Beaver Homecoming Is Beautiful Until Bruins Crash the Party, 52-17
It was Homecoming at Oregon State University, one of those schools that still has its football stadium right on campus.
From Parker Stadium, football fans can see the brick buildings as well as the rolling hills in the background. The many trees are showing the full array of fall colors, from rust to golden.
The band marched out in full force.
There was some sunshine, but there was a chill in the air.
A beautiful day for college football.
Alas, the hometown boys were overmatched. There wasn’t much of a football game to make the day complete.
UCLA came in and rolled up a 52-17 score without even trying.
The Bruins are still the only undefeated team in the Pacific 10 standings, and they’re a step closer to a Rose Bowl game berth with Washington and USC still to be played.
With a fifth straight victory over Oregon State, UCLA’s record went to 8-1 overall, 6-0 in the Pac-10. Oregon State is now 2-7 overall, 0-5 in league.
Not that there was ever much doubt how this one would go.
UCLA’s current seven-game winning streak is the longest in Coach Terry Donahue’s reign.
The Bruins amassed 618 yards of total offense to just 295 for the Beavers. And the Bruins were up by 49 points before the Beavers scored their only two touchdowns in the last five minutes of the game against second- and third-team Bruin defenders.
But it was a costly victory for the Bruins, who lost yet another linebacker when Melvin Jackson went out for the rest of the season with ligament damage in his right knee. They also lost backup quarterback Brendan McCracken with a broken left collarbone.
McCracken was injured on a 28-yard touchdown run, spinning out of tackles and bouncing off defenders until he scored. It was the last hit, by the cornerback, he said, that cracked his clavicle.
Afterward, McCracken attempted a smile when he said, “At least I got into the end zone once this season.”
McCracken has been playing behind Troy Aikman, who has been so good this season that he was disappointed with his effort against the Beavers--completing 15 of 26 for 279 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
That interception had him bugged. It was his third of the season and the only one that was legitimately picked off. The other two had been deflections.
Oregon State Coach Dave Kragthorpe wasn’t as critical of Aikman as he was of himself. Kragthorpe said: “Troy Aikman is one of the finest QBs I have seen in a long time. We had guys covered very well and he still threw the ball right in there for touchdowns.
“The last few minutes of the first half was a very bad stretch of football for us. That was the turning point that made the game a blowout. If we could have gone out 17-3 (at the half) we were still in position to make a game of it.”
But with less than three minutes to play in the half, Darryl Henley’s punt return (which went all the way but was called back on a clipping penalty) put the Bruins at the 50 and Aikman put together a quick drive that ended with Brian Brown’s one-yard touchdown run.
When Oregon State’s backup quarterback, Ed Browning, fumbled on the Beavers’ second play from scrimmage after that, with 40 seconds left in the half, Ron Evans recovered for the Bruins on the Oregon State 41 and it took Aikman just two passes to Flipper Anderson--a 28-yarder on the left sideline followed by a 13-yard scoring pass--to put the game in the blowout category.
Anderson’s touchdown catch was one of his wowing efforts. The pass hit his hands, bounced up, and Anderson had to catch it a second time as he fell in the end zone with a defender all over him.
Anderson’s explanation: “It just so happened that I caught it the second time.”
It just so happened that Anderson caught 7 passes for 154 yards, the second-best day ever for a UCLA receiver. Kurt Altenberg had 166 yards receiving against USC in 1963.
Anderson also scored on a 47-yarder from Aikman in the opening minutes of the second half. And that was the end of the game for Aikman.
UCLA Coach Terry Donahue said: “We discussed taking Aikman out at halftime, but our offensive staff felt that we should let him have one more series and if he played well, or certainly if we scored, we should let some of the others play.”
After McCracken went out, Bobby San Jose and Ron Caragher each got a chance to play quarterback.
The tailback duties, which have been passed around a lot, fell back to Eric Ball.
UCLA’s Gaston Green, who re-injured a pinched nerve in his neck last Saturday against Arizona State, did not make the trip. Ball, who has been coming back from a shoulder injury and who played very little last week because of an early fumble, started the game and finished with 128 yards and three touchdowns.
Ball had scored the Bruins’ first two touchdowns, but because he was still “getting the rust off” as he put it, he was left in long enough to score again, in the third quarter.
Brian Brown, who entered in relief of Green the week before, got his turns, too, picking up 70 yards and a touchdown. But Brown was on crutches at the end of the game after getting kicked in the back of the knee.
Donahue said that if Brown and Green had to miss next week’s game, he could always find a way to work Danny Thompson into the lineup. Thompson had 58 yards on 8 carries against the Beavers.
The Beavers’ injury problems all week had centered on their quarterbacks, but junior Erik Wilhelm did start and play more than his backup, Ed Browning, a freshman from Riverside La Sierra.
Wilhelm played on a sprained ankle and completed 12 of 29 passes for 81 yards. But he had a pass picked off by Darryl Henley in the third quarter that led directly to the touchdown by Ball that made it a 45-3 game.
Oregon State’s two touchdown passes in the final minutes were thrown by Browning.
Kragthorpe said: “I was worried about Erik’s effectiveness, and he was not very effective today. . . . We took Erik out, not because he was hurt, but because we felt there was no point in going any further with him. He will be ready full tilt next week.”
It’s hard to say who will be ready to play next week for the Bruins.
Ball says that he’s ready. “You don’t have to put any of those ‘doubtful’ or ‘questionable’ things in front of my name any more. It took me awhile today, but I think that by the fourth quarter I was starting to feel like I had lost the rustiness.”
Ball, who had lost a fumble when he made his return against Arizona State last Saturday after missing five games, fumbled again against the Beavers, but managed to get the ball back.
“That was definitely the first thing on my mind today, ball security,” Ball said. “When you haven’t been hit for awhile, it takes some time to get the feel back.”
Donahue said that he was pleased with Ball’s return.
But the list of injuries far outweighed the list of players returning.
“The tragedy was losing McCracken after he had played so well. He was hurt making one of the greatest runs I’ve ever seen.”
McCracken said: “I have to be happy for our victory today and happy for how well the second team did. . . . As for me, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing all season, staying involved on the sideline and working with Coach Donahue.
“Troy has been doing such a terrific job all year long that my job has been to help out there. The injury won’t keep me from doing that.”
But now Donahue will have to be concerned about depth at quarterback, a concern that he did not have with McCracken standing by his side before.
“This was a costly victory,” Donahue said. “It was good to come in here and get such a convincing victory. And it was a relief to finally get a win in Corvallis for the first time in 12 years. But it was really costly in terms of injuries.”