UCLA football Coach Terry Donahue turned the tables at his Monday morning briefing and opened by asking reporters to tell him who the starting quarterback should be for the Bruins’ home opener Saturday against San Diego State. He passed out ballots and then tabulated the results himself.
“It’s not for publication,” Donahue said. “What this tells me, though, is that it’s as close as I thought it was. You guys don’t know the answer, either.”
The straw vote was all in fun--or, at least, it seemed to be. It certainly didn’t solve the problem for Donahue, who went into his Monday evening practice undecided between David Norrie, the senior who started the first game and came off the bench to save the second game, and Matt Stevens, the junior who came off the bench to win the first game and who started the second game.
“It got kind of muddled again Saturday,” Donahue said. “I think it’s apparent that these two athletes are very comparable. The team doesn’t seem to be ruffled or unraveled over using both of them. But I still want to have a starter and a reliever.
“Maybe if the two were different, had different skills, we could go back and forth like Washington State, alternating by series. But they are very much alike, and I don’t want to have one quarterback going well, feeling hot, and then take him out.”
Donahue said he expects to announce his decision today.
Despite the big-play comeback that pulled out a tie last Saturday, Donahue called his team’s performance at Tennessee mediocre.
“We have a good, competitive spirit and an element of toughness that I like, but I didn’t feel the intensity level was what it needed to be,” he said. “I don’t want to downplay the comeback, but I didn’t think we made the kind of improvement over the first week that we should have made.”
The comeback left the Bruins with a record of 1-0-1. “At the beginning of the season, I would not have thought we’d be undefeated after two games,” Donahue said. “Now, though, I’m thinking that we should have played better at Tennessee and we’d be 2-0.”
UCLA dropped from No. 10 to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll. USC, which did not play, jumped from fourth to third. . . . Outside linebacker Tony Phillips, who has not played yet this season because of a knee injury, and cornerback Dennis Price, who has not played because of a dislocated shoulder, will sit out the next one, too. Both are expected to return for the conference opener at Washington Sept. 28. Donahue said that when Price returns, redshirt freshman Darryl Henley will have to give back that starting spot. In two games, Henley has made nine tackles, broken up a pass and recovered two fumbles.
Sophomore tailback Gaston Green took over the No. 5 spot on UCLA’s list of top rushing performances when he gained 194 yards against Tennessee. Theotis Brown leads the list with 274. Freeman McNeil is second with 248. Then it’s Brown again, with 220, and McNeil again with 197. Despite gaining just 55 yards in the opener, Green ranks 17th in the nation with his average of 124.5 yards a game. . . . Senior split end Mike Sherrard, who caught seven passes for 120 yards against Tennessee, is No. 2 on the Bruins’ all-time receiving list. He needs three more to break Cormac Carney’s record of 108. Sherrard came to UCLA as a walk-on. . . . John Lee, who has made both extra-point attempts and all five of his field-goal kicks this season, has a string of nine straight field goals dating back to last season.
Asked to comment on Washington’s 0-2 start, UCLA Coach Terry Donahue said, “It’s Sports Illustrated’s fault. They picked Washington No. 1. That’s the kiss of death. They ruined our team last year and now they’re trying to ruin Washington.”
There will be a fireworks display at the Rose Bowl after the UCLA-San Diego State game.