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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / 1996

It's Really Howard's End (Zone) as UCLA Game Falls Apart, 38-9

College football: Porous defense allows Michigan junior four touchdowns; offense almost nonexistent.

September 29, 1996|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — UCLA took a giant step Saturday . . . backward.

Defensively, little worked.

Offensively, nothing worked.

Michigan's Chris Howard, who scored four touchdowns in a 38-9 Wolverine victory before the usual 106,011, probably summed up the Bruins' plight best:

"I wasn't surprised at the size of the holes," he said, "but I was surprised there were so many holes to choose from."

A step backward for the defense?

"Yes," coordinator Rocky Long said. "Maybe we have piled up too much defense too fast, so much defense that we can't play it all. I've been saying all along that there are still little things we don't know."

And a big thing they have found out: that UCLA has a lot to learn before starting Pacific 10 Conference play Saturday at Oregon.

And the offense?

"We took a step backward," coordinator Al Borges said. "I'm not going to say we need to go back to the blackboard, because that's trite. But we do need to get back to the practice field. . . . We have to get back to where we can feel good about everything we do."

The Bruins felt awful Saturday, particularly after a first quarter in which only Phillip Ward's interception and return 17 yards from the end zone kept Michigan at bay.

The Wolverines took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when quarterback Scott Dreisbach rolled right, sent all of his receivers right, drew the UCLA defense right . . . and threw to Clarence Williams, who had circled left out of the backfield.

The Bruin defense was caught completely out of position, and Williams was open from Ann Arbor to Detroit. He finished a 53-yard play that had a long-lasting effect.

"We started to play a little more cautiously after that," Long said. Cautiously is the last way he wants his defense to play.

Michigan's lead quickly became 14-0 when Howard scored his first touchdown, from 31 yards out, again catching the Bruins in a defensive mistake.

"I was over too far and he ran at me and then cut back," said Ward, a linebacker. "I was too far over to get him."

From there, it was a matter of trying to escape alive. The UCLA offense had done nothing since its first series, which ended in Bjorn Merten missing for the first time in five field-goal attempts this season, this from 40 yards. The Bruins had failed to make a first down in the next four possessions until Skip Hicks, who finished with 71 rushing yards in 12 carries, got 49 of them on a run to the Michigan four-yard line.

Three more plays netted a loss of three yards, and Merten kicked a 25-yard field goal.

Howard answered with a 10-yard touchdown run that included "four missed tackles," said Long, who spoke calmly, but clearly was piqued about the whole day.

The day would get no better for the Bruins, but Michigan had a chance in the second half to play most of the 99 Wolverines wearing uniforms.

"I never dreamed that we would do the things we did to UCLA," Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr said. "I thought with their speed and movement that they would score some points, and I was very pleased with the way we played, with our effort."

The Bruins could score a touchdown only on defense, when Ward intercepted a pass and returned it 42 yards to the Michigan end zone. By then it was 35-9, and the pass had been thrown by third-string quarterback Tom Brady.

Howard had been to the end zone twice more and had given way to the scrubs. Garbage time came so early that freshman fullback John Anes ranked second to Howard among Wolverine rushers, with 83 yards in 17 carries, all in the final 19 minutes.

Howard's first touchdown of the second half, from six yards out, pointed to the Bruins' frustration and to the emergence of a special Wolverine weapon. The play before, Charles Woodson took a handoff from Williams, who had taken one from Dreisbach. The double-reverse was no surprise.

The extra reverse was.

"Their sideline kept yelling out, so I knew they were going to know what was happening, so I ran around when I first got the ball and there was just a huge wall, and I knew I wasn't going to get anything there," Woodson said. "So I just switched it around and there was a lot of open field, and I went for it."

He reversed field for 31 yards, to the UCLA six.

"We had a guy there," said Long, "but he followed the play up the field."

And was out of position to try to make the tackle. It was the Bruins' story all day long: out of position or they failed to make the tackle.

Offensively, they failed to catch passes.

Cade McNown spent most of the day trying to escape the Michigan pass rush. When he did, and was able to throw, receivers dropped six passes.

McNown kept throwing, finishing with eight completions in 27 passes for only 39 yards. His final pass was intercepted by Michigan's Rob Swett, a second-string linebacker.

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