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Putting It All On the Line : College football: UCLA's Abdul-Jabbar got 261 yards, four touchdowns and all the praise, but his blockers paved the way.

October 24, 1995|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

From where UCLA Bruin right guard Chad Overhauser stood at Stanford Stadium late Saturday afternoon, the Cardinal end zone looked as if it were in another time zone.

Never mind that it was 98 yards away. Never mind that the Stanford defense, knowing the game was on the line with a little more than eight minutes to play, was determined to get the ball back.

Overhauser's first concern was the exhaustion that was consuming him. He was so tired he could feel the muscles in his legs spasm simply standing in the huddle.

But he looked at tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who was on his way to a school-record 42 carries, and that spurred on Overhauser.

"Karim was dying," Overhauser said. "And he runs more than I do."

Then something happened. Like a locomotive gathering steam as it pulls out of the station, the Bruin offense began to move, perhaps more smoothly and efficiently than it has all season.

Abdul-Jabbar for a yard. Abdul-Jabbar for four yards. Abdul-Jabbar for 11 yards. Abdul-Jabbar for seven yards.

Play after play, UCLA called for No. 33 to carry the ball and the Cardinal defense seemed helpless to stop him.

"Every play, we seemed to gain momentum," Overhauser said. "It got greater and greater. [Stanford's defense] kept going backward. Even though my legs were aching, it was the greatest feeling an offensive lineman can have. No matter what we did, we knew it would work. The holes kept opening. At times, it seemed like Karim could have run blindfolded. Even when we would miss a block, he is so elusive that he was able to avoid them."

Overhauser hadn't played guard since high school. But when right guard Matt Soenksen got hurt, Overhauser moved over from tackle in the Bruins' third game and here, in the drive of his life, he was playing guard as if he had been there all his life.

It felt comfortable. And why not? To his left was center Mike Flanagan, whom Overhauser has known since he was 10. They played high school ball together at Rio Americano in Carmichael, Calif. To Overhauser's right was tackle Mike Rohme, who played against him at Jesuit High, another Carmichael school.

On the eighth play of Saturday's game-clinching drive, Abdul-Jabbar crossed midfield on a 12-yard run that brought the Bruins to the Stanford 48-yard line.

The knowledge that they were halfway home triggered a new shot of adrenaline into Overhauser's nearly drained body.

"I could feel that the momentum had changed," he said. "You looked up at the seats and you could see the crowd leaving. You looked at the [opposing] linemen and you could see their heads were down. Coming up to the line, I'm smiling and [the defensive lineman] is dying.

"That drive was an offensive lineman's dream and a defensive lineman's nightmare."

Then Abdul-Jabbar swept around the left side into the end zone from the Cardinal five-yard line and finally, mercifully, it was over for both sides.

Fifteen plays, 98 yards, consuming 7 minutes 11 seconds. UCLA had extended its lead to 42-28 with less than a minute to play.

That's the way it ended, with the numbers and the glory belonging to Abdul-Jabbar, and rightfully so. He had rushed for 261 yards and four touchdowns.

Coach Terry Donahue called it one of the greatest performances he had ever seen, and reporters mobbed the running back.

Overhauser, who had made even more trips down the field than Abdul-Jabbar, and had probably absorbed as much punishment, showered and dressed in near anonymity.

Then, he dragged his tired body out of the locker room and walked past Abdul-Jabbar's news conference.

Such is the lot of the offensive lineman, but Overhauser isn't complaining.

"The only time they would notice offensive linemen is when we mess up, but it's getting a lot better," he said. "It seems like we are getting a lot more publicity. We are getting drafted higher now. And people seem to know more and more about what we do."

Overhauser doesn't even mind being in Abdul-Jabbar's shadow.

"If Karim wins, I feel like I won," he said. "If he should move on to the next level, I'd feel happy to say I blocked for that guy."

And proud to say he was part of that memorable drive.

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