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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

Second-Rate at Texas A&M, He Is Now Second in Nation

October 13, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Who would have thought Bob Toledo would ever owe R.C. Slocum a favor?

Toledo was Slocum's offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, then became his fall guy and was fired after the Aggies lost three consecutive Cotton Bowl games.

But the score was evened, or so Toledo thought, when his UCLA Bruins beat Slocum's Aggies in last January's Cotton Bowl game.

Now Toledo finds himself beholden to Slocum after Texas A&M upset Nebraska, 28-21, Saturday, enabling the Bruins to advance from third to second in the polls.

So did Toledo rush out to send a congratulatory telegram to College Station?

Not exactly. In fact, one of his comments during his weekly press conference Monday could be interpreted as a dig at his former employer. The offense-minded Toledo and the defense-minded Slocum clashed while working side by side and absence apparently has not made them fonder of each other's philosophies.

"I wished they would have kept throwing it when they got ahead," Toledo said of the Aggies, who let Nebraska back into the game after leading in the fourth quarter, 28-7.

"I got a little nervous at the end when they got conservative."

Perhaps that was retribution for a couple of jabs Slocum took at Toledo after the Bruins' defense gave up 67 points in the first two games last season.

As it turned out, the best thing that ever happened to Toledo's career is that he got fired by Texas A&M. The best thing that ever happened to UCLA is that Gary Barnett turned down the job when Terry Donahue left.

Not even three full seasons later, the Bruins are fulfilling Toledo's promise that they some day would become a national championship contender.

I'm guessing he wouldn't have predicted it to be this day, not this soon.

He made it clear during his weekly news conference Monday that he doesn't want his players to focus on that. He wants them to focus on unbeaten, 11th-ranked Oregon, which plays UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

But the Bruins are too smart not to be aware that each game they play--as long as they continue their school-record, 14-game winning streak--has national championship implications.

If they finish the season ranked first or second according to complex calculations that include the polls, they will earn a berth in the championship game on Jan. 4 in the Fiesta Bowl.

"We'd like to compete for the national championship eventually," Toledo said. "Hopefully, it will be this year."

Besides opponents on the field, the Bruins will have to overcome critics off it, who believe others, such as No. 3 Tennessee or No. 4 Kansas State, are more deserving. They have a point when comparing common opponents because the Volunteers were more convincing against Houston and the Wildcats were more convincing against Texas than were the Bruins.

But Bruin Athletic Director Pete Dalis removed one excuse for pollsters not to vote for the Bruins on Monday when he agreed to reschedule the game against Miami for Dec. 5.

If the Bruins are in the national championship game, or in any bowl game for that matter, that also will give them a chance to play two weeks later than their regularly scheduled final regular-season game against USC on Nov. 21.

As a result, they would probably be more cohesive than they were in the first half of this year's Cotton Bowl game against Texas A&M.

*

Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone shouldn't be blamed for shooting high--Felipe Alou and Jim Leyland--and missing. . . .

Considering their personal circumstances, neither Alou nor Leyland seemed like a logical candidate for a move to Los Angeles. . . .

Yet, much to the surprise of Alou's family and friends in Montreal, Malone almost persuaded the Expo manager to become the Dodgers' third manager since June. . . .

Malone now should waste no more time before offering the job to former Boston and Texas manager Kevin Kennedy, a Woodland Hills native whose minor league teams during eight seasons in the Dodger organization finished an average of 20 games over .500. . . .

He also meets the most most important criterion of all for Malone's Dodgers. Kennedy worked in Montreal, spending a season as Alou's bench coach. . . .

Another important criterion: Kennedy wants the job. . . .

Hearsay: Malone is considering asking the Mets for permission to talk to Bobby Valentine. . . .

If Malone feels a need to risk further rejection, he should call the Giants about Dusty Baker. . . .

Giant General Manager Brian Sabean reportedly was waiting for the right time during the 1997 season to replace Baker with Jim Fregosi. It never came. . . .

Baker spoiled the plan by leading the Giants to the National League West title and becoming manager of the year. . . .

Now maybe he and Sabean have more bonds in common than Barry. . . .

But just in case Baker is available, Malone should check it out.

*

While wondering if the power outage at Notre Dame was Mother Nature's way of telling ABC she'd rather have seen the UCLA-Arizona game, I was thinking: Cleveland fans make it hard to cheer for the Indians even against the Yankees, I miss pro football until I see a game like the one the Raiders and Chargers played Sunday, I still can't get used to "Monday Afternoon Football."

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