His coach, Terry Donahue, told a sideline assistant to douse the running back with water.
"You're in a heavyweight fight," Donahue, an amateur fighter himself in his younger days, told Abdul-Jabbar. "If you can go one more round, three more minutes, you'll win it."
Abdul-Jabbar took a deep breath, took the field and promptly applied the knockout punch to shell-shocked Stanford, battling his way into the end zone one more time, his fourth time of the day, to finish a 98-yard drive, culminate a 35-point Bruin second half and lead UCLA to a 42-28 victory before 45,075.
In all, Abdul-Jabbar carried the ball 42 times for 261 yards.
It was a day when:
--Freshman quarterback Cade McNown took another big step toward maturity, confusing and defusing the Cardinal defense in the second half by running the option to freeze the Cardinal defense and soften the focus on Abdul-Jabbar. McNown completed 15 of 27 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown.
--The UCLA defense, fooled and frustrated by the slick ballhandling and deadly accurate passes of Stanford quarterback Mark Butterfield in the first half, made the key plays in the second half. Although Butterfield threw one touchdown pass after intermission, his fourth of the afternoon, he also threw two interceptions and was unable to sustain the first-half momentum.
--The Bruins climbed back into the Rose Bowl race, evening their conference record at 2-2 and improving their season mark to 5-2 with their third consecutive victory. Stanford lost its second game in a row to fall to 4-2-1 and 2-2 in the conference.
But, mostly, it was Abdul-Jabbar's day. He not only ran over, around and through the Cardinal defense, but also left his cleat marks imprinted on the UCLA record book.
The 42 carries set a team record, breaking his own mark of 40 established two years ago, also against Stanford. The four rushing touchdowns tied a club record. The 261 rushing yards were the third most in Bruin history, exceeded only by a 274-yard performance by Theotis Brown in 1978 against Oregon and a 266-yard performance by Gaston Green in the 1986 Freedom Bowl against Brigham Young.
"He's a war horse," Donahue said of Abdul-Jabbar. "If I had a team of guys who played like he does every week and practices like he does every day, we would not want for victories."
A victory certainly did not appear to be within the grasp of the Bruins at halftime. Not after their disastrous start.
Facing a Stanford team that has been rejuvenated under new Coach Tyrone Willingham, McNown got in trouble immediately.
On UCLA's first possession, McNown, on a third down from his five-yard line, threw a pass to Abdul-Jabbar.
Instead, it turned into a jump ball, with Stanford defensive lineman Carl Hansen outleaping the Bruins to pull down an interception at the line of scrimmage.
Three plays later, Butterfield connected on his first touchdown pass of the game, to Greg Comella from the one-yard line.
UCLA countered with a nine-yard scoring run by Abdul-Jabbar, but, in the second quarter, the Cardinal recaptured the lead. And again, it came down to a jump ball.
Butterfield fired a pass into the end zone intended for wide receiver Mark Harris. Instead, safety Shaun Williams stepped in front of Harris and appeared to pick the ball off.
But only for an instant.
Harris reached over Williams' back, gained at least equal control of the ball and then came down with it before finally losing control as he went over the back line.
No matter. The officials ruled it a touchdown for Harris and the Cardinal.
"I felt him on my back," Williams said. "I should have come up with it. You win some and you lose some, but that will never happen again."
Before the half was over, Butterfield had gotten yet another touchdown, throwing to Greg Clark for a seven-yard score.
"We were not very secure," Donahue said of his players as they trotted off the field at the half, down 21-7.
But, of the second half, he told them, "If you score first, this game can flip over before you know it."
UCLA took the opening kickoff of the second half and, sure enough, drove down to score. McNown took care of the last 40 yards himself. He gained 16 on a keeper, picked up another 13 at the end of that play when safety Josh Madsen was slapped with a personal foul for a late hit, and then, McNown, running the option, cruised the final 11 yards into the end zone on the next play.
The Bruins were off and running in a second half in which they would score on five of six possessions.
And nobody ran like Abdul-Jabbar, who scored on runs of one, 10 and five yards.
Butterfield slowed UCLA's momentum only once, connecting with Brian Manning on a 10-yard touchdown pass. But McNown countered that with a 28-yard scoring pass to Tod McBride .
Stanford's last gasp in the fourth quarter was snuffed out when Butterfield tried to hit Manning from the UCLA four-yard line only to have Bruin cornerback Teddy Lawrence tip the ball up in the air.
Another jump ball.
But this time, UCLA came down with it, linebacker Abdul McCullough clutching the ball to his chest.
When play resumed with the Bruins at their own two-yard line and a little over eight minutes to go, they put that ball in the most secure place they could think of, the hands of Abdul-Jabbar.
On this day of days for the UCLA tailback, that was as good as locking it in a vault.