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This UCLA Victory Has a Callow Ring to It

Freshman quarterback Moore is solid, new kicker Fikse has five field goals in 28-18 win over Stanford.

October 27, 2002|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Who could have expected better, really?

Confined by his coach's cautious play-calling, the freshman quarterback from Newhall Hart High was under constant pressure, couldn't make plays and his team frittered away an early lead and lost.

But the conservative coach wasn't Bob Toledo.

The harried quarterback wasn't Matt Moore.

And the team that let the lead slip away was not UCLA.

The Bruins, instead, followed a horrendous first five minutes with 55 stellar ones and defeated Stanford, 28-18, Saturday at the Rose Bowl before an antsy crowd of 54,116. The moment it was clear UCLA was a winner, fans streamed for the exits and their tailgate televisions in time to catch the Angels' comeback in Game 6 of the World Series.

Meanwhile, in the locker room, UCLA felt new life. The victory ended a two-game skid and kept the Bruins (5-3, 2-2) believing they can qualify for a bowl game.

"We can still do some nice things," receiver Craig Bragg said. "We're definitely shooting for a bowl game. That would be great. You get some cool gifts and stuff."

UCLA was in a gift-giving mood early, losing two fumbles that led to Stanford touchdowns and allowing a bad snap on a PAT kick to turn into a two-point conversion pass and a 15-0 deficit.

Cardinal quarterback Kyle Matter, a redshirt freshman and former Hart teammate of Moore, completed two passes for 28 yards on a short scoring drive that followed a muffed punt by Bruin Tyler Ebell one minute into the game.

And when a center snap skidded past Moore and was scooped up in the end zone by Stanford lineman Julian Jenkins four minutes later, it appeared UCLA was in for a long day.

"We were worried, but we were trusting each other," cornerback Ricky Manning said. "We stayed strong mentally and didn't even consider the scoreboard."

Call it mind over matter.

And Moore over Matter.

Thrust into action Saturday because of injuries last week to Cory Paus and Drew Olson, the UCLA quarterback was error free. He completed only seven of 19 passes for 142 yards, but had no interceptions, no fumbles and is 1-0 as a starter.

Toledo had indicated he would play it close to the vest, but he gave his youngster more freedom than Stanford Coach Buddy Teevens gave Matter, who started because of a shoulder injury to Chris Lewis.

Toledo called four passes in a five-play sequence that led to the Bruins' first touchdown early in the second quarter. Moore hit Tab Perry on a look-in route for a 38-yard gain, then threw a lateral to Ebell, whose long pass to tight end Mike Seidman resulted in pass interference.

After an incomplete pass, Moore found Seidman in the end zone from 22 yards.

"Coach Toledo didn't hold back on the play-calling, and that pumped me up," Moore said.

On a first-down play later in the quarter, Moore threw deep to Perry for a 49-yard gain that led to the second of Nate Fikse's five field goals and cut Stanford's lead to 18-13 at halftime.

Ebell took over from there, rushing for 118 of his 160 yards in the second half and bouncing off defenders to score on an 18-yard run that put UCLA ahead, 22-18.

Meanwhile, Matter's day dissolved. UCLA hounded him with man blitzes, a departure from the zone blitzes defensive coordinator Phil Snow normally favors. Matter was sacked six times and forced to run another nine times.

He scrambled well, actually, but it is a credit to the Bruin defense that Stanford's longest play of the game was a 22-yard Matter dash. He completed only 10 of 22 passes for 75 yards and had a fourth-quarter throw intercepted by Manning.

Manning and the other Bruin cornerback, Matt Ware, shut down receivers Teyo Johnson and Luke Powell.

"The man blitzing doesn't work unless the cornerbacks can play," Snow said. "Manning and Ware changed the whole game."

Stanford (2-5, 1-3) gained a paltry 97 yards in the second half and penetrated deep into Bruin territory only once on a drive that ended with a missed field goal.

Manning's interception led to a 23-yard field goal that extended the lead to 25-18, and tackle Ryan Boschetti and reserve safety Kevin Brant made a big play on Stanford's next possession, stopping tailback Keith Carter on fourth and one from the Stanford 29 with 6:23 to play.

UCLA took possession and Fikse, who took over kicking duties this week, made his fifth field goal, 45 yards, with 4:25 left.

Afterward, the effusive Ebell was doing the talking. And Moore was the topic.

Speaking with the wisdom gained from three starts and four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, Ebell said the quarterback was "cool, calm and collected. He had the three C's going."

The same could be said for Toledo, who smiled while talking to Moore on the sideline even when his team trailed, 15-0.

"They took advantage of some mistakes early but we didn't alter our game plan," Toledo said. "You've got to credit the players. Especially with a freshman quarterback in there, we might have gone belly up. But we just kept playing."

UCLA is 4-1 when the opposing team has scored first. So falling behind wasn't unfamiliar territory.

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