BILL PLASCHKE

UCLA linebacker/tailback Myles Jack dazzles, but it's two-way street

Myles Jack stars both ways again in 41-31 win over Washington. But in long run it'll be best for him, and Bruins, if he sticks to offense.

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He is fast, filling, and impossible to grab without making a mess.

He is UCLA's Jumbo Jack.

The kid did it again Friday night, filling up the wide-eyed Bruins fans at dinner time with an onslaught of bruising runs, battering tackles and even big cheers led from the sidelines.

Honestly, swear, there were a couple of moments when he actually was on the sidelines.

On a black-clad night promoted as the Bruin Eclipse, it was freshman linebacker/running back Myles Jack who blocked everything out, from Washington's hopes to UCLA's fears, his overwhelming presence a thing of natural beauty.

For a second consecutive game, UCLA was carried by the two-way kid who burns like a three-way bulb, this time in a 41-31 victory over Washington.

He scored four touchdowns, including one with three Huskies on his back and another with two Huskies knocking off his helmet. He was in the backfield for a touchdown pass that was thrown to — surprise! — another Bruins defender. On defense he had five tackles and one pass defended.

And, oh, about those cheers: He ran in front of the UCLA student section and threw up his hands and attempted to rouse the students after he helped stop the Huskies on one three-play drive late in the first quarter.

"He's pretty good at toting that thing around back there isn't he?" offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said afterward, shaking his head at the wonder of it all.

The main narrative here is that UCLA is now 8-2 with two winnable games remaining in its quest to return to a Pac-12 Conference championship game that could land it in the Rose Bowl game.

But their late-season subplot is becoming even spicier, as they have been carried in their last two games by an 18-year-old kid who has suddenly starting running the ball as well as chasing it.

Last week against Arizona, Jack, for the first time in his college career, left his defensive position long enough to lead UCLA's offense in a 31-26 win. On plays that were not in the playbook, after running those plays on a patch of grass outside the team hotel, he had a stunning six carries for 120 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown run.

Afterward the UCLA coaches and players chuckled as if Jack, a running back in high school, was this cute offensive trinket that would occasionally be trotted out. But on Friday, he became part of the offensive furniture.

Myles Jack playing both ways is no longer an experiment, it's an only-in-Hollywood reality.

"He's a weapon," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "But you just can't go crazy with it."

Too late for that. Judging by the Rose Bowl crowd's giant gasp when Jack was led off the field after being crunched in a defensive scrum late in the game, the growing sentiment is that Jack should strictly play offense. The Bruins could end this season with a quarterback, Brett Hundley, as their leading rusher for the first time since Larry Zeno in 1964, and that's not great.

So why not use Jack, who gained 60 yards in 13 carries Friday, as a full-time running back? Mora said it's because Jack has yet to learn how to block like a running back.

"Protection, it's undervalued," Mora said. "All you see is a guy carrying the ball. You have to know how to block."

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