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UCLA Has Greatest Escape

College football: McNown finds Melsby for 61-yard score with 21 seconds left to beat Oregon State, 41-34.

November 08, 1998|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CORVALLIS, Ore. — UCLA is cutting it closer every week, but the Bruins remain unbeaten.

Cade McNown completed a 61-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Brad Melsby with 21 seconds left, giving the Bruins their 18th victory in a row, a 41-34 nail-biter over Oregon State on Saturday.

The game appeared headed to overtime after Joe Cortez kicked a 28-yard field goal to tie the score at 34 with 31 seconds left.

McNown completed 23 of 37 passes for 377 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bruins' efforts to climb back up in the polls--after falling to fourth in the coaches' rankings, third in the media's and third in the most important of all, the bowl championship series standings--received a major boost before the end of the first quarter. That's when Michigan State finished its upset of Ohio State in Columbus, knocking the Buckeyes from the ranks of the undefeated and clearing the way for UCLA (8-0, 6-0 in Pacific 10) to move up.

Whether the Bruins could capitalize was another matter. Looking to regain the look of an offensive powerhouse after scoring 28 points each of the last two weeks, they jumped to a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter on a 21-yard field goal by Chris Sailer followed by DeShaun Foster's seven-yard run on the next possession.

But Oregon State responded, an especially positive sign considering it was coming off consecutive one-point losses that had dropped it to 4-5, leaving even Coach Mike Riley wondering if his players were emotionally wounded. The Beavers were within 17-10 at halftime, then went ahead, 24-17, when Jason Dandridge went 33 yards around left end with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter. It was Dandridge's second score, following his 38-yarder in the second period.

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