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The Bruin Who Only Threw Touchdowns

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The Banner Society Advent Calendar’s entry for December 3

In 2002, Jon Dubravac threw three touchdowns for the UCLA Bruins. Taken alone, this fact isn’t particularly remarkable; 149 players had higher numbers that season.

But consider the following:

  • Dubravac played wide receiver, not quarterback.
  • At the conclusion of his UCLA career, Dubravac had only two receiving touchdowns.
  • These were the only three passes Dubravac threw in college.

The limits of college football statistical archiving prevent me from knowing how unusual Dubravac’s perfect three-for-three season really was, since Sports Reference’s data only goes back to the 2000 season. I can tell you that only two other players have a) thrown at least three passes in a year and b) had all of those passes go for touchdowns since Dubravac.

The first was Jameon Lewis for Mississippi State in 2013, and the second was Boise State’s Thomas Sperbeck in 2016. Sperbeck and Lewis (great name for a personal injury law office, by the way) had very different roles in their offenses, however.

The “3 Passes, 3 Touchdowns” Sorcerers

Player Season Receptions Receiving Yards Rushes Rushing Yards
Player Season Receptions Receiving Yards Rushes Rushing Yards
Jon Dubravac 2002 2 34 0 0
Jameon Lewis 2013 64 923 13 117
Thomas Sperbeck 2016 80 1272 11 53

Lewis and Sperbeck (in that order they’re a folk rock duo) commanded defensive attention however they were used. Passing was a very small part of their offensive pies, so it’s easier to understand why the opposition wasn’t prepared to account for either as a thrower. They were simply too busy preparing for them as receiving threats, or maybe as rushing ones. But the majority of Dubravac’s touches in 2002 were passes.

There are, of course, many ways to throw a touchdown pass, especially a long one. A deep bomb and a tunnel screen that the receiver takes 50 yards to the end zone end up with the same description in a box score. Dubravac’s scores covered 35, 53, and 55 yards, respectively. Two of them can be found on YouTube for further scrutiny.

TOUCHDOWN 1: COLORADO

Honesty is important in all things, so I’ll come out and say it: Craig Bragg, the receiver on this play, bailed Dubravac out. The ball’s a bit underthrown (though it’s not clear whether Bragg had separation from the defender, and maybe the underthrow worked to UCLA’s advantage), and Bragg’s ability to pivot and stay off the ground so he can fall in for a score is the only reason this is a touchdown, instead of a completion just outside the end zone.

Still, that’s not a bad pass from a receiver who’s never thrown the ball in college before. Bragg might have to apply the finishing touches, but Dubravac absolutely chucked it far enough to make the touchdown possible in the first place.

TOUCHDOWN 2: OREGON

Ok, this one absolutely rules. “Quarterback casually walks away as though he’s going to ask the sideline if anybody has a good recipe for banana bread” might be my favorite flavor of fake, and Dubravac ensures it isn’t wasted with a shimmering rainbow of a toss. This isn’t just a good pass for a receiver playing quarterback. It’s a flat-out great throw, and an absolute delight to behold.

TOUCHDOWN 3: WASHINGTON STATE

I could not find a video of this play, which is listed in the box score as a 55-yard pass from Dubravac to Manuel White, a running back for the 2002 Bruins. That makes it difficult to say what this touchdown actually looked like. But I have found a photo:

Jon Dubravac throws touchdown pass Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

HELL YEAH YOU KNOW YOUR BOY JON D SLANG THAT MOTHERFUCKER

UCLA didn’t win any of these games, and head coach Bob Toledo was dismissed at the end of the year. But all three Dubravac touchdowns put UCLA ahead on the scoreboard (at least for a while); these were not desperation heaves the Bruins rolled out once the game had gone lopsided.

A sports legacy can be complicated. Legendary champions don’t win every game; all-time greats don’t succeed on every attempt. But Jon Dubravac, in 2002, was the exception. UCLA asked him to throw bonkers trick-play touchdowns, and that’s all he did.