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After Dayne Runs Them Over, They Beat Themselves Up : UCLA Conquered and Divided After Rose Bowl Defeat

SPORTS EXTRA: ROSE BOWL / WISCONSIN 38, UCLA 31 | Bruins
Badgered

January 02, 1999|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Wisconsin beat UCLA on Friday in the 85th Rose Bowl, and UCLA beat up UCLA.

A season that started with hopes of success and built into a 20-game winning streak and aspirations of a national championship ended for the Bruins on their home field in Pasadena, making it all the more a house divided.

They lost to Wisconsin and the power running of game most valuable player Ron Dayne, 38-31, before 93,872.

They also lost faith in one another.

"I think a lot of players are lacking heart," said Freddie Mitchell, who returned 3 1/2 months after breaking his leg. "It's not who's the strongest. It's who loves football and who wants to go out there and play."

To which tackle Kris Farris responded: "He might be on to something there. I'm not going to name names. There's a lot of guys giving everything they've got. Myself, I won't recover physically for a week. Freddie, [Danny] Farmer, [Cade] McNown--guys like that played their hearts out.

"One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. I'm not naming names. But some guys can play harder. Or else be more focused. I think it was a matter of focus."

Mitchell's comment was not met by universal agreement. Several players disagreed without hesitation.

But there were also the opponents who agreed. Cornerback Jamar Fletcher, whose 46-yard interception return for a touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter provided the insurmountable 38-28 lead for Wisconsin, called the Bruins soft and intimated they played without heart.

If nothing else, it offers a startling perspective as to how the UCLA season changed so dramatically in the last month.

From 10-0 to 0-2.

From thinking about a national championship, to not even winning the Rose Bowl championship, a final blow in what, save Arizona's victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, has been a disastrous postseason for the Pacific 10 Conference.

From being ranked No. 2 in the bowl championship series ratings and No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, to possibly falling out of the top 10.

It's not all solely because of attitude, if that's any consolation.

There was the little matter of the opponent.

Wisconsin came in as a 10-point underdog, but, more pointedly, as the team that supposedly should not have been here.

The common cry was that the Badgers were the third-best team in the Big Ten, awarded the trip only because of the tiebreaker clause that said the team from the conference that hadn't been to Pasadena in the longest time got to go.

CBS' Craig James said Wisconsin was the worst team to ever play in the Rose Bowl.

Said Coach Barry Alvarez, after beating the Bruins in the game for the second time in five years:

"We're at least the second worst."

Wisconsin, of course, had every right to be playful.

The people of the state again had come in full support, drenching a little more than half the stadium in red and making so much noise at one end that UCLA, according to one rumor the local school, had trouble hearing McNown call out signals.

The team of the state then did them proud.

"I think we proved that we can play with the big boys," Fletcher said, "and are good enough to deserve to be in the Rose Bowl."

Said Alvarez: "That's why you play the games--to have wins like this when nobody thinks you can do it.

"I've taken the high road through all of this. I'm not trying to take this game and stick it down anybody's throat. I addressed my kids all year about making statements on the field. People can say whatever they want. It's what you do on the field that matters."

On this field--where the Bruins had not lost in just under 16 months, a run of 10 consecutive wins that dated to Sept. 6, 1997 and the fourth-quarter comeback against Tennessee that fell six points short--Wisconsin asserted itself from the beginning.

The Badgers' first play from scrimmage was a 10-yard run up the middle by Dayne.

The next two were seven-yard grinders by Dayne.

That opening possession ended in a punt, but the second resulted in a touchdown, a 54-yard dash by Dayne through a Bruin defense that at that stage was looking emotionally fragile in the wake of the Miami game and physically weak from a series of injuries. And when UCLA answered with its own score, on a 38-yard throw from McNown to Jermaine Lewis out of the backfield, Wisconsin came right back.

The drive lasted 85 yards, 10 plays and 4 minutes 59 seconds, capped by Dayne's sweep around the right side from the seven, after the Bruins appeared to have strung out the run and contained. This came two plays after the 52-yard pickup on the option by quarterback Mike Samuel, when UCLA missed a tackle in the backfield that would have kept the Badgers in their own territory.

That was typical. Not problems with the option--the Bruins were concerned about facing the offense for one of the few times, but weren't hurt much by it other than Samuel's run--but the missed tackles.

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