|Craft's UCLA debut was memorable|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 11 September 2008 10:23|
Good thing the game wasn't over. By the end, Tom Craft was clapping so hard for his son in his UCLA debut that his hands were sore.
In a remarkable turnaround, Kevin Craft recovered from four first-half interceptions to lead the Bruins to a dramatic victory over Tennessee.
``We were hoping he would get off to a good start, but it was as bad a start as he could have. We just felt awful for Kevin,'' said Tom Craft, who was in the Rose Bowl stands with Kevin's mother, Kathy, and sister Lacey for the nationally televised opener.
The Bruins upset then-No. 18 Tennessee 27-24 in overtime on Sept. 1. They then moved into the national rankings at No. 23 before dropping out following a bye last weekend. Now they try to knock off this week's No. 18 when they play BYU at Provo on Saturday.
an to the Bruins in the first half. The junior college transfer went 7-of-18, with his fourth interception sailing straight into the hands of Tennessee's Nevin McKenzie, who took off for a 61-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead 23 seconds before halftime.
At the half, Craft had thrown to Bruins receivers for 66 yards and no touchdowns. The Vols had 66 yards and a touchdown on the four interception returns.
All that changed after halftime. Craft was almost flawlessly, going 18-of-25 for 193 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
After Tennessee took a 21-17 lead with 1:54 remaining, Craft went 6-of-7 during a drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to give UCLA the lead with 27 seconds left. The Vols tied it with a field goal as time expired, but the Bruins won by making a field goal in overtime before Tennessee missed a field goal.
``We felt like we were on a roller-coaster hanging on for dear life,'' Tom Craft said. ``I think that's the most excited I've been. My hands hurt, I was clapping so hard.''
Kevin smiled as he talked about his father's reaction.
``I've seen him on the sidelines as the coach and he's calm and in control,'' he said. ``But he was just a dad and a fan this time.''
Cameras panned in to catch some parental emotion. There was, however, one problem.
``They were showing the wrong guy,'' Kevin said. ``It was Pat Cowan's dad, not mine.''
his halftime transformation, Kevin said there was no big mystery. He and his coaches and teammates simply discussed adjustments in the offense.
``I thought, 'Hey, I've just got to play smart and keep us in a position to win,''' he said. ``At the end of the day, it's a football game and I've been playing for a long time and feel like I know how to play, and I've been coached well out here and have all the tools to be successful.''
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said Craft was determined to get the job done.
``We fixed some things up to give him a chance to be successful and it worked out OK,'' Chow said. ``He's a good, solid young man, works hard, studies, doesn't get rattled real easily.''
Taylor Embree, a freshman who had all his four receptions in the second half, said Craft's teammates reassured him at halftime.
``We told him, 'We've seen what you can do in practice,''' Embree said. ``After that, just like in practice, he started making plays, completing passes.''
In addition to working under Chow and coach Rick Neuheisel at UCLA, Craft has benefited from his father's coaching. Tom, a San Diego State quarterback in the 1970s, was the Aztecs' head coach when his son was a freshman there in 2005. Now he's the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Mt. San Antonio College, a junior college where Kevin completed 61 percent of his passes for 4,231 yards and 44 touchdowns last year.
The younger Craft began his redshirt freshman year at San Diego State third on the depth chart and there, like at UCLA, was pressed into duty by injuries. He started five games for the Aztecs in 2006, the season after his father left, then transferred to Mt. SAC to play under his dad before moving on to UCLA last spring.
``I grew up around football, and my dad really framed the quarterback position for me,'' Kevin said. ``I'm on the sidelines or riding home with him and he'd tell me what his quarterbacks did or talk about situations in games and how that guy might have handled it differently. It's a big advantage being the son of a coach.''
Craft's first college start was for San Diego State at BYU two years ago, when he went 20-of-32 for 216 yards and was intercepted once in a 45-17 loss.
``I was impressed then,'' BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. ``I think he quarterbacks like a coach's son, which he is.''
He added that Craft's about-face against Tennessee was ``just a poise and maturity issue. Each snap that he played he became more and more confident, and he put together a really nice drive at the end of the game.''
At least one person in the stands saw that late drive coming.
``I've seen him do that at every level he's played - in high school, at San Diego State and at Mt. SAC,'' Tom Craft said. ``When they had the ball on that final drive, I knew he was going to do it.''
AP Sports Writer Doug Alden in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.