Bruins Discover Just How Fast It Can Get Away From Them : College football: Arizona State rallies, 37-33, as fumbles overshadow Abdul-Jabbar’s record game.
At halftime at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday evening, there was more than a hint of celebration in the air for the UCLA Bruins.
They were leading Arizona State by 17 points in a stadium in which they had never lost, having gone 7-0-1, including bowl games.
Terry Donahue was 30 minutes away from becoming the winningest coach in Pacific 10 Conference history.
Karim Abdul-Jabbar was on his way to becoming the greatest single-season rusher in UCLA history.
Fast forward 30 minutes of playing time.
Instead of a celebration, there was a wake.
Instead of savoring a record-breaking triumph, the Bruins were suffering from a spirit- breaking collapse that ended their faint hopes of a Rose Bowl berth.
Arizona State outscored UCLA, 27-6, in the second half to pull out a 37-33 victory before 48,126 overjoyed fans.
This one is easy to diagnose. And painful for UCLA. The Bruins simply turned the game over to the Sun Devils. Literally.
On four consecutive possessions starting late in the third quarter, UCLA was guilty of:
--Being caught for a safety.
--A fumble by Abdul-Jabbar.
--A fumble by quarterback Cade McNown.
--A fumble on a pitch by McNown.
Good night, Bruins.
“It was not a helpless feeling about what went wrong,” McNown said. “We know exactly what went wrong. We turned the ball over too many times.”
There were other problems for UCLA as well. Along with a total of four lost fumbles, the Bruins were guilty of seven penalties, including two costly holding calls, and were unable to play effective defense against Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer, who completed 21 of 35 passes for 312 yards and a pair of touchdowns. UCLA ran up 538 yards in offense, but surrendered 454.
Abdul-Jabbar ran for 207 yards in 35 carries to set a single-season Bruin record with 1,419 yards. He broke the mark of 1,405 yards established by Gaston Green in 1986.
It was also Abdul-Jabbar’s third consecutive game over the 200-yard mark, another school record.
But asked if he’d trade it all it to get back his fumble, he replied softly, “Yeah, man.”
Abdul-Jabbar had been at the center of the action in the first half when UCLA surged into a 27-10 lead, but he wasn’t alone.
Punt returner Paul Guidry returned one 70 yards for a touchdown, the first punt return for a score by a Bruin since Darryl Henley returned one 75 yards against Nebraska in 1988.
McNown scored from four yards out, Abdul-Jabbar from a yard out and Bjorn Merten kicked field goals from 39 and 22 yards.
Arizona State’s only points came on a three-yard run by tailback Michael Martin and a 26-yard field goal by Robert Nycz.
“I think you saw the real Sun Devils in the second half,” Arizona State Coach Bruce Snyder said.
What Bruin fans saw in the second half was not a pretty sight.
Plummer began to pick the UCLA defense apart on the opening drive of the final 30 minutes, a seven-play, 69-yard march that ended with wide receiver Keith Poole (nine catches for 167 yards) scoring from nine yards out on a reverse.
UCLA 27, Arizona State 17.
Plummer came back later in the quarter to hit receiver Ricky Boyer with a five-yard touchdown pass.
UCLA 27, Arizona State 24.
Then things got really got ugly for the Bruins.
Fielding a punt at his 15-yard line, Guidry handed off to Derek Ayers on a reverse.
When UCLA’s Eric Scott threw an illegal block, Ayers, backpedaling, was able to avoid one tackler. But he couldn’t avoid Lamont Morgan, who came barreling in and smacked Ayers on the right shoulder, sending Ayers tumbling to the ground in the end zone for a safety.
“I was surprised to see the second guy,” Ayers said. “I tried to react, but I guess he won out on that one.”
UCLA 27, Arizona State 26.
On the Bruins’ first play of their next possession, Abdul-Jabbar gained two yards, but then lost the football when he was hit by Jason Reynolds, Arizona State’s Traivon Johnson recovering.
“It’s funny, I didn’t feel anybody give me any pressure,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It just came out.”
On the ensuing play, Plummer hit Kenny Mitchell on a 27-yard touchdown pass and Plummer then scored on the ground on the two-point conversion attempt.
Arizona State 34, UCLA 27.
UCLA drove 71 yards following the Sun Devil touchdown only to have McNown fumble at the Arizona State nine-yard line, the turnover again forced by Reynolds, again recovered by Johnson.
“There was a little bit of air under the ball,” McNown said, “but I’ve got to hold onto it tighter. There is no excuse for that.”
This time, the Sun Devils were unable to capitalize on the turnover. No matter. There was another headed their way courtesy of the Bruins.
On UCLA’s next possession, McNown tried to pitch the ball to Abdul-Jabbar.
The quarterback caught his right hand on a defender’s helmet, causing a deep slash. The ball bounced in front of Abdul-Jabbar, who was unable to gain control, Arizona State’s Derek Smith recovering.
This time, the Sun Devils got three points off the turnover, Nycz kicking a 36-yard field goal.
Arizona State 37, UCLA 27.
The Bruins scored on a five-yard run by McNown, but a two-point conversion attempt failed and the Sun Devils were able to run out the final five minutes.
The loss left the 6-3 Bruins and the 5-4 Sun Devils at 3-3 in the conference with two games left to determine if there is any bowl at all in their respective futures.
“I don’t recall a UCLA team that has played as poorly as we did in the second half,” Donahue said. “We’ll be thinking of this one for a long, long time.”
After a seven-week absence because of a back injury, Donnie Edwards returned on a limited basis, mainly as a defensive end on pass-rushing situations.
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Moving to the Top
Karim Abdul-Jabbar, with 207 yards rushing in Saturday’s 37-33 loss to Arizona State, became UCLA’s single-season rushing leader. The Bruins’ top 10:
Player Year Car Yds Avg Karim Abdul-Jabbar 1995 269 1,419 5.3 Gaston Green 1986 253 1,405 5.6 Freeman McNeil 1979 271 1,396 5.2 Wendell Tyler 1975 208 1,388 6.7 Theotis Brown 1978 211 1,283 6.1 *Karim Abdul-Jabbar 1994 210 1,227 5.8 Kevin Williams 1991 191 1,141 6.0 Kermit Johnson 1973 150 1,129 7.5 Freeman McNeil 1980 203 1,105 5.4 Gaston Green 1987 206 1,098 5.3
* Known as Sharmon Shah that season.