No. 14 UCLA Football Defeats No. 21 Ohio St., 13-6
Sept 22, 2001
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer
PASADENA, Calif. - UCLA linebacker Robert Thomas didn't need to say aword - his wide smile told the story for an often-criticized Bruins' defense.
No. 14 UCLA stymied Ohio State throughout Saturday's only matchup of Top 25teams in beating the 21st-ranked Buckeyes 13-6 before an enthusiastic crowd of73,723 at the Rose Bowl.
'We've been through a lot,' said Thomas, a senior who made six tackles -five for losses. 'The offense has done it in the past, and it was time to paythem back. It's nice to make plays and celebrate out there.'
The Bruins did an especially good job containing senior quarterback SteveBellisari, who completed only 5-of-23 passes for 45 yards with twointerceptions, netted 15 yards on nine rushing attempts, and refused commentafterward.
'The corners and the safeties did a good job on pass coverage, and thelinebackers, we kept our eye on Bellisari,' Thomas said.
UCLA (3-0) held Ohio State to eight first downs and 166 total yards. TheBruins had 18 first downs and 323 yards of offense, but four lost fumblescontributed to keeping the game close.
UCLA hadn't allowed fewer than six points since beating Texas 66-3 on Sept.13, 1997.
'They've been maligned, they've been ridiculed,' UCLA coach Bob Toledosaid of his defense, which allowed a school-record 368 points last season.'They never gave in to the bad things that happened to us today.'
UCLA, which allowed an average of more than 29 points from 1998-00, gave up17 in each of its first two games - wins at Alabama and Kansas.
Phil Snow, hired last winter, is the Bruins' fourth defensive coordinator infive years.
'He taught us to be better students of the game,' Thomas said. 'He taughtus to read formations, to be ready. Now, all 11 on the field know exactlywhat's going on.'
Snow said he has a better defense than he realized, and believes it willcontinue to improve.
'These guys are good, so I didn't have to make up a bunch of newdefenses,' Snow said. 'We can play great defense here, because we have greatplayers.'
First-year Ohio State coach Jim Tressel lamented missed opportunities.
'The fumbles seemed like they were never-ending, we had more opportunitiesthan we deserved,' he said. 'We need to grow up quickly or we will be in bigtrouble. We are just so young.'
The Bruins took a 7-0 lead on a 24-yard scoring pass from Cory Paus to RyanSmith, capping an 80-yard, 14-play drive after the opening kickoff.
They would be limited to Chris Griffith's two field goals after that.
That left it to the defense to excel. And it was never better than midwaythrough the third period, when with the score 10-6, Ohio State lost a yard onthree plays after Tim Cheatwood recovered the third of DeShaun Foster's fourfumbles at the Ohio State 9.
Following a false start, Josh Huston was wide left on a 32-yard field goal.
In the first half, Mike Nugent was wide right on a conversion attempt aswell as a 28-yard field goal try after a fumble by Bryan Fletcher gave theBuckeyes (1-1) possession at the UCLA 15.
After Huston's miss, UCLA moved 64 yards to get into position for a 33-yardfield goal by Griffith that completed the scoring.
Mike Doss recovered a fumble by Foster at the Ohio State 41 in the openingminute of the fourth quarter, but the Buckeyes lost the ball on downs at theUCLA 30.
And Angelo Chattams recovered Ricky Manning's fumbled punt return with 6:06left at UCLA 38, but again the Buckeyes lost the ball on downs, this timewithout picking up a first down.
UCLA fumbled seven times and lost four - two by Foster.
'Sometimes, when people who make things happen like Foster, they don'tprotect the ball like they should,' Cheatwood said. 'I was going for the ballall day.'
Foster made no excuses, saying: 'They were just fumbles. The ball wasn'tslick. We won, and that's the important thing. Our defense did a great job.'
Foster rushed for 66 yards on 29 carries, while Paus completed 16 of 25passes for 262 yards without being intercepted.
'This season, we've won a game with 20 points and we've won a game with 13points,' Paus said. 'That's a testament to our defense. This is a teamgame.'
Paus and Smith hooked up for UCLA's touchdown on a third-and-9. Thereception was the second of Smith's career and his first TD.
The Buckeyes scored their points less than four minutes later when Dossblocked Nate Fikse's punt, and Ricky Bryant recovered just before the ball wentout of the end zone.
Griffith missed from 40 yards away early in the second quarter, but kicked acareer-long 49-yarder late in the period after Cie Grant batted away apotential 32-yard TD pass from Paus to Brian Poli-Dixon.
Griffith missed again, this time from 38 yards, early in the third quarterafter Matt Ware's 17-yard interception return to the Buckeyes' 16.
A moment of silence was observed before the game to honor the victims oflast week's terrorist attacks. As it was ending, a fan yelled, 'God BlessAmerica, yeah!' That drew a loud response from the crowd.
UCLA passed out 60,000 patriotic placards with the American flag on one sideand 'United, We Stand,' on the other.