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Fumbles are just a drop in bucket for Bell

Tailback recovers from two early turnovers to run for two touchdowns, helping UCLA rally to victory.

September 30, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Where the football went, Kahlil Bell didn't know. UCLA quarterback Ben Olson had put it in his midsection, Bell said. Then the football was gone and Oregon State's Al Afalava had recovered.

First play of the game and Bell fumbled.

Wait. It gets worse.

The Bruins hold Oregon State, not so much with their own great work but because Beavers kicker Alexis Serna misses a 45-yard field-goal try.

When UCLA gets the ball back, Bell's No. 36 is immediately called again.

Ball into his gut. Feet start to move. Oregon State left end Dorian Smith whacks the ball out of Bell's hands. Afalava, a junior from Inglewood, picks up the bouncing ball and happily high-steps all the way to the end zone.

This Bell fumble cost the Bruins seven points.

Things did get better for Bell -- but it took a while, just as it took a while for the Bruins to outscore Oregon State, 40-14, Saturday at Reser Stadium.

"I can't remember ever doing that," Bell said after UCLA had overcome not only his two turnovers but countless false-start penalties, illegal-formation penalties and other sloppy mistakes that should make a team lose.

"Fumbling on my first two touches? I don't have any idea how it happened. All I know is that it happened and it was all my fault."

This wasn't a game for the winners to brag about. It wasn't a game for Bell to brag about, not even after he gained 80 yards and scored two touchdowns.

"It wasn't good for me," Bell said. "It wasn't the best I've ever done and I don't think anybody on the team can say that. But here's what I have to say: My teammates didn't give up on me."

After Bell fumbled the first time, fellow tailback Chris Markey patted him on the back. "I was trying to stay away from everybody, but no one would let me be alone," Bell said.

"Look, we all make mistakes," Markey said. "Kahlil made two big ones off the bat, but we all told him he couldn't get down on himself. We were going to need him at some point."

That point came in the third quarter, when UCLA was behind, 14-6, and looking seriously at a loss.

The Bruins recovered a fumble by Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield at the Beavers' five-yard line, after a Reggie Carter sack. Bell rushed three times for three yards, including a one-yard touchdown that Bell described, sheepishly rather than proudly, by saying, "I held onto the ball pretty tight."

If that scoring drive wasn't spectacular, consider that UCLA finished another third-quarter possession by advancing to the Oregon State nine-yard line before two false-start penalties brought the Bruins to third and 11, after which Olson threw a pass that was intercepted.

Or that on their first drive in the fourth quarter the Bruins were penalized for a false start and delay of game, after which a discombobulated Olson got sacked.

"That's the thing," Markey said. "You can't just get on Kahlil for fumbling. There were a lot of mistakes we overcame."

Bell's second touchdown put the Bruins ahead, 26-14, and if Bell didn't feel the two touchdowns erased the two fumbles, Markey said they proved something about Bell.

"He didn't quit on himself," Markey said. "Sometimes you feel like it. He didn't quit, this team didn't quit. If you keep playing, good things can happen."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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