Routine?

"I've played a long time and I sense pressure," the veteran quarterback said." Sometimes I don't even see the guys. I just kind of see colors. But I know when my time's running out and I've gotta get out of the pocket. It's just something that I've done for so long that it just comes naturally to me."

And why shouldn't it? Troy Taylor has been making plays like that ever since, oh, his Pop Warner days.

Troy Taylor, Cal's veteran quarterback, is 19 years old. He just plays old.

Saturday, the 6-foot 4-inch, 180-pound sophomore from Sacramento had UCLA's eighth-ranked Bruins on the run around the Rose Bowl for awhile, playing catchup against Gaston Green's Heisman Trophy hustle before fading, 42-18.

The play described above, complemented by Taylor's two-point conversion pass to Todd Powers, brought Cal back within 21-18 and was the zenith of his performance--an accumulation of a career-high 312 yards on 21 completions in 35 attempts, with only one interception.

One interception, like the St. Louis Cardinals gave up only one grand slam homer Saturday.

Late in the first half, fourth and one at the UCLA 14-yard line, Taylor thought he had receiver Brian Bedford lined up in the end zone. Instead, the pass went to Bruin cornerback Dennis Price, who ran it all the way back.

"I liked the call," Taylor said. "Fourth and one, they're expecting you to go over the top with the running back, so we play-actioned. I saw the safety or corner who was covering Brian over on the right, but my vision was blocked--probably a lineman in my face--and I did not see Price on the left.

"I thought (Bedford) was open to the left so I was trying to lead the ball over to the left. After I threw it, I saw that Price was standing right there."

Plays like that can ruin a quarterback's day, but Taylor, leaning against a wall outside the dressing room and sounding older and wiser than he looked, explained how accidents like that can happen.

"You see it every once in a while when a quarterback throws the ball right at a linebacker," he said. "It's not because he's choking. He just can't see him. They get down sort of low and when your line gets stood up, you can't see. That's what happened."

Instead of 14-10, it was 21-3, but the Golden Bears--staring their 16th straight loss to UCLA in the face--were not crushed. Taylor fired a 58-yard pass to Darryl Ingram, who played at Hart High School in Newhall, and two plays later, Charles Carter dove one yard for a touchdown.

"It showed what our team was," Taylor said. "We could have just gone into the half and said, 'Oh, well.' We all believed we could come right back and score, and we pulled it off."

Despite his youth, Taylor will be the leader of the Golden Bears' resurgence, if there is to be one under first-year Coach Bruce Snyder.

"I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and the coaching staff," Taylor said. "One of the main things when we came into the game was if some adversity should strike we'd come right back and score . . . just keep on pounding away.

"I like to live by that. I don't quit playing until the gun goes off, no matter what happens. I've always been like that. I'm a very competitive person.

"I thought we could spring an upset when we were down, 21-3. I came into the game with the intention of winning. I'm disappointed that we didn't. I'm surprised that we didn't."

Snyder said, "He just keeps saying--'Well, I need three touchdowns and two extra points'--in his mind, what he needs to go do. I don't think he's fazed by adversity.

"He is not afraid to throw the football. I've been around some quarterbacks that didn't want to pull the trigger in a tough situation. He will, and I like that."

If Taylor thrives on adversity, he went to the right place. Cal has had lean seasons since he was born in Downey and christened, like so many sons of fervent football fathers, for the school on Figueroa Ave. Nobody has named his kid "Golden Bear" in a while.

A star at Rancho Cordova High School in Sacramento, Taylor was recruited by most Pacific 10 schools and visited Arizona, USC and Cal before canceling scheduled visits to Stanford and Washington State when he made up his mind.

He was not at all put off by the fact that Cal hadn't been to the Rose Bowl (except to play UCLA) since 1959--nine years before he was born.

"I played for a 14-0 team in high school," Taylor said, "but I have confidence in myself and the players around me. We'll be going to the Rose Bowl before I leave here. You can mark my words."

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