Pac-10 officials announced today that Arizona will lead UCLA by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter of their game on Saturday. The decision is considered a formality, as the Bruins have faced double-digit fourth quarter deficits in four of their five conference matchups thus far.
“We’re making this determination now to benefit the fans,” noted a league spokesman. “At this point, they know that the first three quarters of a UCLA football game are irrelevant. We’re giving them the opportunity to run errands and take care of personal business during that portion of the game. They’ll have time to get home and see if the Bruins can stage another miracle comeback.”
UCLA set the tone for such comebacks in its league opener versus downtrodden Washington, whose media guide proclaims, “Not since the heyday of grunge has pessimism been so trendy in Seattle.” However, the Bruins trailed 17–7 after three quarters. The hosts rallied for a 21–17 victory, capped by Maurice Drew’s touchdown run with 1:08 remaining. A step up in class the next week against California yielded the same result. Overcoming a 40–28 fourth quarter deficit, UCLA took the lead for good with 1:35 remaining on a touchdown reception by Drew.
Those rallies were a mere warmup for the comebacks at Washington State and Stanford. Trailing 38–21 after three quarters in Pullman, UCLA tied the game in the last minute of regulation and triumphed in overtime after a touchdown run by, of course, Maurice Drew. This past Saturday, just for kicks, the Bruins fell behind 24–3 with 8:26 remaining. Again they tied the contest in the final minute of regulation (on a touchdown run by – say it with me – Maurice Drew). The overtime victory was a foregone conclusion. Cardinal fans were despondent over the collapse and for having a tree as a mascot.
The only conference opponent who has not followed this pattern is Oregon State. UCLA trounced the Beavers 51–28, with no late rally necessary. The league is investigating why Oregon State failed to live up to its role. Sanctions may result for head coach Mike Riley and the OSU program.
Interestingly, the much-anticipated USC-UCLA matchup on December 3 poses difficult questions for Pac-10 officials. On numerous occasions this season, the Trojans have treated the first half with indifference before taking control in the second half. Reportedly, the league office is leaning toward skipping the first half of the showdown in the Coliseum.
Arizona head coach Mike Stoops appealed the league ruling, but his request was denied. The Wildcats have no choice but to accept their fourth quarter lead. Stoops knows that his team is doomed as a result. He has two options on how to proceed. One is to accept the ruling and use the inevitable fourth quarter rally by UCLA as a character-building lesson for his team. The other option is to kidnap Maurice Drew.