LONGHORNS RE-ROUTED; LOPSIDED WIN BY BRUINS HAS SHADES OF '97 : UCLA 49, TEXAS 31.
To answer coach Bob Toledo's greatest offseason concern - could the Bruins start 1998 as they ended 1997 - the answer is yes.
Yes, yes, yes.
This wasn't 66-3. This was worse. Last year, UCLA needed eight Texas turnovers to whip the Longhorns in Austin. This year, UCLA whipped 'em without the mistakes and whipped 'em where it counts most - at the line of scrimmage, at the point of contact.
``We looked like a well-oiled machine early,'' Toledo said.
The final score, 49-31, before 73,070 at the Rose Bowl, was misleading. So was the Longhorns' 21-point fourth quarter. By then, UCLA was in cruise control and playing third-stringers on defense. Kory Lombard? Steve Sua? Ali Abdul Azziz? Please. If the game's in doubt, these guys are on the bench, not the field.
What mattered was the first half, when UCLA built a 35-3 lead and dominated a Texas team that had no turnovers and just two penalties.
The No. 6 Bruins were too fast, too strong and too sound in setting a school record with their 11th consecutive victory. They made the big plays and they made the little ones, like fullback Durell Price's conversions on third-and-short and quarterback Cade McNown's block on a flanker reverse.
It was as if 10 days had passed since the Bruins overwhelmed Washington 52-28 - not 10 months.
They scored touchdowns on five of six possessions in the first half, averaging 14.2 yards per pass, 6.2 yards per rush and outgaining Texas 379-116.
``They're a great football team,'' Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. ``UCLA didn't make any mistakes at all in the first half. They didn't make any turnovers, and Cade hit everyone perfectly.''
McNown completed 20 of 30 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns, but he was not alone in accomplishment. Receiver Freddie Mitchell gained 250 all-purpose yards and threw a 34-yard touchdown in his first game as a Bruin. Tailback Jermaine Lewis rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns in his first start, often scooting untouched into the Texas secondary. Skip Hicks, Jermaine Lewis, Jerry Lewis - anyone could have run through those holes.
``We definitely blocked them better (than last year),'' guard Andy Meyers said. ``As an offensive line, this was the best game I've seen in several years for a (season opener). The line was very, very good.''
The Bruins' defense contained Texas All-American Ricky Williams long enough to put the game out of reach. He finished with 160 yards rushing, but 97 came after UCLA built a 35-3 lead.
``When you're ahead by that much, it's hard to stay fired up,'' Bruins linebacker Tony White said. ``But that's what makes a championship team, when you get up and keep them down.''
The Bruins stacked the line of scrimmage with eight defenders and dared Texas quarterback Richard Walton to beat them through the air. He could not, and that was the biggest difference. While McNown was fabulous in long-yardage situations, Walton was futile.
``The biggest thing was they got a lot of big plays,'' Texas linebacker Dusty Renfro said. ``McNown is very accurate, and he'll kill you when they go to air.''
McNown wielded his aerial dagger early and often. He hit Brian Poli-Dixon for 16 yards on the game's second play. On the fifth, he found Mitchell for 16 more, pushing UCLA past midfield and triggering a flanker pass from Mitchell to Poli-Dixon. It worked perfectly and gave the Bruins a 7-0 lead.
``The (trick play) was a scripted situation,'' Toledo said. ``The first time we crossed the 50, we were going to run it.''
UCLA extended its lead to 14-0 a few minutes later, but the Longhorns responded with their best drive of the half, moving effortlessly from their 19 to the Bruins' 25.
The game turned on third-and-five when Walton, unable to improvise, threw 3 yards and killed the drive. Texas had wasted its first - and only - chance to stay within range of McNown's machine. The Longhorns settled for a field goal, which quickly became obsolete when Lewis scampered for his second score and a 21-3 lead.
``We talked about jumping on them early so we'd take the revenge factor out real quick,'' Lewis said. ``That's what we tried to do - score on every drive and show the nation we're for real.''
