UCLA tailback Kevin Williams was not supposed to see much playing time in the Bruins' 44-3 victory over Washington State Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
After sitting out last week's game against Arizona State because of an ankle injury, Williams was listed as "limited" on UCLA's injury report for Washington State, with Kevin Smith called the starting tailback.
However, that all changed on the Bruins' first possession when Williams gained the final 10 yards in two carries, including a three-yard run off right tackle that gave UCLA a 6-0 lead.
Williams, who has not started a game this season, finished with 112 yards in 16 carries and scored a career-high three touchdowns. Not bad for a player who was expected to see limited action in passing situations.
"I knew that I'd get some playing time, but it was going to be a touch-and-go situation," said Williams, who leads the Bruins in rushing with 711 yards and five touchdowns.
"I had to work out the kinks as the game went on. The ankle got a lot better as it loosened up."
With Shawn Wills sidelined because of a bruised knee and Ricky Davis sitting out because of a hamstring injury, Williams' return could not have come at a better time.
"It's difficult to come in and play after not practicing for two weeks," said Homer Smith, UCLA offensive coordinator. "He came in and just had a marvelous performance."
Williams, who entered the game as the Pacific 10 Conference's second-leading rusher, might not have started, but he finished strong. It was the fourth time this season that he has rushed for more than 100 yards.
He was not alone in having a big rushing game. UCLA ran for 268 yards, with Smith gaining 56 in 15 carries in his first start at tailback.
Smith, a 6-foot-3, 256-pound senior, began the season as the Bruins' starting fullback but has been hampered because of a knee injury for most of the season.
"It felt kind of weird playing tailback," said Smith, who had gained only 41 yards in 10 carries going into the game.
"I was nervous for the first couple of plays. There is a lot more pressure being the tailback."
Smith said that he expected Williams to play and that his performance did not come as a surprise.
"Realistically, (Williams) has a lot more to contribute with his talents at the tailback position," he said. "When everyone is 100% healthy, I know that Kevin and Shawn (Wills) will be showcased at the position."
Williams, a junior, showed no signs of his injured right ankle. After gaining a reputation for not being able to play when injured, Williams slowly is shaking that label. Now, the big question is whether he will start his first game of the season next week when the Bruins travel to Palo Alto to play Stanford.
"That's a pretty good question," Williams said with a smile. "I think that I'll let the coaches decide on that."
Said Homer Smith: "Deciding who will start at tailback is not a problem. With all of our injuries, our biggest worry is having enough people to practice during the week."
That might be good news for Williams, because as UCLA prepares for Stanford this week, he might be upgraded to probable on the Bruins' injury report.