Taking It On the Run
Led by DeShaun Foster, UCLA's rushing game knocked No. 3 Alabama for a loop
Of all the game plans UCLA could have devised in hopes of upsetting No. 3 Alabama, shoving the ball down the Crimson Tide's throat would have seemed the nuttiest. After all, Alabama finished second in the nation in rushing defense last season (75.3 yards per game), while the Bruins' running game was next to last (108.3) in the Pac-10. Despite all that, the rushing of junior tailback DeShaun Foster enabled UCLA to pull off a stunning 35-24 upset at the Rose Bowl last Saturday.
Foster surprised everyone by rushing for 187 yards and three touchdowns and tying a school record with 42 carries. "Nobody thought we could run the ball like that," said Bruins offensive coordinator Alan Borges. "We talked about 30 carries for DeShaun. I don't know what to tell you. Between the tackles he was unbelievable."
UCLA coach Bob Toledo wanted his offense to be more physical this season. "Physical. Aggressive. That's what I tried to preach. We are going to be a physical football team," said Toledo, whose Bruins were racked by injuries, inexperience and a handicapped-parking-pass scandal en route to a 4-7 record in 1999. Before this season Borges simplified the offense by tossing a half dozen running plays out of the playbook and installed an offensive line that weighs 100 pounds more than last year's. Foster did some body-sculpting, too. As a freshman in 1998 he helped the Bruins win the Pac-10 by rushing for a team-high 673 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns. Foster denies that his success went to his head, but strength coach Mike Lynn says, "Before last season I saw him in the weight room about 50 percent of the time he was supposed to be there." Then Foster suffered a high right ankle sprain in the fourth game and, like the offensive line, never got healthy. He finished last season with 375 yards and six touchdowns.
"We couldn't run the ball at all," says Foster. "I got hurt. Everybody was doubting me, saying that I wasn't in shape. I felt like I was in shape." Nonetheless, when practice began last month, the 6'1" Foster came in at 212 pounds, four pounds lighter than last year, and he had reduced his body fat from 8% to 3%. Last Saturday he gained 105 of his yards after contact.
The only person to stop Foster cold last Saturday was Toledo, who put a headlock on Foster in the postgame interview room. "You've got to believe you can beat somebody," said Toledo, "and we believed." Later, in a nearly empty locker room, Toledo allowed himself a personal note of vindication: "We were a young, inexperienced team last year, and all of a sudden people thought we couldn't coach anymore."
They believe now, Coach.
Toledo Weighs In
No Breather For Penn State
The last team Penn State needed to play after being humiliated by USC in the season opener might have been Toledo. With 20 returning starters, a veteran eight-man defensive front tailor-made to eat up a young offensive line and a talented tailback in senior Chester Taylor, the Rockets would be a solid test for anyone. For the inexperienced Nittany Lions, Toledo was a second nightmare in six days.
With nine new defensive starters, Penn State expected to experience growing pains this season, but it didn't foresee getting manhandled by the Rockets 24-6 at Beaver Stadium. Taylor gained yardage on 28 of his 29 carries and finished with 141 yards and two touchdowns.