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Roundabout Route Is Right Way for UCLA : College football: Abdul-Jabbar's maze-like run beats Arizona, 17-10.

October 15, 1995|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The play called for UCLA tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar to catch a screen pass and try to make it to the end zone 14 yards away.

He made it all right, but not before the 14 yards had turned into what seemed like 90 and included four broken tackles, three lateral trips across the field, two desperate spin moves and one horrified head coach.

But also a 17-10 Bruin victory over Arizona.

John Madden would have worn out his telestrator diagraming this one.

Abdul-Jabbar's run fit right in on a Saturday afternoon when nothing seemed to go as diagramed for the Bruins, but they still managed to win before a Rose Bowl crowd of 43,798.

On a day when the Bruin offense malfunctioned time after time against the Wildcat defense, UCLA's other points came on a defensive touchdown and a 47-yard field goal by a junior kicker who hadn't attempted a field goal since high school.

On a day when the Bruin defense was dominating for 54 minutes, UCLA found itself holding on in the final seconds against an Arizona team that took advantage of Bruin overconfidence in those final minutes. Arizona had to struggle all day offensively because it was missing star receiver Richard Dice and offensive left tackle Ian McCutcheon, both injured.

But what the heck. Staring at almost sure elimination from the conference race with another loss, UCLA Coach Terry Donahue wasn't about to throw this one back.

The victory gives UCLA a 4-2 record, and more important, a 1-2 mark in the conference, the same as Arizona.

"This got us back on the map," said Bruin defensive tackle George Kase.

But only by following a zigzag route from start to the finishing run by Abdul-Jabbar.

The game began as a defensive struggle, the only points of the first half coming on a 29-yard run into the end zone by linebacker Tommy Bennett after he recovered a fumble.

Arizona tailback Gary Taylor lost his hold on the ball on a first-quarter run after being hit by Kase. The ball squirted off to the side where Bennett was standing.

"It was a big surprise for me," Bennett said. "I crept out of there [with the ball] like a little thief and hoped that nobody saw me. I saw a lane and nobody was in front of me."

The points were particularly welcome on a day when freshman quarterback Cade McNown, who had passed for 306 yards against Fresno State in his last outing, was brought back to reality.

McNown completed only two of 12 passes in the first half with one interception, failing to complete any of his last nine attempts.

It wasn't much better in the third quarter for McNown, who wound up completing three of 18 for 80 yards.

Finally, on the third Bruin drive of the third quarter, Donahue replaced McNown with junior Ryan Fien.

Fien drove UCLA down to the Arizona 29-yard line at the close of the third quarter, when Donahue sent kicker Bjorn Merten in to attempt a 47-yard field goal, then changed his mind and instead sent in Greg Andrasick.

"He's done things on kickoffs we have not done in several years," Donahue said. "So I began vacillating back and forth. What do you do? You go with your first instinct. And that's what I did."

Donahue went to Andrasick.

"Can you hit it?" Donahue asked.

"I hit it in high school," Andrasick replied.

And he hit it again Saturday, but it wasn't easy.

"I was real nervous," Andrasick said. "I won't lie about that."

The next drive of the final quarter ended with Abdul-Jabbar's unlikely run.

He had started going right with Fien's pass, broke two tackles, then spun all the way to the left, broke two more tackles, had drifted all the way back to the 32-yard line by that point, then came to the right again and finally found a clear path to the end zone.

Told later that he had lost about 18 yards before finally heading up field, Abdul-Jabbar was flabbergasted.

"Really?" he said. "I thought I had lost about five. I was trying to set up my blocks and let the guys known what the hell I was doing."

His coach didn't know.

"It was the greatest run and the worst run I've ever seen in football," said Donahue, who has been coaching for 20 years. "It was the greatest run I ever saw because of the unbelievable effort put forth by Karim and several other players. I never saw an athlete give that kind of effort. It was the worst run because we were in field-goal position and the players are taught not to turn back and take the team out of field-goal range."

At the time, the run seemed to mean little more than added insurance, giving the Bruins a 17-0 lead with half a quarter to play. Instead, it meant the difference between a victory and a tie or a loss.

The Wildcats struck back, scoring on a 42-yard field goal by Jon Prasuhn following Abdul-Jabbar's second fumble of the game, and a 17-yard pass from Brady Batten to Cary Taylor to close to within seven points.

Not until Paul Guidry intercepted Batten's last-gasp pass at the UCLA four-yard line with 13 seconds to play was victory assured. "There was too much celebrating with six minutes left," said Bruin defensive coordinator Bob Field. "We lost our focus and our intensity."

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