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Forde Has Bruins' Vote as Gifted Leader

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 8

Defense: End breaks up five passes and makes seven tackles, including one on screen play to stall Beavers' opening drive.

October 19, 1997|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UCLA senior defensive end Weldon Forde hopes to enter politics after his football career.

If Forde runs his campaign as well as he helped run the Bruin defense in Saturday's 34-10 victory over Oregon State at the Rose Bowl, he shouldn't have any trouble getting elected.

"I've always wanted to go into politics," Forde said as he walked through the tunnel that leads to the locker room, working the crowd like a politician as he accepted congratulations from well-wishers.

"I want to run for something. I wouldn't mind being the mayor or governor a few years down the road."

With UCLA's offense stuck in neutral, Forde jump-started the Bruins, preventing a touchdown on the Beavers' opening drive when he stopped a third-down screen pass from quarterback Tim Alexander to tight end Joe Kuykendall on third and nine from the Bruin 15.

Forde read the play perfectly, holding Kuykendall for a four-yard gain to force a field-goal attempt.

"They let me in too easy and I recognized it," Forde said. "I saw the tight end stand behind the offensive lineman on the right side and I read the play and ran over and made the tackle."

UCLA free safety Shaun Williams, who had a team-high eight tackles, said it was one of the key plays of the game.

"Weldon is like a little rabbit," Williams said. "He's always around the ball. He's so quick that he annoys offenses."

Forde, who made seven tackles, registered an eight-yard sack and broke up five passes as UCLA's defense shut down the Beavers.

Forde said the Bruins were motivated to demonstrate they have a better defense than the Beavers, who went into the game ranked 19th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 15 points a game.

"Everyone talked about how aggressive Oregon State's defense was," Forde said. "It was time to prove who was the best defense.

"As far as creating turnovers we're No. 1 in the nation, but statistically we aren't No. 1 or No. 2, so teams feel that they can come in here and run the ball on us, and today we wanted to prove to everyone that we can stop the run and force them to pass and be aggressive."

The Bruins limited the Beavers, who went into the game averaging 114 yards on the ground, to 32 yards.

Free safety Larry Atkins also played a key role as the Bruins extended their winning streak to five, blocking a 54-yard field-goal attempt by Beaver kicker Jose Cortez at the end of the second quarter.

Atkins, a candidate for the Jim Thorpe award, presented to the nation's best defensive back, intercepted a third-quarter pass by Tyler Tomich that was intended for Greg Ainsworth, recovered a fumble and made two sacks for 23 yards.

"Early on in the game it was kind of a struggle," Atkins said. "Oregon State kept making plays but later on we took control and made some plays and got some turnovers."

Atkins intercepted four passes in the Bruins' first three games and recovered a fumble in the fourth, but hadn't made any big plays in the Bruins' last two games.

"Larry Atkins is one of the best athletes on our team," UCLA Coach Bob Toledo said.

If Atkins is one of the Bruins' best athletes, Forde may be the most versatile.

Forde, a fifth-year senior, played almost every position except quarterback before finding a home at defensive end.

A nose guard when he came to UCLA from Redlands High, Forde was moved all over the Bruin defense.

"I've played it all since I've been here," Forde said. "I think at last count I've been moved 11 times. I think my redshirt freshman year I played fullback for a week. I played inside and outside linebacker, nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end.

"I really wanted to prove to people that I'm versatile. I think that gives the offense problems because they don't know what I'm going to do, whether I'm going to rush the passer or drop back in coverage.

"In my early years I just wanted to find a place to fit in. I think with this game I've finally made my mark on the defense."

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