What a remarkable weapon, the forward pass. Until the Beavers started passing the way they did in their 49-0 loss to the Bruins, the pass play had always been considered to be part of the team throwing the ball.
That is what made the Bruins' lopsided victory seem so strange. It was a stunning reversal of roles. It made no sense.
"It was a very strange game," Bruin Coach Terry Donahue said.
The UCLA Bruins used the passing attack of Oregon State to shut out the Beavers, 49-0, Saturday in a Pacific 10 game.
Beaver quarterback Erik Wilhelm threw touchdown passes to Bruin defenders Craig Rutledge and Alan Dial. He also passed four other times to UCLA players and personally deposited the so-called Air Express in the dead-letter file.
And so it went for the Bruins, who improved their Pac-10 record to 4-1 and overall mark to 6-2 by leapfrogging over the Beavers in what turned out to be one of the biggest mismatches since . . . since . . . actually, since last season, when UCLA paddled the Beavers, 41-0.
The stars of this game were the Bruin secondary, especially Rutledge and Darryl Henley, who tied school records with three interceptions apiece, and also Dial, who picked off one of Wilhelm's passes and ran it back 100 yards.
"He threw it right to me," Dial said. "I was staring right into the quarterback's eyes. I just got the ball and I was gone."
No one touched Dial. Then again, no one placed a hand on Rutledge, either, in the third quarter when he intercepted a pass thrown by Wilhelm and ran 45 yards for a touchdown.
If there had been any lingering doubts about the new, improved Beavers that Donahue spoke so much about early in the week, Rutledge's interception return ended them. At that point, the Bruins led, 35-0.
So what happened to the Beavers, whose record dropped to 1-4 in the conference, 2-6 overall?
"They kind of self-destructed and blew up," Donahue said.
The explosions were numerous. When Dial got his touchdown, the score became 42-0, and there was still 6:38 left in the third quarter.
But as spectacular as Dial's return was, Henley said he was equally impressed by Rutledge's interception return for a touchdown, especially his speed.
"I think Craig had lead boots on," Henley said. "He was not exactly Marcus Allen out there. But, hey, he got to the end zone."
This interception thing is a new addition to the UCLA attack. Before Saturday, the Bruins had stolen only seven passes from other teams all season. Then they pick off eight in one afternoon, six courtesy of Wilhelm, the other two by his backup, Dave McLaughlin.
All right. Go figure it. Eric Smith?
"We are a better team," Smith said. "We have better athletes, better coaches and better players than they do."
There. The secret is out. The only mystery remaining is why Donahue spent so much time building up the Beavers, who certainly didn't deserve it.
In the first half alone, Oregon State had three passes intercepted, had its quarterback sacked twice, fumbled twice and missed a field goal.
Both of those fumbles led directly to UCLA touchdowns, and one of them was of epically comic proportions.
The first one was sort of routine, but it set the tone for the day. Randy Beverly landed on a ball let loose by Roland Hawkins on the Beaver 13, and on the next play, fullback Mel Farr Jr. ran for a touchdown.
That was the first of the Bruins' touchdowns, and it was followed quickly by the first of two scoring runs by James Primus. Primus put UCLA up, 14-0, in the first quarter with a 24-yard touchdown run on which he broke three tackles.
"Our offensive line has improved so much," said Primus, who would close out the scoring with a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. "It all starts up front for us. We had holes all day."
Primus' first touchdown ended a 97-yard drive, the Bruins' longest of the season, which began, of course, with an interception by Henley.
By halftime, UCLA had shot off to a 21-0 lead with another touchdown for which the defense was entirely responsible. Smith scored it, falling on a fumble in the Beaver end zone on a play that actually began on the Oregon State 35-yard line.
Center Dave Ondorff snapped the ball over the head of Wilhelm, who was in a shotgun formation. After that, it looked like a Mack Sennett film. Wilhelm chased the ball as it bounced back toward the goal, but every time he leaned over to grab it, he kicked it farther away.
Wilhelm booted the ball three times, chased by Terry Tumey, before he finally fell flat, and Smith jumped on the ball in the end zone. Smith credited two players for his touchdown.
"First, I had a very helpful snap from the center," Smith said. "Also, Terry Tumey was right in the quarterback's face. He said I owe him $100. I was just there to sweep up the gravy at the end."
Wilhelm, the leader of Air Express, knew he had not played all that well.
"I had the worst game I've ever played in my life," he said. "Six interceptions. What is that, a national record? I couldn't even land on my own fumble. I floundered."
At times, the Beavers moved the ball well. Wilhelm completed 31 of 51 passes for 340 yards, but the interceptions ate him up.
They were also pretty unexpected considering that Wilhelm had set a Beaver record this season by throwing 126 consecutive passes without an interception.
Oregon State actually had more first downs, almost three times as many yards passing, fewer penalties and held the ball longer than the Bruins did.
"From Erik's standpoint, it was a bad day and he knows that," Beaver Coach Dave Kragthorpe said.
On the other hand, the Bruins had a good day and they knew it.
Tailback Gaston Green ran for 123 yards in 21 carries to lead a rushing attack that accumulated 270 yards. Quarterback Matt Stevens completed 8 of 18 passes for 116 yards and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Flipper Anderson.
"We expected a tougher game," Stevens said. "Offensively, we played all right, but it was the defense that really played well. They made it so easy for us."
Tailback Eric Ball carried the ball 5 times for 22 yards in the fourth quarter but left after someone fell on his foot. Ball, who had not played in the last four UCLA games because of a pulled hamstring, said he was unhurt after the game. . . . Strong safety Craig Rutledge said the Bruins disguised their defensive coverages well and seemed to confuse Beaver quarterback Erik Wilhelm. "He threw some balls where he looked like he was confused," Rutledge said. "We were around the ball all day and came up with a lot of big plays." . . . Alan Dial's 100-yard interception return tied a UCLA record set by Jimmy Allen in 1971. The three interceptions by Darryl Henley and Rutledge tied a school record set by Ron Carver in 1971. Carver held his record for 15 years. Rutledge co-owned it for exactly 2 minutes 9 seconds before Henley tied him.