Sept 1, 2001
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Playing Alabama seems to bring out the best in Deshaun Foster and UCLA.
UCLA overcame an early 10-0 deficit and spoiled Dennis Franchione's Alabama coaching debut with the Bruins' second straight season-opening victory over the Tide.
"We can build on this," UCLA coach Bob Toledo said. "We came in here as underdogs. You've got to win the close games, and we won the close game. You've got to win on the road, and we won on the road."
The Bruins did it with a pristine, if not flashy, performance.
UCLA converted two Alabama turnovers into 10 points, didn't commit any penalties and had a fourth-quarter goal-line stand. The Tide, repeating the mistake-prone ways of last season, were flagged 15 times for 93 yards.
Still, Alabama nearly came back. Backup quarterback Andrew Zow stepped out of the grasp of a UCLA defender, rolled to the left, and hit a leaping Freddie Milons for a 71-yard scoring play with 2:13 left. Zow moved Alabama 95 yards on three plays after starter Tyler Watts was shaken up on the first play of the series.
UCLA recovered the onside kick but couldn't get a first down.
With the Tide out of timeouts, the Bruins were able to let the clock trickle down to 21 seconds before giving Alabama the ball at its own 10.
Watts re-entered the game and hit Milons, who lateralled to tailback Ray Hudson. Hudson darted down the right sideline but was knocked out of bounds by Marques Anderson at the Alabama 36.
Watts threw three straight incompletions to end it.
"A game like this comes down to a few plays. And they had the plays," Franchione said.
Despite the mistakes, it was a far better effort than Alabama's 35-24 loss in the last meeting.
The Bruins, playing their first game in the state of Alabama, have won 11 of their last 1ast 15 against ranked teams.
Alabama outgained UCLA 459-291 and held a seven-minute edge in time of possession.
"They were really swarming to the ball," said Foster, who gained 187 yards and scored three times in last year's win. "They didn't quit this time. They played the whole ball game."
Paus was just 8-of-22 for 123 yards, but UCLA's no-frills attack didn't lead to any turnovers. Perry had five catches for 113 yards.
Watts also committed few mistakes in Alabama's option attack. The Tide kept his starting role quiet until he trotted out on the field for his first series.
Watts was 12-of-22 for 204 yards with a TD and an interception off a deflection. He also rushed 18 times for 69 yards.
"He made some nice runs and some nice throws," Franchione said. "He gave a gritty performance."
Antonio Carter caught six passes for 104 yards and a 78-yard TD. Milons gained 124 yards on four catches.
The Bruins took their first lead when Paus hit Perry for the 53-yarder on 3rd and 15, making it 14-10 with 9:30 left in the third.
Three plays later, Watts' pass deflected off Sam Collins and into the arms of UCLA's Ricky Manning, who returned it to the Tide 18.
Alabama's defense held but Chris Griffith made it 17-10 with a 30-yard field goal.
The Tide's 10-play drive into UCLA territory ended when defensive tackle Rodney Leisle stripped the ball from Dre Fulgham on a reverse, then recovered the ball.
Griffith followed with a 45-yarder late in the third.
Then, Milons returned the ensuing kick to midfield, finally answering the fans first-half chants of "Freddie! Freddie!" with his first of several big plays.
Two straight running plays caused some in the crowd to start booing the conservative approach. Watts answered, hitting Milons for a 25-yarder on third down.
But the Bruins stopped Galloway on fourth-and-1 from the 2. Franchione stood by the gamble.
"The fans loved the decision at the time until we didn't make it," he said. "I think we showed the confidence and belief in the players. If we made it, it was a great decision."
Watts bested the more established Paus in the first half, completing 7 of 9 passes for 135 yards. Paus was 3-of-10 for just 23 yards.
The loss was actually a step forward for an Alabama team that lost its last five games in 2000.
"If you don't have lack of effort you give yourselves a chance to win the game, and we had a chance," Watts said. "Now we have to find out what we are all about."