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UCLA's Randall Goforth took his opportunity and ran with it

Randall Goforth, a freshman safety, asked coaches for a chance to return punts, and he finally got to do so against Arizona on Saturday. He ran one back 36 yards, setting up a touchdown.

November 07, 2012|By Chris Foster
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Randall Goforth had been a pest about it. He wanted something, and finally got it.

UCLA coaches relented and let him return a punt against Arizona last Saturday — and Goforth took it back 36 yards, setting up a touchdown in the third quarter.

"He has been bugging us all year about doing it," Coach Jim Mora said.

It's unlikely that Goforth will have to lobby so hard again.

The freshman safety returned two punts for 48 yards against Arizona. He got his chance when Shaquelle Evans suffered a minor injury during the game.

"They finally gave me a shot," Goforth said. "I was confident I was ready."

Goforth handled kick returns at Long Beach Poly High, where he was a receiver as well as a defensive back.

"We didn't want to overload him because he is playing so much on defense," Mora said. "After what he did the other night, I'm comfortable with him doing punts."

Mora wouldn't say who would handle punts against Washington State on Saturday. But he said the top two options were Evans and Goforth.

"He did some good things and made some good decisions," Mora said of Goforth. "He's feeling more comfortable in our defensive system. He knows it better. I think he can take on a little bit more now."

Steven Manfro muffed receptions of punts he tried to field over his head in three consecutive games. Each of the fumbles led to opponents' touchdowns. He has been given a sabbatical from the duty.

Goforth let two punts go against Arizona.

"Some freshmen get overwhelmed with their first year," UCLA special-teams coach Jeff Ulbrich said of Goforth. "It's a new experience; guys are bigger and stronger. But it's like Randall has been here three or four years already."

And Ulbrich also appreciates another of Goforth's qualities: "He's fearless," the coach said

Cougars in turmoil

Washington State is a team on unstable ground.

Leading receiver Marquess Wilson was suspended from the team Monday and there were reports that he had quit. If he has, Wilson would be the 18th player to quit or be thrown off the team since first-year Coach Mike Leach was hired.

The Cougars have a 2-7 record this season and are 0-6 in Pac-12 Conference play.

Players are concerned about a complete collapse. "We've got to come together, we can't fall apart," quarterback Jeff Tuel said. "That's the worst thing that can happen. A lot of guys can be pushed to their breaking point, but we've just got to lean into the wind."

Tuel said a players-only meeting was planned to "make sure no one is checking out."

Amid the chaos, the Cougars will play a hot UCLA team in Pullman on Saturday.

"The season is not over," Tuel said. "Sometimes after these ordeals guys come out with their hair on fire and play some of their best football. There's a lot of flak coming in from the outside about this team. A victory would just mean that you're not going to break us."

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