ROUT PART II
Comparing UCLA's rout of Texas on Saturday to the one in Austin last season:
Score 66-3 49-31
Halftime 38-0 35-3
UCLA total yds. 393 584
Texas total yds. 303 388
UCLA rush yds. 194 211
Texas rush yds. 53 157
UCLA vs. TEXAS: A CLOSER LOOK
UCLA receiver Freddie Mitchell: Gained 250 all-purpose yards. He caught four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. He ran once for 30 yards, and he threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Brian Poli-Dixon. Not a bad debut.
Texas quarterback Richard Walton: Completed 14 of 22 passes for 196 yards, but he failed to convert several important third-down passes in the first half, when the Longhorns still had a chance.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Bruins outgained Texas 379 yards to 116 in the decisive first half. UCLA's total included 256 yards passing on a mere 18 attempts.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
``I feel good about our offense if we can make quite a few mistakes and still win the game.''
- UCLA quarterback Cade McNown
Bruins: 3 heads better than one
The Longhorns fared no better against UCLA's three-headed tailback than they did last year against Skip Hicks, the one-man wrecking crew.
Jermaine Lewis, Keith Brown and DeShaun Foster combined for a very Hicks-ish 163 yards and three touchdowns in the Bruins' 49-31 victory Saturday afternoon.
They were good enough to make Texas respect the run, and that's as good as they need to be.
Lewis and Foster were especially impressive. Lewis, a sophomore from Antelope Valley, gained 113 yards on 22 carries (a 5.1-yard average) and scored twice. He was tougher, quicker and more confident than last year, when his high game was 75.
``It was a little relief getting that first touchdown out of the way,'' he said. ``Because I'm the (starter), I had to get in the (end) zone. That first one was a great feeling.''
Foster, the freshman from Tustin, played in predetermined situations. His first carry, in the second quarter, was a pitch right that gained 6 yards. He finished with 44 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
``I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be,'' he said with a smile. ``I wasn't looking for a touchdown, but once we got so far (ahead), I thought maybe I'd get a chance.''
Wet feet: As expected, four true freshmen played for UCLA. Foster was the most productive. Receiver Jon Dubravac did not catch a pass. Nose guard Ken Kocher played sparingly because of an injured ankle, and linebacker Robert Thomas had one tackle and two assists in limited time.
No response needed: Asked if he said anything to Texas defensive end Aaron Humphrey - whose comment, ``Cade is a dead man,'' was posted in the Bruins locker room - UCLA quarterback Cade McNown grinned.
``I didn't see him. I didn't have to say anything,'' he said.
Odds and ends: The temperature, 84 degrees, wasn't as high as expected, and neither was the crowd: only 73,070 attended. Although that was 10,000 fewer than anticipated, it was the largest crowd for a UCLA home opener in the Rose Bowl and the third-largest opening-day crowd ever.
Several top recruits attended the game, including Westlake tight end Mike Seidman, Venice quarterback J.P. Losman and Los Alamitos defensive end Bernard Riley.
Another stellar day for All-America kicker Chris Sailer: He averaged 42 yards on four punts and boomed seven of his eight kickoffs for touchbacks.
UCLA was balanced on offense and on defense. Inside linebacker Ramogi Huma led the Bruins with eight tackles. Outside linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo had two sacks, forced one fumble and recovered another.
Starting left guard Oscar Cabrera sprained his right ankle and will be evaluated today. He is tentatively listed as day-to-day.
--- Jon Wilner
3 Photos, 2 Boxes
PHOTO (1--Color) UCLA tight end Mike Grieb lifts a giddy Brian Poli-Dixon after the receiver scored a touchdown.
(2--Color) Quarterback Cade McNown
(3) UCLA defenders swarm Texas running back Ricky Brown during Saturday's 49-31 Bruins victory at the Rose Bowl.
Michael Owen Baker/Daily News
BOX: (1) ROUT PART II (see text)
(2) UCLA vs. TEXAS: A CLOSER LOOK (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 13, 1998|
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