Saturday, December 14

Bruins deep-six Trojans


Monday, November 25, 1996

FOOTBALL:

Underdogs come from behind to win in double overtimeBy Brent
Boyd

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

There were no national championship implications. The conference
title was not at stake. A Heisman Trophy candidate was nowhere to
be seen.

Nonetheless, in every sense of the word, Saturday’s battle was a
classic.

UCLA’s 48-41 overtime victory over USC last weekend added a most
suspenseful chapter to a rivalry that has entire books dedicated to
it.

Perhaps Saturday’s season finale deserves a volume of its
own.

Even for a rivalry in which all involved expect the unexpected,
nobody could believe what had just occurred.

"I’ve never felt this way my entire life," Bruin wide receiver
Danny Farmer said.

"I feel like I’m on another planet," were the words of
linebacker Danjuan Magee.

But, perhaps safety Abdul McCullough summed it up best.

"I think someone up there likes us," senior safety Abdul
McCullough said, looking toward the Pasadena night sky after the
game. "Someone up there is definitely shining down on us."

He may be right. In front of 80,644 at the Rose Bowl, UCLA
scored on five consecutive possessions, took advantage of a USC
fumble, blocked a potential game-winning field goal and intercepted
the final Trojan pass ­ all in the waning minutes to seal the
victory and eliminate USC from contention for any remaining bowl
bids.

UCLA (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10) battled back from a 17-point deficit with
just over six minutes remaining to hand the Trojans (5-6, 3-5)
their sixth consecutive loss in the series, the longest streak ever
in the history of the 67-year-old crosstown rivalry.

"Let me just say that I am ecstatic," head coach Bob Toledo
said. "I am extremely proud of our football team. They never, ever
quit; they were truly the ‘Gutty Little Bruins.’"

UCLA started its greatest fourth-quarter comeback ever with a
Bjorn Merten field goal with just over six minutes remaining,
cutting the USC lead to 38-24.

After the Bruin defense refused to allow Troy a first down in
their next series, UCLA regained possession.

The Bruins had great field position, starting with the ball on
the USC 42-yard line. Facing a fourth and 5, tight end Mike Grieb
made a diving catch for a first down to keep UCLA’s hopes
alive.

After quarterback Cade McNown completed three consecutive passes
to bring UCLA to the Trojan 1-yard line, freshman tailback Keith
Brown was able to sneak into the end zone, putting the Bruins
within a touchdown.

That’s when things really got interesting.

After a failed on-side kick attempt, USC took possession of the
ball with under three minutes remaining. Two plays later, the
Trojans gained a first down and a firm grasp of victory.

However, after the Bruins stopped tailback Rodney Sermons on the
ensuing play, UCLA called a timeout. With only one Bruin timeout
remaining and only 1:37 left on the clock, all the Trojans needed
to do was hang on to the ball and bury a punt deep in Bruin
territory.

Somebody forgot to tell LaVale Woods.

On the very next play, the Trojan tailback was stripped of the
ball by Danjuan Magee, and Kusanti Abdul-Salaam picked up the
fumble and returned it to the Bruin 44-yard line.

"I was sitting on the bench the whole game because of an injury
to my knee," Magee said. "I didn’t get in until the fourth quarter.
I knew that I should just hang in there and knew that when I got in
there I was going to make some good plays. And that’s what I did,
baby!"

The Bruins moved within scoring range on a spectacular diving
catch by flanker Rodney Lee. He made the catch on the right
sideline for a 23-yard gain and a first down on the 11-yard
line.

"That was a huge catch," Toledo said. "He was a walk-on for us,
we gave him scholarship and in the biggest game of the year he
comes up with one of the biggest catches. Huge."

Two plays later, tailback Skip Hicks ran up the middle and
fought his way into the end zone, forging a 38-38 tie with 39
seconds left.

But the Trojans refused to die.

On third down from their own 38-yard line, USC quarterback Matt
Koffler (who replaced injured starter Brad Otton) found Chris
Miller deep for 39-yard pass to the Bruin 23-yard line.

The Trojans tried one final pass into the end zone that went off
the fingertips of a diving Mike Bastianelli. But, a field goal is
what the Bruins were waiting for.

"When I got them on the side and said we need to block the field
goal, I had 11 maniacs who said they wanted to block it," Toledo
said.

That’s exactly what they did. Place kicker Adam Abrams’ kick was
low enough to be blocked by the defensive line, forcing the first
overtime in UCLA history.

Regulation was tame on the nerves compared to what the overtime
period provided for all in attendance.

The overtime, adopted this season for regular-season play,
consists of each team taking possession of the ball at the
opponents’ 25-yard line. After either turning the ball over or
scoring, the other team gets an opportunity. Each team gets one
possession per period, and whichever team has the highest score
after one period wins.

On Saturday, one period wasn’t enough.

The Bruins have experienced tremendous highs and lows this
season, but this was never as true as it was on one play in the
first overtime period.

USC started with possession, and on second down, threw an
interception to Anthony Cobbs. However, after a great deal of
celebration, the play was called back due to defensive holding,
giving the Trojans an automatic first down. The Bruins then shut
down the Trojans on three consecutive plays but allowed a field
goal that put USC up by three.

UCLA then went three plays and out in its turn, forcing Bjorn
Merten to kick a 40-yard field goal for the tie.

Merten, who had missed on a 52-yarder earlier in the game,
connected and forced the game into a second overtime period.

The second overtime period started with UCLA on offense. It
didn’t last long.

Tailback Skip Hicks took a handoff on the first play, cut right
and made a beeline right for the corner of the end zone. He reached
the goal line untouched, handing UCLA its first lead of the
game.

"I told coach that we were going to win and I told him to give
me the ball," Hicks said. "And he gave it to me and I got into the
end zone."

The lead held up, as on the ensuing Trojan possession, Koffler’s
final desperation pass was intercepted by Cobbs in the end zone on
fourth down, clinching one of the greatest wins in UCLA football
history.

"It’s the biggest game of my career," Toledo said. "I just
couldn’t be prouder. It was like they knew they were going to win
that football game ­ one way or another they were going to win
that football game."

On the other side of the field, Southern California was
stunned.

"I don’t know what to say," Trojan head coach John Robinson
said. "It was a great game and both teams played well. It just
seems like nightmarish things happen to us."

It was more like sweet dreams for Cade McNown and the
Bruins.

"All I know is that when I go to sleep tonight and lay down, I
am going to feel great about myself and the team and feel happy
about everybody involved in this program," McNown said. "This is
the greatest game for everybody in this program by far."

It could be considered a classic … that is, unless you’re a
Trojan.

Click here for a color photoessay of the game at the
Sportszone

JUSTIN WARREN/Daily Bruin

UCLA players celebrate after Anthony Cobbs (15) intercepted a
pass in the second overtime period. See photos in sports and page
3.

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