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COLLEGE FOOTBALL : Aikman Waits, Then Drops Bombs : He Sparks UCLA Rally With His Passing and Running

November 15, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

As fate has it, Troy Aikman will be playing quarterback for UCLA against USC in next Saturday's showdown for the Rose Bowl at the Coliseum, instead of leading top-ranked Oklahoma into Lincoln to settle the Big Eight title and Orange Bowl berth against Nebraska.

Aikman hardly gives it a second thought, but did Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer blow it?

With Sooner quarterback Jamelle Holieway gone due to a knee injury, does Switzer regret that 1985 phone call to Terry Donahue offering the UCLA coach a misfit quarterback with a broken leg?

"I certainly wouldn't send him back," Donahue said after Aikman shot a fair Washington team right out of the stadium in Saturday's 47-14 rout before 70,332 spectators.

Aikman, already the nation's highest-rated passer, completed 17 of 23 attempts for 247 yards and a touchdown, without an interception, but that goes without saying. Aikman doesn't throw interceptions--only three all season, and two of those were deflected.

And he is more than just a fancy passer. Through a span of about 25 minutes from late in the second quarter until early in the fourth, when Donahue took the ball away from him, Aikman put on a virtuoso, take-charge, blow-'em-out performance that lifted the Bruins from 14-13 behind to a 40-14 lead.

Eric Ball already had done his thing, with two sparkling touchdown runs. The Bruins couldn't make those stick, but when Aikman got hot he pinned the Huskies to the walls like butterflies.

Then, just when they thought they had him figured out, he ran 12 yards for a touchdown.

"We kind of feel the defense out in the first half and realize what we have to do in the second," he said.

"I wasn't worried. We'd been moving the ball. One of the big parts of this team is we haven't gotten down when we've gotten behind. There was a big momentum shift when we were able to go up 16-14 at the half.

"They were giving us the middle. They were tilting over to our twins (receivers) and leaving the stuff open in the middle. We had seen that on film but we didn't think they'd do that against us, and they did. We were able to exploit that zone area. Our receivers did a great job of getting open. We kept them off balance."

Said Husky cornerback Art Malone: "Without a doubt he's the best quarterback I've seen in a while. He threw it right where it had to be. It wasn't like guys were wide open. He was just pinpointing his passes. He has a lot of faith in his arm, for good reason."

Some examples, as drawn from Aikman in post-mortem:

Second quarter, pass to Ball for a 29-yard gain.

"I started out front side to (wide receiver) Flipper (Anderson) on a route. He was covered, and my secondary receiver was covered. The linemen gave me a great amount of time, and I was able to find Eric open on the boundary. Actually, he was the fourth receiver--the outlet receiver. They had all three covered up."

That led to UCLA's go-ahead field goal (16-14).

Third quarter, 13 yards to Anderson on a quick out-pattern for a touchdown.

"We'd run the play earlier a few times. The thing on that particular play is if he's there I plant my first step and throw it. I'd been getting off him and he told me that he could beat 'em on the play, so I stuck with him and he was right."

Third quarter, 12-yard touchdown run.

"We called the same pass play that Flipper had scored on and they got underneath the out, and (tight end Charles) Arbuckle--he was the secondary receiver--got taken out, then I just saw a lane to run.

"A lot of times it's not even when there's pressure, if you just see a lot of empty field out in front of you. It's like instinct."

Third quarter, third and five, shotgun formation, 29-yard pass to Mike Farr.

"They brought the blitz, and Mike had a sight adjustment that they'd brought too many guys to block. He saw it and I saw it, and he did a great job of getting open."

Aikman still showed the effects of that one. Blitzing linebacker Ricky Andrews had a clear path to Aikman, who released the ball an instant before the collision, leaving an open cut on the quarterback's chin.

Aikman didn't bother to have it stitched because "it's the fourth time it's happened and it'll probably happen again. I've got the worse chin around."

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