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FOR UCLA TO WIN

'Anything Can Happen'

In a fantasy world, the Bruins play a perfect game, get all the breaks and pull off the upset of the year.

November 22, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

USC quarterback Matt Leinart drops back for his first pass in the Coliseum today, UCLA defensive end Mat Ball bull rushes over Trojan right tackle Winston Justice and drills Leinart with a vicious blind-side hit that knocks Leinart out of the game.

John David Booty replaces Leinart, and it's clear he's not ready to handle the pressure of the USC-UCLA rivalry. The flustered freshman's first pass is picked off by Bruin safety Jarrad Page and returned for a touchdown.

The Trojans don't think much of it -- they're 22-point favorites, right? -- but the Bruins begin to think maybe this will be their day.

Booty's throws are off target, so he begins handing off exclusively to the Trojans' three tailbacks, Hershel Dennis, LenDale White and Reggie Bush. UCLA, with its strong front four and superb linebacker corps, puts eight men in the box and stuffs the USC running game, daring Booty to throw.

USC has no choice but to oblige, but Booty is so shaky he can't even complete a short out to Mike Williams. Bruin quarterback Drew Olson, meanwhile, makes like Don Larsen, throwing a perfect game.

He completes short passes over the middle to Marcedes Lewis, quick outs to Ryan Smith, medium-range passes to Craig Bragg. No passes are dropped. No passes are intercepted.

UCLA's offensive linemen make like Jonathan Ogden for a day, giving Olson all the time he needs and opening holes for tailbacks Maurice Drew and Tyler Ebell. There are no fumbles.

UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell and offensive coordinator Steve Axman, knowing they have nothing to lose, get a little creative with their play-calling.

They throw on first down, on third and eight. They pitch the ball to their tailbacks around the outside. They run draw plays. They throw screen passes -- to running backs and receivers. They run a reverse.

Drew's short touchdown run caps a long drive that gives UCLA a 14-0 second-quarter lead. Though USC kicks two field goals before halftime, the Bruins enter their locker room brimming with confidence.

UCLA freshman Justin Medlock's second-half kickoff goes out of the end zone, eliminating any chance of the Trojans returning it for a touchdown. The Bruins start to believe in miracles.

Medlock kicks a field goal early in the third quarter for a 17-6 UCLA lead, and the Coliseum -- at least the side decked out in cardinal and gold -- grows quiet and concerned. The Trojans, knowing they need a victory to keep their national championship hopes alive, start to press.

USC Coach Pete Carroll pulls Booty for Brandon Hance, and the Trojans rally for an early fourth-quarter touchdown to make it 17-13. UCLA goes three-and-out on its next possession, and Chris Kluwe's punt goes ... out of bounds. Amazingly, the Bruin punt team does not give up a touchdown.

The Trojans have three more possessions in the fourth quarter, but the UCLA defense, the pride of the Bruins all season, holds.

Inside linebacker Brandon Chillar doesn't miss a tackle, middle linebacker Justin London is all over the field, outside linebacker Spencer Havner picks off a pass. Tackles Rodney Leisle and Ryan Boschetti clog the running lanes, and end Dave Ball comes up with two key sacks, the final on fourth down with a minute left.

UCLA runs out the clock, and the Bruins' mediocre season is salvaged by one of the greatest upsets in recent college football history.

Hey, it could happen.

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