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Craft has last-minute plans in Bruins' win

He leads 87-yard drive and a TD pass to Harkey with 10 seconds left beats Stanford, 23-20.

October 19, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

The UCLA brain trust was formulating the plan on its sideline Saturday. Quarterback Kevin Craft and Coach Rick Neuheisel were scheming. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow was sending his two cents down from the press box.

There were 16 seconds left on the clock at the Rose Bowl. The ball was seven yards from the end zone. The Bruins needed a touchdown to win.

Meanwhile, the meat-and-potatoes bunch waited on the field. Guard Micah Reed wrapped his arms around the other offensive linemen and squeezed.

"I told those guys, this was a moment we could look back on down the line," Reed said.

If hindsight is 20-20, Reed's foresight turned out to be 23-20 -- the numbers favoring UCLA on the scoreboard at the end.

Craft scrambled to his right and flipped a pass to Cory Harkey, who was in the back of the end zone.

"Micah told us," guard Scott Glicksberg said. "This was a chance to move forward as a team. This makes it easier to believe in what we're doing and keep doing it."

Looking ahead was easier with this game behind them. Stanford threatened to dominate while UCLA seemed willing to squander opportunities. Yet, when turn-tail-and-run moments arrived, the Bruins stood their ground.

Stanford running back Toby Gerhart had chewed up the UCLA defense, churning out 138 yards rushing. But the Bruins stopped him one yard short of a first down with 2:34 left. "I knew he was short because I was sitting on his head and looking," linebacker Reggie Carter said.

Stanford settled for a 29-yard Aaron Zagory field goal and a 20-16 lead.

Craft had nearly played his way out of the game in the first half, then validated his No. 1 status by driving UCLA 87 yards, completing six of seven passes for 60 yards, on the final drive.

"There are a lot of things that have to be addressed on both sides of the ball," Neuheisel said. "But for at least the next few hours we're going to focus on the resiliency of these young men."

By winning, the Bruins were able to spin bowl-eligible possibilities. They walked away with a 2-2 record in Pacific 10 Conference play and a 3-4 overall record. The Cardinal is 4-4 and 3-2.

"This gives us something to breathe for," Carter said. "I was thinking, if we lose this game, what are we going to go into the locker room and say? Your hopes and goals go down from there."

Carter paused and shook his head, "This gives us hope and energy to go on fighting."

The Bruins need three more victories to be bowl eligible, but three of their five remaining games are on the road, where UCLA has lost 12 of its last 15. The season finale against USC at the Rose Bowl also looms.

"There is a lot of work to be done," Neuheisel said.

Neuheisel can take note: The Bruins have their two-minute offense down.

Craft's multiple quarterback personalities were on display Saturday. He had one pass intercepted and three passes tipped at the line of scrimmage. That he was sacked seven times didn't help. That he dropped the ball on one made it worse, as the fumble led to a one-yard Gerhart touchdown run for a 14-3 Stanford lead in the second quarter.

At that point, Neuheisel was leaning toward pulling Craft but said, "Norm [Chow] calmed me down."

Craft drove the Bruins 88 yards -- with Stanford providing 33 in penalties -- in the last 2:30 of the half to set up a Kai Forbath 19-yard field goal that cut the Cardinal lead to 14-6.

"I don't know," Chow said when asked about Craft's inconsistency. "I hate to say I'm not sure, but for some reason he starts really slow and it's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. He thinks he's going to start slow, then he goes out and starts slow."

Chow began moving Craft out of the pocket and he finished by completing 23 of 39 for 285 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception.

"Craft gets it done in those pressure situations," Carter said. "We had two minutes left. When there is 15 minutes left, then you worry. But when he has only two minutes, he's going to get it done."

The defense bought him those two minutes.

Stanford's game plan was simple. The Cardinal went with a run-and-run-again offense, throwing only 13 passes. Stanford had 250 yards rushing, but it also had 103 yards in penalties and three turnovers.

The Bruins' defense held when it had to, stopping Gerhart short to get the ball back.

Said Carter: "We got it done just in the nick of time."

--

chris.foster@latimes.com

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