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College Football Week 8

Lewis Passes on the Run, and the Ruse Flies

UCLA: Back teams with little-used freshman Dubravac on 30-yard option play for clinching points.

October 25, 1998|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY — When the ball is in his hands, UCLA tailback Jermaine Lewis usually grabs it and runs, not caring if it's upside-down, sideways, laces up or laces down.

But in the fourth quarter Saturday against California, Lewis took a moment to shift the ball to get precisely the grip he wanted. Because this time, he wasn't running with it. Instead, he was running an option play the Bruins had practiced several times last week, with mixed results.

"The ball was wet from the field," he said, "and I was just getting it kind of perfect in my hand. I wanted to hold it with the laces up, just like they teach you."

Lewis learned his passing lessons well. Seeing the Bears' secondary anticipate a running play after Cade McNown handed him the ball, Lewis threw a perfect spiral to freshman wide receiver Jon Dubravac, who slipped behind Drae Harris and was wide open for the 30-yard touchdown that clinched the Bruins' 28-16 victory over the Bears at Memorial Stadium.

"It was like dreams come true," Lewis said.

Said Dubravac: "It was a big play. Really, it was one of many big plays."

There were many key moments for the Bruins, including the second-quarter touchdown Lewis scored with a conventional 13-yard run against a scrappy Cal defense. And the two goal-line stands by the Bruin defense were no less crucial to the team's 16th consecutive victory. "We just kept pounding on the rock, and it broke," Lewis said.

Nothing broke the Bears' spirit like the success of the Lewis-Dubravac combination.

"That was one of the plays we wanted to save for the second half," said Coach Bob Toledo, who delights in trying at least one trick play each week. "We talked about it at halftime and probably practiced it a half-dozen times during the course of the week."

If Lewis was an unlikely passer, Dubravac was an even more unlikely receiver.

Dubravac had caught only one pass for six yards in his previous five games. That could have made him nervous and worked against him Saturday, or it could have worked in his favor, because the Bears wouldn't have expected him to be a factor and might not have known how to play him.

If the shock value of having Dubravac catch the pass was crucial to the Bruins' strategy, they wouldn't say.

"Maybe not. Maybe that was part of it," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "But Jon's a good player, and we need to get him involved. Maybe that was the start to getting him involved."

Lewis had overthrown Dubravac once when they tried it last week, but he was confident it would work Saturday when they tried it 1:07 into the final quarter with UCLA leading, 21-16. Dubravac, however, had a few more doubts.

"It wasn't quite as perfect in practice," Dubravac said, laughing. "We had the play designed for a certain defense and they had a totally different defense. Jermaine had to do some adjustments, and so did I.

"The way it was supposed to go, there was supposed to be a safety in the middle of the field and I was supposed to be in the middle. They blitzed him and they bit on the run. [Harris] was with me step for step, and all of a sudden he wasn't there anymore."

The touchdown reception was Dubravac's first for the Bruins and his first since last year, when he was a senior at Mullen High in Denver. He had almost forgotten how to celebrate in the end zone.

"It's been a while," he said. "Once I got there, it came back to me."

Lewis had returned to the Bruins' lineup last week after serving a one-game suspension for his involvement in an off-campus fight. He had a so-so performance in the Bruins' 41-38 overtime victory over Oregon, carrying the ball seven times for 15 yards and one touchdown, and should have romped Saturday against a Cal team that isn't particularly effective against the rush and had given up an average of 159.2 rushing yards a game before facing UCLA.

That Lewis' big moment involved his passing prowess rather than his running was surprising. Still, he didn't care how the Bruins victimized the Bears' defense, as long as the Bruins won.

"That's adversity that championship teams have to overcome," said Lewis, who had 18 carries for 60 yards. "We're fortunate that we overcame it and kept our heads on straight and just kept on rolling."

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