By returning an interception 20 yards for a touchdown against the Virginia Cavaliers in the season opener, UCLA Bruins cornerback ISHMAEL ADAMS became just the sixth player in school history since 1928 (the year that the Westwood warriors joined the Pacific Coast Conference) to have ever returned an interception as well as a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown over the course of an entire collegiate career.
However, prior to Thursday night’s contest in Tempe versus the host Arizona State Sun Devils, no football player in UCLA Bruins school history since 1928 had ever managed to return both an interception as well as a kickoff or a punt for touchdowns in the very same game!
Enter the homegrown junior defensive back from Woodland Hills who led UCLA during the 2013 NCAA campaign with four interceptions while also averaging an impressive 35.0 yards on ten kickoff returns after taking on that role late in the season. With less than twenty seconds remaining to be played in the first half, Arizona State were marching for a go-ahead touchdown which, with a successful extra point kick, would have left the Sun Devils ahead by four points. But Adams picked off a pass thrown over the middle, alertly picked up his blockers while cutting to his left and then embarked on a spectacular 95-yard return down the left sidelines that stretched UCLA’s lead to 27-17.
Arizona State, who came into the game ranked # 15 in the country by the Associated Press, added a field goal to pull within two touchdowns early in the third quarter. But, on the ensuing kickoff, Adams served immediate notice on behalf of the # 11 ranked Bruins indicating that there would, indeed, be no way back for the Sun Devils on this particular occasion. Accepting the football five yards deep on the extreme right side of his own end zone, the explosive UCLA cornerback swung all the way over to the left side and then executed a fabulous stop-start move which, in large part, made the whole return possible.
Another key to the sensational runback which essentially slammed the door on Arizona State while propelling UCLA to its convincing 62-27 victory over the Sun Devils was the crushing block delivered at the Bruins 34-yard line :
UCLA cornerback ISHMAEL ADAMS became the 11th player to score the Bruins’ 14th kickoff return touchdown in school history since 1928. Only five of those fourteen kickoff return touchdowns have covered a distance of 100 yards or more. The NCAA does not take into consideration where the return man catches the ball in the end zone and always lists any interception or kickoff which goes the distance as a 100-yard return in its official record books.
As far as this blog is aware, the longest kickoff return for touchdown in UCLA school history previously occurred when AL HOISCH went 103 yards against the University of Illinois in the 1947 Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day.
It is an undeniable fact that none of the other five UCLA Bruins players who were able to return both a kick/punt as well as an interception/fumble for touchdowns in their respective collegiate careers are not even close to matching Ishamel Adams in terms of yardage.
UCLA BRUINS – Average Yards Per Touchdown Return,
Longest Kickoff/Punt & Longest Interception/Fumble Combined
97.5 avg – Ishmael ADAMS …… (kick & int vs vs Arizona State ’14)
71.5 avg – Darryl HENLEY ……. (punt vs San Diego St ’88, fum vs Arizona ’86)
70.0 avg – George FORSTER … (kick vs Stanford ’28, fum vs Cal Tech ’28)
68.0 avg – Johnny ROESCH ….. (punt vs USC ’44, int vs St. Mary’s ’44)
47.0 avg – Ryan ROQUES ……… (punt vs Washington ’98, int vs Houston ’98)
40.5 avg – Joe SABOL …………… (int vs Purdue ’50, punt vs Wisconsin ’52)
(Note — Henley had three punt returns for touchdowns in his UCLA career and, accordingly, the longest runback was selected for this comparison)