George Kase has resurrected his UCLA football career. Now he says it is time to rejuvenate his team.
The senior defensive tackle from Hart High lost his starting position at the outset of the 1995 season but won it back three weeks ago. But the Bruins must respond in a must-win situation in Saturday's 4 p.m. game against Arizona at the Rose Bowl or essentially be eliminated as Pacific 10 Conference contenders.
"We're still definitely in it," Kase said. "There's a lot of teams left [on our schedule] who are contenders. We're part of this race. Hopefully, after Saturday we'll solidify that in most people's minds."
Kase again has solidified a place for himself in the UCLA defense. A starter at nose guard the previous two seasons, the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder was moved to backup tackle when the Bruins switched this year from a three-man to a four-man front.
But Kase is back in the starting lineup, in part because he ranks second among down linemen in tackles (12), second on the team in tackles for a loss (six for 29 yards) and first on the team in sacks (three) and because the man he played behind, Travis Kirschke, has been out with an ankle injury.
"I've made a lot of big plays this year," Kase said, "which I'm really happy about."
Kase had his best game (five tackles, three for losses) in the Bruins' 24-15 loss at Washington State, which followed a 37-31 defeat to Oregon and which left UCLA (3-2) near the bottom of the Pac-10 standings at 0-2.
"In the first halves of both of those games we were lackadaisical," Kase said. "We lacked intensity and we were down by substantial margins at halftime. We came back and played well in the second half, but we just dug too much of a hole.
"Now it's time to turn this thing around. This is my senior season and we're not going to finish .500."
Kase certainly will finish above average in the classroom. An economics major, he entered the fall with a 3.61 cumulative grade-point average and has earned straight A's in each of the past four quarters. He is a candidate for the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete award and an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
Arizona (3-2, 1-1 in Pac-10 play) received a blow when receiver Richard Dice from Alemany (21 catches, 375 yards, five touchdowns) suffered a sprained left knee in Tuesday's practice. Dice will miss Saturday's game, and that leaves Rodney Williams of Palmdale and Pierce College (22, 240) as the Wildcats' top receiving threat. Senior nose guard Chuck Osborne (Canyon) will try to outshine Kase on Saturday. Osborne has 14 tackles, three for losses, has caused a fumble and recovered one.
Kansas State quarterback Cody Smith (Crespi) said his health is improving and he is confident he will recover from a rare viral infection that put him in the hospital earlier this year and has forced him to apply for a medical redshirt season.
"I've lost a battle, but I'm going to win the war," said Smith, who suffers from Rheumanation Syndrome, which has caused his digestive system to work in reverse. "They say a positive attitude is the best healer."
Smith said there are only about 36 documented cases of Rheumanation Syndrome. The problem started in January with persistent vomiting, and the ailment was not accurately diagnosed until he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and examined by some of the best gastrointestinal specialists in the world.
"I've got a stack of medical files that could fill a warehouse," he said. "I've had tests upon tests upon tests. For 10 months, and they couldn't find out what it was. I finally had to go to the best place, because I was wilting away."