ANAHEIM And so, as the zaniest, most chaotic BYU football season of all time finally comes to a close, grid fans, we say sayonara from the Freedom Bowl and see you next year. The 1986 season ended Tuesday night just about true to form. You could see all this coming.
Patti Edwards was in a huff, but not to worry her hubby, LaVell, patched things up with Terry (after all, he's got to play the guy again in 1991, though heaven should forbid). Short Shane Shumway was trying to cart off an MVP trophy that was about the size of a Volkswagen. Mark Bellini was hobbling home after he was attacked by a piece of turf before the game ever started. Gaston Green just Gas to his teammates, sir to opponents was getting an early start on his Heisman campaign. Speaking of campaigns, newlywed Mike Young (remember him?) was earning points for next year's soon-to-be-annual Great Quarterback Hunt, while the latest hope, Bob Jensen, was cooling it on the sidelines. Which reminds us, the BYU quarterback picture is about as fuzzy as the next presidential race. Mail in your votes now.
Oh yes, BYU was clobbered by UCLA 31-10 Tuesday night in the Big A that's A for Anaheim, not A-trocious, as in describing what BYU's late, great offense looked like.
As usual, UCLA was in peak form in December, which is about when BYU folds up like a lawn chair. The Bruins blew open a tight 7-3 game with a 17-point third quarter to claim their fifth straight bowl win. There was nothing fancy about the way they did it. Their game plan was simple: Give the ball to Green and get the heck out of the way.
"The running of Gaston Green was fantastic," said UCLA coach Terry Donahue, whose 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior tailback rushed 33 times for 266 yards not counting two runs worth 45 yards that were nullified by penalties and accounted for all four of UCLA's touchdowns. He scored on runs of 3, 1 and 79 yards, then threw a fourth-quarter 13-yard pass to Karl Dorrell in the end zone.
"Speed," said BYU head coach LaVell Edwards. He was standing alone in the BYU locker room, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. His players had already cleared out of the place. "That (speed) was our biggest problem. It was the one thing I was worried about."
During the past five years, BYU has overcome its other deficiency that of size and physicality. But not speed. "It's always been a problem for us," said Edwards. And it was never clearer than Tuesday night. The Bruins were considerably smaller than the Cougars, and considerably faster. They made good use of that advantage. They used draw and lead plays in which Green, a 10.58 sprinter in high school, takes a couple of steps and then runs to daylight, usually with swift cutbacks against the grain. "We did not want to let Green get under way, and that's what happened," said Edwards.
"He's harder to catch than a jackrabbit in the sagebrush," said BYU defensive tackle Shawn Knight. "Gaston is a cutback artist. I thought we played their blocks perfectly. We were in good position all night. But the thing about Gaston is he doesn't use their blocking. He just goes where he wants."
In all, Green accounted for more than half of the Bruins' 518 yards 423 of which came on the ground at an average clip of 7.4 yards per attempt this against the nation's sixth-best rushing defense. "I'm surprised we were able to run so well," said Green. When things started to get out of hand in the third quarter, the Cougars tried other defensive alignments, with no effect. They had just made one such change when fullback Marcus Greenwood, who would rush for 104 yards on a mere five carries, broke a 70-yard run.
"There's nothing you can do," said Knight. "In a situation like that, it's got to be individual athletic ability. When they start the cutback, you've got to react."
"They made so many big plays," said Edwards. Did he say big plays?
Dorrell slips a couple of arm tackles on a 49-yard reverse in the first quarter to set up Green's first touchdown, which puts UCLA on top for good, 7-3.
Greenwood swings left and springs 70 yards down the sideline to set up Green's second touchdown, which makes it 14-3.
Dave Franey nails a 49-yard field goal in the third quarter. Score it 17-3.
Green starts inside and, surprise, cuts left and sprints 79 yards down the sideline. He doesn't stop until he reaches the end zone. Make it 24-3.
"I don't know what went wrong," said Shumway, a 5-foot-9 cornerback who was named the BYU MVP for half a night's work (one interception, five tackles, two cramped calf muscles). "We just couldn't stop them."
With six minutes left, the Bruins called it a wrap. James Washington intercepted a Jensen pass deep in BYU territory. Three plays later, Green pulled up on a sweep left and threw a soft spiral to Dorrell in the back of the end zone to make it 31-3.
There were still six minutes left, but Patti Edwards thought it was garbage time. A guest columnist for the Provo Daily Herald, she turned up at the post-game news conference and, from the back of the room, asked Donahue if he "thought it was kosher to throw the halfback pass when you have a team so beaten."
Donahue politely replied, why yes, he did. Patti turned to leave and, as she did, said to no one in particular, "I got my point across." Later, as Donahue was leaving, he ran into coach Edwards in the corridor. He pulled him aside and the two chatted quietly for several minutes.
"It was a private conversation," said Donahue.
"He just wanted to make sure I was not upset," said Edwards. "We're good friends."
Anyway, where were we?
Oh yes, the BYU offense was still on a sabbatical. The Cougars managed a meager 294 yards, and Jensen, the team's latest quarterback hope, completed 18 of 31 passes for just 124 yards and three interceptions. Four times Jensen moved the Cougs deep into UCLA territory, but they came away with only three points to show for it a 32-yard field goal by Leonard Chitty. Two of the drives were stalled by interceptions one in the end zone on an underthrow to an open Rich Zayas, the other at the UCLA 16; the other drive cashed out on downs at the UCLA 22.
It didn't help Jensen any that Bellini, BYU's best receiver, had torn ligaments in his right ankle during pre-game warmups, thanks to a loose bit of turf that had been placed over the baseball infield. "I made a plant and the turf slid and the ankle gave," he said. Bellini lasted until the third quarter. "It got very painful," he said. "It was like spaghetti by the third quarter." So he spent the rest of the game on the sideline, where he was soon joined by Jensen, who was replaced not by Steve Lindsley, the starter for 11 games, but by the third-stringer, Young, with 5:50 remaining. Young promptly completed 6 of 9 passes for 71 yards to drive BYU 72 yards in 12 plays for its only touchdown a 3-yard run by Bruce Hansen.
BYU's Roger Price recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Young completed passes of 26 yards to Lakei Heimuli and 18 yards to Rich Zayas to drive BYU to the UCLA 22, where the drive stalled again on downs.
So how does the quarterback picture shape up for next season? "I don't want to comment on that," said Edwards "Obviously, it's a problem." As for Jensen, Edwards said, "You can't decide anything based on just the Air Force game, nor can you on this game."
Jensen, who had hoped to wrap up the No. 1 job for next season, said, "I think I've got a battle on my hands. There are some good guys right behind me."
One of them is Young, who said, "I hope there's a quarterback battle (next year)."
In the meantime, BYU also hopes to come up with a solid offensive line, which surrendered nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss, totaling 128 yards. Most of the damage was done by Bruin linebacker Ken Norton Jr., who had 17 tackles, four for losses.
"We couldn't get it done on third downs," said Jensen. For the record, BYU converted just 3 of 17 third-down plays.
The Cougars, 4-7 in bowl games, thus finish the season with an 8-5 record their worst since 1975. They have much to resolve in the off-season. The Bruins, 8-3-1, need only keep the often-injured Green healthy. "If he has a healthy senior season, he will be a very strong (Heisman) candidate," said Donahue. Most certainly he already has BYU's vote.