As expected, Matt Stevens will replace David Norrie at starting quarterback for UCLA in the Rose Bowl. UCLA Coach Terry Donahue made the announcement Monday morning at a press conference that he shared with Iowa Coach Hayden Fry.
That turn of events didn’t seem to be the least bit unsettling to Fry, who knows about Stevens. Fry tried to get Stevens, a fourth-year junior, to the University of Iowa when Stevens came out of Fountain Valley High School.
“We were very interested in recruiting Matt Stevens ourselves,” Fry said. “If he had been receptive to visiting us, we would have given him a scholarship.
“I know that he has been No. 1 for UCLA. . . .I know that, from an ability standpoint, he is just as good as David Norrie.”
Stevens, who had been the first quarterback off the bench behind Steve Bono in ’84 and had started three games the year before, was the favorite going into spring practice. But Norrie came on strong to win the starting job for the BYU game.
When Norrie stalled, Stevens came in to pull out the comeback victory that ended BYU’s 25-game winning streak. In the second game this season, Stevens had trouble and Norrie came in to lead a fourth-quarter rally that brought a 26-26 tie with Tennessee, a team that went on to gain a spot in Wednesday’s Sugar Bowl game against Miami.
The third game was an easy victory for Norrie, who also started the fourth game, at Washington. Stevens injured a knee in the loss at Washington and lost his spot in the rotation for a few weeks, giving Norrie the opportunity to make the position his.
Monday morning, Stevens said: “It was probably the best thing for the team that I got hurt because if I had remained healthy, we probably would have kept that rotation going. . . . When I couldn’t compete for the job, David got that pressure off his back and started to be real successful.
“I know that the viewers watching the game and probably the announcers are going to think of me as a second-string quarterback, but I don’t feel like that. I hope I can do just as good as David. I don’t want the team to think there’s any kind of letdown. . . . I feel like I’m well-prepared and in playing condition.”
Norrie, who has missed several days of drills because of a pulled muscle in his right thigh, was able to practice in a limited role in the last two workouts and could be ready to play in the game.
“Both quarterbacks are viewed by their teammates as leaders on the field,” Donahue said, “and both are viewed by their teammates as having the ability to go in and play well.”
Norrie led the Pacific 10 in passing efficiency this season, completing 63.6% of his passes for 1,819 yards. Stevens completed 53.7% for 290 yards. Norrie’s statistics include a 61-yard pass to Willie (Flipper) Anderson against Oregon State; Stevens’ include a 62-yard pass to Mike Sherrard against BYU.