UCLA’s Phillip Ruhl makes the most of limited opportunities
Don’t call him Touchdown Phil.
“I really don’t like that,” UCLA fullback Phillip Ruhl said, with kind of a smile.
Still, his teammates can’t resist.
Ruhl, now in his fourth season as a walk-on, has two touchdowns in two games. He returned a blocked punt four yards for a score against Nevada. Then he caught a 12-yard touchdown pass against Nebraska.
It is the most touchdowns by a UCLA walk-on since running back Craig Sheppard had two in 2007.
“I always envisioned getting to do this,” Ruhl said. “It’s a little surreal now that it’s happening.”
But it’s not about him.
“If we don’t win the Nebraska game, and I scored a touchdown, it wouldn’t mean nothing,” Ruhl said.
Ruhl attracted a little interest as a senior at Stockton Lincoln High School in 2009. But the only scholarship offers came from lower-division colleges. UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State wanted him to walk on.
He came to UCLA as linebacker, but moved to fullback last season.
“I told him yesterday that he’s a fullback in a four-wide-receiver, one-back offense,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “But he finds a way to play. He works his butt off even though he may get only six snaps in a game. He does everything we ask and is always prepared.”
Ruhl was against Nevada. When Kenny Orjioke blocked a punt, Ruhl headed toward the punter “to tackle him.” Then, he said, “The ball bounced right to me.”
Ruhl’s success meant a little more to the head coach, too. “I was a walk-on too,” noted Coach Jim Mora, who played at Washington.
“Phil just works,” Mora said. “He plays special teams, catches passes, blocks. He doesn’t get hype or much publicity, but he’s got two touchdowns.”
Those are nice. But all Ruhl wants to do is win.
“The team is all that matters,” Ruhl said. “I love football. I have been playing since I was seven years old. It’s not really like a job. It’s more like you get to come out here and have fun.”
UCLA will continue its efforts to honor receiver Nick Pasquale and help his family this week.
Pasquale died last week when struck by a car. His No. 36 will be on the Rose Bowl turf the remainder of the season. There will be 30,000 Pasquale towels handed out when the Bruins play New Mexico State on Saturday, and T-shirts will on sale.
The shirts were donated by Adidas and the printing was arranged for free. All proceeds will go to the Nick Pasquale Foundation (nickpasqualefoundation.com.
UCLA will present a framed jersey to his parents and brother during a break in the first quarter.
The Bruins will face a New Mexico State team with a new quarterback this week.
King Davis III will replace Andrew McDonald as the starter. Davis completed seven of 14 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown in a 42-21 loss to UTEP. McDonald was seven of 11 for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
But Coach Doug Martin said there were two advantages to King.
“He has the ability to run,” Martin said. “He can make people miss.”
The other reason, Martin said, is “Andrew turned the ball over four times in three games. That’s too much. We need someone we can believe in.”
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