ROSE BOWL : No One Is More Pleased With Stevens' Success Than Norrie

Times Sports Editor

All the official reports of the 72nd Rose Bowl, UCLA's 45-28 rocking chair ride in Wednesday's Granddaddy of Them All, will list Matt Stevens as the Bruin quarterback.

The reports will show that Stevens ran his team like Iacocca runs Chrysler. That he passed for 189 yards and a touchdown. And that he called about 40% of the plays in a game in which running back Eric Ball rushed for 227 yards and redefined for visiting Iowans the term "plowed under."

Nowhere will any statistical summary show that UCLA's quarterback was really a two-headed player, a kind of Siamese twin named Matt Stevens David Norrie. Two players, emotionally joined at the shoulder pads and sharing a common flow of adrenaline and will to win.

Norrie is UCLA's starting quarterback. Or was, until he injured a muscle in his thigh a few weeks ago when the Bruins started practice for the Rose Bowl. Norrie was the field general who got the Bruins here, their Patton for all but one of the wins in their 8-2-1 season coming into Wednesday's game.

Stevens was the backup to Norrie. He was, as a junior, the heir apparent, waiting for next season. He had bailed out Norrie against Brigham Young and ended the defending national champion's winning streak by engineering the 27-24 upset. But he faltered the next week against Tennessee, Norrie returned to get a 26-26 tie, and the senior had the job for the duration.

Until just a few days ago, the issue of who would play quarterback for UCLA against Iowa didn't exist. But slowly, word drifted out of the Bruins' workouts that Norrie's injured thigh, thought at first to be one of those things you heal with a half an hour in your neighbor's hot tub, was a tear, rather than a bruise. And two days ago, UCLA Coach Terry Donahue was forced to make the decision that Patton would watch from the sidelines while Beetle Bailey ran his team.

The Beetle Bailey perception was that of the casual fan. UCLA insiders knew better. And Stevens never felt that he was second string. It was just a matter of the other guy being on the field while he watched from the bench, he said--some interesting, and effective, semantics that might prepare one better for when the opportunity came.

Prepared he was. The final score is all that is needed to prove that. But that isn't really the end of the story. It is merely background material for the story behind the story of Wednesday's UCLA quarterback: Matt Stevens David Norrie.

"I thought about a lot of things," Norrie said afterward. "Here I was, a senior, starting quarterback at UCLA, making it all the way to the Rose Bowl. Everything is going my way. This is the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.

"And then I get an injury. I never get injuries. I think this was the first game of any kind that I missed with an injury since I was 7 years old."

So Norrie was bitter and had to force himself not to sulk along the sidelines during the game, right? Wrong.

"Matt and I are very close," he said. "I'm not trying to sound buddy-buddy just to make it sound good for the press. It's true. The kind of competition we had all year for the job can put a strain on a relationship, but we stayed friends. Through it all, we'd go out together, have a few beers. Just like close friends do."

And so, like close friends, Norrie helped out along the sidelines, rather than sulking.

"When I threw that interception in the first quarter," Stevens said, "I went right over to David and he told me to not worry about it, to settle down. He said it was good that I got that one out of my system, that it was normal to feel kind of nervous. That I would be fine. I really needed that."

And so it went during the game. For those in the stands with binoculars, the presence of the Stevens Norrie twin along the sidelines when Iowa had the ball was common.

"After his interception, I told him what he really needed to do was to go back out and exhibit a confident attitude," Norrie said. "He needed to look calm for the rest of the team, let them know he wasn't panicking.

"Then, we talked about just throwing to the wide-open receivers when he went back out, just taking the sure thing until he got rid of his rustiness. And we talked about not letting the ball sail on you. In big games like this, you have a tendency to really juice the ball."

Said Stevens: "It wasn't that I didn't have confidence. I started against Nebraska in a big game and did the job against BYU. And I started in front of those 95,000 screaming fans at Tennessee.

"But at the same time, I was a little rusty and I was kind of nervous. You come out here and look up in the stands, you see the big rose on the 50-yard line. Plus Coach Donahue just about had me in tears last night talking about this as the bowl of bowls and how we would cherish this memory 10 years down the road.

"So, yes. It's a tough spot to be in. And David helped a lot."

And when it was over, Stevens didn't forget about the friend who could have, and likely would have, been one of the Rose Bowl's stars, were it not for a little tear in a thigh muscle.

"Afterward, there was a lot of emotion," Norrie said. "He came over to me and told me that it was a shame things had to end this way for me. He said he was glad that I was going to get a chance to play in the Japan Bowl, and that I was the guy who got them to the Rose Bowl.

"And I told him it was silly to feel bad for me. That I was proud of him and that winning the game was the key thing.

"If this had been some jerk I didn't like; somebody who had been out to get my job just for himself all year, that would have been different. But this was my friend out there beating Iowa."

And so, David Norrie will graduate from the UCLA football team, turning Stevens Norrie into just Stevens. The parting may have some elements of sweet sorrow. And, for Norrie, memories of perhaps his grandest achievement as a UCLA quarterback.

"I think maybe the toughest thing I did this season," he said, "was to keep a player as good as Matt Stevens on the bench for most of the year."

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