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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 10

Paus' Improv Is No Joke

College football: His 13-yard scramble with 48 seconds to play beats Arizona and ends UCLA's road losing streak, 27-24.

October 29, 2000|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TUCSON — With the game and maybe the season on the line, Cory Paus transformed himself.

"I just started running," Paus said. "I did my best impersonation of Ortege Jenkins."

Jenkins, the Arizona quarterback, bedeviled the Bruins all afternoon with his ability to scramble, to make something out of nothing. But it was Paus, the UCLA quarterback with the strong arm but not the fleet feet, who scrambled for the improbable touchdown with 48 seconds to play that sent the Bruins home as 27-24 winners Saturday.

The demons, and the Wildcats, were chasing Paus as he took off from the Arizona 13-yard-line. Could the Bruins (5-3 overall, 2-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference) snap a two-game losing streak? Could they snap an eight-game road losing streak? Could they come from behind yet again? Could they play as if they deserved a bowl bid?

Moral victories would be of no use. By his own admission, Paus had been erratic all day, bordering on awful at times. The Wildcats (5-3, 3-2) led 24-20 with 1:41 left, and Paus had marched the Bruins from their 34 to the Arizona 37. On fourth down and four, with the Wildcats blitzing, he hit Freddie Mitchell across the middle for 19 yards.

"Freddie just ran a great route," Paus said. "That was the play of the game as far as I was concerned."

After an incomplete pass, a penalty and another incomplete pass, Paus faced third down from the Arizona 13. Mitchell, the intended target, slipped. He wasn't open. And the Wildcats had called a defense that fooled the Bruins, so the alternate receivers weren't easily spotted.

"Busted play," Mitchell said. "Jenkins was doing busted plays the whole game. That was the reason they were in the game. We were due for a busted play."

Instinct kicked in, and Paus took off. Offensive lineman Mike Saffer didn't really know what was happening or what he could do to help.

"He just tucked it in and started running," Saffer said. "All I could do was run after him and start cheering."

On the UCLA sideline, two thoughts immediately darted into the head of Coach Bob Toledo: Get down, and call time. Paus nearly left the game in the fourth quarter after landing hard on his right shoulder, the same one he separated in the season opener, and Toledo feared another injury that would force the Bruins to try one last pass with backup Scott McEwan, who had been warming up but hadn't thrown a pass in a game in two months.

"That last play by Cory was phenomenal," Toledo said.

Paus saw the goal line, and nothing else. He said he had no idea who threw the key block, who blocked for him at all, and who almost tackled him from behind by yanking at his jersey as he shoved forward into the end zone.

"I reached for the goal line," he said. "I had to put the ball over the goal line."

Said Arizona Coach Dick Tomey: "We had him on the last run. We needed one play today."

Paus needed that one play too, and he wanted it more. "I'm excited we won, and I'm excited I scored the winning touchdown," he said, "but this can't happen again.

"I was killing us all day. It definitely wasn't the rest of the team. I just didn't play well."

A brutally honest assessment, and uncomfortably close to the truth. When the UCLA defenders swarmed around Jenkins, he scrambled out of trouble or threw the ball away. When the Arizona defenders swarmed around Paus, he did neither, at least until that last drive.

On the Bruins' third play from scrimmage, Paus was about to be sacked when he threw the ball anyway, and Arizona defensive tackle Keoni Fraser intercepted and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown. In the second quarter, Paus was about to be sacked when he threw the ball anyway, and Arizona cornerback Jermaine Chatman stepped in front of Brian Poli-Dixon for an interception that led to the second Wildcats' touchdown.

Later in the quarter, on the drive that preceded the Wildcats' third touchdown, Paus finally threw a ball away before he could be sacked, but so blatantly that officials cited him for intentional grounding.

With a little help from his friends, the Bruins survived. The same defense that given up 604 yards and 44 points to Oregon State seven days before righted itself, holding Arizona to 316 yards and 24 points. Although Jenkins pestered the Bruins by rushing for 104 yards, the UCLA defense trumped him by intercepting him four times.

In the second half, the Wildcats scored three points. Cornerback Ricky Manning terminated consecutive Arizona drives with interceptions, including one at the UCLA goal line.

Paus finished 19 of 35 for 230 yards. He passed for one touchdown, but the one he ran for was the talk of the team.

"Cory's a special player. He's got the heart of a lion," Poli-Dixon said.

Before the Bruins left their hotel, the coaches worked the players into a lather by showing them a highlight reel of hard hits. At the end, Poli-Dixon said, this question flashed across the screen: "Who Will Be The Gladiator Today? Auditions, 4 p.m., Arizona Stadium."

So how did Paus do in his audition?

"I think he'll get a callback," Poli-Dixon said.

*

The Story Is Defense

Maligned group comes up big for Bruins. D13

Huskies Escape

Washington needs big drive to beat Stanford. D15

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