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Updated: Wednesday, December 25, 2002 10:24 PM EST
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Ucla 27, New Mexico 13
New Mexico Lobos
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UCLA Bruins
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LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- Kicker Katie Hnida made Division I-A college football history for New Mexico, which unfortunately had no one to boost its offense.

Craig Bragg returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and freshman Jarrad Page took an interception 29 yards for a score as UCLA snapped its two-game bowl losing skid with a 27-13 victory over New Mexico in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Bragg recorded the longest punt return in Las Vegas Bowl history, surpassing the 45-yard effort by Nevada's Bryan Reeves in 1992. UCLA's last punt return for a TD came against Washington in 1998.

"The game plan was to keep their quarterback from getting a lot of sneaks," Bragg said. "We shut down the run and limited them to the passing game, and I think we did that very well."

Hnida became the first woman to appear in a Division I-A college football game, but had her extra point blocked with 8:20 to play in the first quarter, when New Mexico owned a 6-3 lead.

The 21-year-old Hnida took the field with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter after cornerback Desmar Black intercepted Drew Olson's pass and returned it 55 yards to give New Mexico a 6-3 lead.

"We made the decision to let Katie kick the first extra point," Lobos coach Rocky Long said. "She has been a vital part of this team all year and we felt that she deserved the opportunity to make a play."

A 5-9, 150-pounder, Hnida was activated four weeks ago by New Mexico. The Littleton, Colorado native also became the first woman to dress for a bowl team.

Under the guidance of interim coach Ed Kezirian, the Bruins (8-5) then scored 24 unanswered points and won a post-season game for the first time since beating Texas A&M in the 1998 Cotton Bowl.

"We did a good job of letting the assistant coaches on both sides to go on with the game plan," Kezirian said. "I kept reminding myself for the last 2 1/2 weeks that my role was to be a facilitator, to follow up, to be a liaison, to be a healer."

The Bruins ended the regular season with one-sided losses to Southern California and Washington State and fired coach Bob Toledo.

Kezirian, currently the director of academic services and an assistant coach from 1982-92, was named interim coach.

"We put together a game plan and really worked hard with a few distractions and the assistant coaches did a wonderful job," he said.

Former UCLA receiver and Denver Broncos assistant Karl Dorrell already has been hired as Toledo's replacement, but was not on the sidelines at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Nate Fikse sparked the Bruins' outburst with his second field goal to knot the contest with 4:53 remaining in the half. Freshman Tyler Ebell then capped it, recording his 10th rushing TD of the season to open a 27-6 cushion with 8:41 left in the contest.

New Mexico's Casey Kelly struggled, completing 18-of-32 passes for 237 yards with a TD, an interception and a fumble.

He was sacked four times - twice by Bruins defensive end David Tautofi - and the Lobos' offense eventually contributed with just 5 1/2 minutes to play when Kelly connected with receiver Joe Manning on an 11-yard TD pass.

The Lobos (7-7) fell to 2-4-1 all-time in bowl games after winning six of their final seven regular-season contests to earn just a third post-season berth in 41 years.

"We were rusty today," Long said. "Dontrell (Moore) got nicked early and never really got going, and they played really well on 'D.'"

Moore accounted for 17 of New Mexico's season-low 45 yards rushing.

Neither team impressed offensively. The freshmen quarterback duo of Olson and Matt Moore combined to complete just 12-of-22 passes for 94 yards and an interception for UCLA, which registered just 73 rushing yards.

"About the third quarter, we went into the game being patient," Kezirian said. "We were strong defensively and we felt like there were one or two big plays in the kicking game. So we were just waiting for the opportunity to get the big play."

Momentum swung to the Bruins early in the third when Bragg broke a tackle on a punt return and cruised down the left sideline to help UCLA grab a 13-6 advantage.

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