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College Football | UCLA REPORT

Wait Is Worth It for Fikse

October 27, 2002|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

Nate Fikse kept waiting for his turn.

For more than three seasons.

When the UCLA punter finally got a chance to add kicking duties to his job description Saturday, he made sure he made good on it.

Fikse kicked five field goals, the most by a UCLA kicker since Chris Sailer -- Fikse's mentor and private coach -- kicked five against Washington in 1998. (The school record is six, set by John Lee against San Diego State in 1984.)

"What did he have, five field goals?" running back Tyler Ebell said. "He did a great job."

Watching UCLA line up for field-goal attempts has almost become more suspenseful than Coach Bob Toledo and Bruin fans could stand this season.

Chris Griffith, a senior starter who missed only three field goals a season the last two years, already had missed six, going eight for 14 and struggling with low trajectory and blocked kicks.

Toledo tried to stick with Griffith to bolster his confidence, but finally said OK to Fikse's pleas for a chance.

"They gave me a chance in the past, but Griff beat me out throughout the years," Fikse said. "Then again, he's not having one of his better years like he usually has. I want to help this team. I know he does too. I just wanted to get a shot."

He got plenty.

Fikse's first kick was from 36 yards. Good.

Then from 22 and 19. Good, and good again.

Another from 23.

And to finish the day, a 44-yarder that gave UCLA a 10-point lead with 4 1/2 minutes left.

"It's always good to start off short so I can get a feel for it," said Fikse, whose only previous field-goal attempt at UCLA was a missed 55-yarder against Colorado this season.

"I haven't done it in three or four years, since high school. And that 44-yarder was just awesome. It felt so good."

Fikse also handled the kickoff and punting duties, averaging 43.8 yards a punt with a long of 56.

Never did he imagine five field goals in a 28-18 victory over Stanford.

"Toward the end of the game, I was starting to feel a little cramping up. I just tried to stay warm and stretch," said Fikse, a senior from Anaheim Esperanza High.

Fikse said he feels confident kicking from as far as 45 or 50 yards. (He made a 56-yard kick in high school.)

But he also knows where a kicker's bread is buttered.

"I think 35 yards and in is pretty automatic -- it should be automatic," Fikse said.

He figures to get the call again next week at Washington, when he and Griffith will be friendly but slightly awkward roommates on the road.

"It's hard you know, but he's been supportive," Fikse said.

"He's been fine, and I think he'll be back."

*

UCLA's comeback after trailing, 15-0, in the second quarter marked the Bruins' biggest turnaround since coming back from a 21-0 deficit to beat Arizona State, 38-31, in 2000.

*

UCLA sacked Stanford quarterback Kyle Matter six times, including two by linebacker Brandon Chillar.

Defensive end Dave Ball had one, and has at least one sack in six consecutive games.

The defensive effort was led by the starting linebackers -- Chillar, Marcus Reese and Spencer Havner -- who combined for 34 tackles.

"We just played aggressive," Reese said. "With a freshman quarterback, we don't have a margin for error. We've got to play like this from now on with a young quarterback playing."

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