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KEEPING TABS / DANA HADDAD

Cook Won't Let Final Game as Bruin Pass Without Healthy Team Effort

November 17, 1994|DANA HADDAD

As UCLA quarterback Wayne Cook prepares for Saturday's game against USC, he thinks not of the rival Trojans but of teammates J.J. Stokes, Kevin Jordan, Daron Washington, Sharmon Shah and others with whom he is playing his last game as a Bruin.

The senior from Newbury Park High, who led the Bruins to the Rose Bowl game last season, thinks about broken dreams, redemption and what might have been in a 4-6 season that has been marred by injuries.

He wants to beat USC. And he believes UCLA can sustain the magic it recaptured last week in a 59-23 victory over Arizona State.

"It's going to be a good game--that's all I can say," Cook said. "If we execute and play the way we know how, they won't stop us. We can win the ballgame."

On Saturday, the Bruins have the chance to show how good this team might have been had injuries not sidelined Stokes most of the season and claimed three offensive linemen, resulting in a 2-5 record in Pacific 10 Conference play. But now Cook is comfortable with the three young linemen who were forced into action--Chad Sauter, Chad Overhauser and Mike Rohme--and the offense has come alive with the return of Stokes.

"Now that we've got those (linemen) experienced, I'm getting time to get the ball to J.J. and Kevin," Cook said. "It's incredible seeing those guys improve. We're starting to see what we would have been capable of doing if we were healthy."

UCLA set a record for total offense with 679 yards against Arizona State. Cook (2,283) joined Troy Aikman and Tommy Maddox as the only UCLA quarterbacks to pass for more than 2,000 yards in two different seasons and tied a school record with four touchdown passes for the third time in his career.

Cook's 380 yards passing (in three quarters) were the most in his career and fourth highest in school history.

But Cook also has suffered through a six-game losing streak that ended any hopes for a bowl bid. Cook struggled during the skid and Coach Terry Donahue considered replacing him with Royal High graduate Ryan Fien.

Re-emerging the past two games, Cook ranks fourth at UCLA in career touchdown passes (32), passing yards (4,505) and completions (337). He is one of 12 semifinalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and will play in the Blue-Gray game on Christmas Day.

But he would trade those accolades for a victory in Saturday's "city championship" game against the Trojans. USC is 7-2, 6-1 in the Pac-10 and would advance to the Rose Bowl game with a victory and a loss by Oregon to Oregon State. The Bruins, who have won the past three meetings, will be underdogs.

"I don't think (being the underdog) means anything," Cook said. "Last year we thought we were going to run away with it. And then we needed a big interception to save us. It's a huge game and the ball is going to take some funny bounces."

*

Barnum's circus: USC's offense is streaking and peaking and it exploded in the second half last week against Arizona, which had the nation's sixth-best defense. Junior fullback Terry Barnum (Alemany) was in the middle of the 45-28 victory with some key blocks and receptions.

With a unit that ranks second in the Pac-10 in scoring at 29.4 points a game, the Trojans have won five in a row. They appear to be hitting on all cylinders after their second-biggest offensive output of the season: 550 yards. They had 583 against Baylor.

Barnum, an undersized fullback at 5 feet 10, 200 pounds, led USC receivers with six receptions against Arizona. Nobody's more excited about the Trojans than Barnum, a one-time defensive back who cracked the starting lineup during the season.

"I can't explain it," he said. "I've never felt this way on a football team. And I've been playing football close to 13 years now.

"There's an energy here that keeps building. I hope it sticks around for a while."

Barnum had 72 yards in receptions against Arizona, and his presence allowed receivers Keyshawn Johnson (5 catches for 109 yards) and Ed Hervey (5-120) to work against single coverage.

Four of Barnum's catches (including gains of 23 and 22 yards) brought first downs, and five came during touchdown drives. Most memorable was the 23-yarder that he hauled in while backpedaling along the Wildcat sideline. The catch gave USC a first down at the three-yard line.

Two plays later, the Trojans took a 7-0 lead.

But Barnum said the showdown against UCLA will be tougher than the victory over Arizona. USC leads the series against the Bruins, 34-22-7, but has lost the past three.

"You have to throw every record out of there, any first-game injuries out of there," he said, referring to Stokes. "This is UCLA-SC.

"It doesn't matter what they've done in the past. We have to be 100% ready to play. It's going to be a great game."

*

Around the country: Colorado senior Christian Fauria (Crespi) set a school record for most career receptions by a tight end in Saturday's 51-26 victory over Kansas. Fauria has 93 catches, two more than Dave Hestera, who played from 1981-83. Fauria also caught a first-quarter scoring pass from Kordell Stewart to give Colorado a 14-0 lead. . . .

Alex (Loafie) Estrada, who played eight-man football at Faith Baptist, leads Cal State Sacramento in punt returns (16) and return average (8.6 yards). Sacramento (4-5) plays host to Cal State Northridge on Saturday night. . . .

Southern Utah punter Ron Lindberg (Canyon) has twice been named the American West Conference special teams player of the week this season. He ranks first in the conference at 41.7 yards per punt.

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