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Green Out; Bruins Will Have a Ball : 'Battle of Tailbacks' May Still Be Good With Altered Cast

December 24, 1987|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

HONOLULU — Alas, Gaston Green and Emmitt Smith will not share the football field in the Aloha Bowl game Christmas Day. There will be no run-off of Heisman Trophy finalists.

Smith will be there, all right, but Green is still hobbled by a pulled muscle in his left thigh and will have to miss what was to be his last game for UCLA.

Too bad.

"It's too bad for Gaston, too bad for us, too bad for TV," UCLA Coach Terry Donahue said.

That makes his entry in the record book final. Green finished his career as UCLA's all-time leading rusher with 3,371 yards.

"I feel real upset that I won't be able to play," said Green, who was hoping until the last few days that the thigh would respond to treatment in time. "You want to play well in your last game and go out on a winning note."

In his last game for the Bruins, Green gained 138 yards. Not a bad day. But UCLA lost that game to USC.

"Overall, I'd say I had a pretty successful season," Green said. "If I hadn't gotten hurt, I think I could have done the things I wanted to."

Green was making a good run for the Heisman Trophy until suffering a pinched nerve in his neck that caused him to miss most of two games and all of a third. Still, he finished with 1,098 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

He is scheduled to play in the Japan Bowl Jan. 9 and the Hula Bowl Jan. 16. He hasn't ruled either out. Although he says that if he has to miss the Japan Bowl, he is sure that he'll have plenty of time to rehabilitate his leg for the Hula Bowl.

Green has had a couple of big bowl games in his career. Green gained 144 yards as a freshman in the Fiesta Bowl and 266 yards against Brigham Young as a junior last season in the Freedom Bowl.

And when Green was injured early in the Rose Bowl game at the end of his sophomore season, Eric Ball took over for him, gained 227 yards and scored 4 touchdowns.

"I'm sure that Eric can have another big game like that," Green said. "I think our team can play at the same level with Eric as with me. He's always been able to take up the slack. He always ends up scoring at least three touchdowns."

Said Ball, who suffered a slight concussion in Tuesday's practice but will still start: "I'm sorry for Gaston that he has to miss his last game . . . I'm going to miss him. We all came in together and we've all hung around together. You hate to see your buddies go."

Donahue, too, will miss him. Donahue said: "At UCLA, Gaston Green has been the best of the best, the most prolific runner we've ever had at our school . . . He is truly one of the real enjoyable superstars to coach. He's kept a great attitude, a great sense of humor. He's been a delight to be around.

"He's going to be dearly missed.

"I wish that he had been able to play every game this year. He would have achieved even greater things. I think he'll be an absolutely fantastic pro football player.

"We've been awfully spoiled having him."

Green, who finished eighth in the Heisman voting, had been looking forward to sharing a field and a national television audience with Florida's phenomenal freshman, who finished ninth in the voting.

Smith, who passed the 1,000-yard mark in the seventh game of his freshman season, finished the regular season with a school-record 1,341 yards rushing.

Now attention will shift to a comparison of Smith and Ball.

Green will not be the only one out of the Bruins' starting lineup. Mel Farr Jr. has not recovered from his hamstring injury, so James Primus is scheduled to start at fullback. And Charles Arbuckle, who had seemed to be recovering from his knee surgery, is having more trouble and will not play at tight end. Both Corwin Anthony and Joe Pickert will fill in for Arbuckle.

Aloha Bowl Notes Rumors that quarterback Troy Aikman would forgo his final year with UCLA and enter his name in the pro draft are unfounded. Aikman says he has no interest in turning pro now. Aikman said: "I haven't even considered it. I haven't finished what I came here to UCLA to do." He is flattered, he said, at the source of the rumor. The Dallas Cowboys' Gil Brandt had said that if Aikman came out this year, he would probably be the No. 1 pick.

Add Aikman: Asked if he needed a big game against Florida to launch what is expected to be a Heisman Trophy dash season next year, Aikman said: "I think this Heisman stuff has gotten totally out of hand. It's gotten to the point where it begins the year before. I want to have a good game so we can beat Florida, not so that I can start trying for the Heisman."

The rain has finally stopped, but the heat and humidity are likely to be factors for the game Friday. It's hard to say which team would have the advantage, though. Florida is more accustomed to that kind of weather, but the Bruins are deeper and could play more people.

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