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UCLA REPORT

Rotstein Benefits From Northwestern Kicking Woes

December 31, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

EL PASO — Filling in for suspended starter Justin Medlock, UCLA freshman Jimmy Rotstein did not attempt a field goal, but he made all five extra-point attempts in his first action of the season.

Rotstein said it helped him to see Northwestern struggle with its kicking game. The Wildcats missed two extra-point attempts and had one field-goal try blocked. It got so frustrating for Northwestern that Wildcat Coach Randy Walker opted against a field-goal attempt from the UCLA four-yard line on the final play of the half and the Bruins leading, 29-22.

"I felt bad for them, but it made it a little bit easier for me," Rotstein said. "It wasn't necessarily a confidence boost, but it did help."

Fellow non-scholarship freshman Brian Malette handled kickoff duties and made an extra point in the fourth quarter.

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Junior Maurice Drew left the field in the first quarter after suffering a mild left-shoulder separation but returned to the game and finished as the NCAA-record holder for punt-return average in a season.

Drew, who returned one punt for 20 yards in the second half Friday, averaged 28.4 yards per return, breaking the mark of 25.9 yards set by Bill Blackstock of Tennessee in 1951.

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Nathaniel Skaggs played throughout the regular season at defensive tackle but started at center Friday. After a rocky start, Skaggs appeared solid, helping UCLA rush for 310 yards, the most in a game since the Bruins rushed for 424 against Washington in 2004.

"Coming into the game, I didn't know what to exactly expect," said Skaggs, who stepped up with Mike McCloskey and Robert Chai sidelined because of injuries. "Eventually after the first series, I got my nerves back and did what I had to do."

Another lineman who played well after a shaky beginning was tackle Noah Sutherland, whose missed block led to an interception return for a touchdown.

"I just had to refocus," said Sutherland, who started for the third time this season. "We felt that the way they played defense, we should be able to run. Once we settled down and started to work, we were able to do that."

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Senior wide receiver Junior Taylor, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in September, said he will sit out spring practice but will be back next season.

"It's great to see us end the season with a bowl victory and 10 wins, but it was awfully difficult because I wanted to be a part of it so much," said Taylor, who will redshirt. "I had worked so hard during the off-season, figuring that this would be my last year. Now, I just want to go out on the same type of note next season."

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UCLA set a Sun Bowl record for most points in a game by a single team at 50, breaking the mark of 47 set by Texas El Paso in 1955. Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez completed 38 passes and had 448 yards of total offense, both Sun Bowl records.

The crowd of 50,139 ranks as the fourth highest in Sun Bowl history. UCLA's 22-point comeback is the largest in Sun Bowl history. The teams combined for a Sun Bowl record 1,037 yards. Northwestern's 584 total yards in the game are also a Sun Bowl record.

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UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero on Coach Karl Dorrell: "We've seen this script pretty much all year long. ... For those kids to bounce back the way they have done all season is indicative of great leadership and great character on this team. It is very gratifying to see Karl and his team win 10 games in his third year when most people pretty much counted him out coming out of the gate. I'm very proud of him, the coaching staff and our players."

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UCLA senior cornerback Marcus Cassel on Basanez, who was 38 of 70 for 416 yards: "He's really good. If he played in the Pac-10, he would be one of the league's top quarterbacks."

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