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The Breeze Feels Good to Bruins

UCLA: Paus has big first half and special teams do job in 43-7 rout of San Diego State.

September 29, 2002|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Air Paus sounds like an airline with frequent flight delays, but Saturday it got UCLA to its destination--an untroubled place where big plays are made on third down, points come easily and victory is secure by halftime.

A more pleasant location would be hard to imagine one week after getting manhandled by Colorado and one week before beginning Pacific 10 Conference play.

UCLA throttled San Diego State, 43-7, in front of 33,610 at Qualcomm Stadium and will visit No. 23 Oregon State with a 3-1 record.

"A lot of people didn't expect us to be in this position going into Pac-10 play," said Coach Bob Toledo, who received a pat on the back from UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale after the game.

"After getting beat, we were on a mission, and we accomplished the mission."

The Bruins grounded the vaunted Air Craft attack of first-year Aztec Coach Tom Craft while unleashing their own aerial assault under the direction of sometimes pedestrian passer Cory Paus.

The senior quarterback tossed touchdown passes of 37 yards to Craig Bragg and 64 yards to Mike Seidman in a 26-point second quarter that made the halftime score a lopsided 33-7.

"The first half was really what the teams are," Craft said. "They were better than us in every area."

Playing behind a line missing injured senior tackle Mike Saffer, Paus completed 12 of 21 for 216 yards before exiting for good in the third quarter. Seidman, who has become increasingly vocal about having the ball thrown to him, had six catches for 134 yards, both career bests.

The only complaint Paus lodged was about the firmness of the dual-use field--especially the dirt infield that cut a swath from the five-yard line to the 50 on one end.

"It's so hard, I can't believe the Padres play baseball on it," he said.

But like his teammates, the quarterback got right back up after taking a tumble. The Bruins, haunted by the memory of four consecutive losses after a 6-0 start last season, were determined to bounce back after falling hard to Colorado.

Instead, it was San Diego State (0-5) that continued its tailspin, not only remaining winless this season but winless in 18 tries against UCLA.

Aztec officials are campaigning to gain entry into the Pac-10, but the team must improve to get serious consideration. This was San Diego State's 13th consecutive loss to the Pac-10.

Quarterback Adam Hall came in leading the nation with 1,621 yards passing, but he was held to 183 yards, completing 16 of 34. He had two passes intercepted and was sacked four times.

"It was challenging and I made some bad reads," he said.

The Bruin rallying cry on defense was "get off the field," which the players screamed every time the Aztecs lined up on third down. San Diego State converted only three of 15 third-down plays.

"That was our plan, to fly around and make plays, especially on third down," cornerback Matt Ware said. "We wanted to get off the field and let our offense and special teams make plays."

Early on, Hall tried to pick on Ware, who moved from free safety to cornerback because he is taller than other Bruin corners. But Ware stuck close to 6-foot-2 J.R. Tolver and 6-5 Kassim Osgood, Aztec receivers who came into the game ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the nation.

"They were saying to me, 'You think you're a corner, you're just a safety,' " Ware said. "But I felt comfortable out there."

Comfort threatened to become lethargy in the second half, but Bruin energy was sparked by 40 reserves getting to play. The last touchdown came on a 15-play, 71-yard drive in the fourth quarter engineered solely by freshmen at the skill positions.

The running game was strong throughout. Although starting tailback Akil Harris struggled for the second game in a row, Manuel White gained 76 yards in 14 carries and had a 29-yard run nullified by a penalty.

Freshman quarterback Drew Olson replaced Paus for a series in the second quarter after a safety caused by a poor punt snap by the Aztecs extended the lead to 23-0. The Bruins punted after three plays and the Aztecs promptly scored.

Paus returned on the next possession, connecting with Seidman on a deep post for the 64-yard touchdown.

"That's the play that worked in spring and fall practice," Paus said. "It's good to do it in a ballgame."

The Bruin special teams were as high-flying as the offense and defense. The first touchdown--a bruising four-yard run by White--came two plays after middle linebacker Marcus Reese intercepted a pass at the six.

UCLA forced five turnovers, ranging from an interception by senior cornerback Ricky Manning to a fumble recovery by walk-on defensive lineman Matt Kocher, who was in the game because he grew up in San Diego.

Special teams, a weakness going into the season, contributed in a variety of ways.

* A punt by Nate Fikse was downed at the San Diego State three-yard line midway through the first quarter and Reese made his interception three plays later. Fikse, who had been either shanking punts or booming them into the end zone, placed three inside the 20.

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