UCLA Hoping It Can Gain Revenge Today in Its Run for the Roses

Times Staff Writer

The score of UCLA’s 42-18 victory over California was still shining on the Rose Bowl scoreboard last Saturday when Bruin linebacker Ken Norton started talking about how he was looking forward to playing Arizona State and what a long year it has been since their last meeting.

Today’s game at Sun Devil Stadium is one of those games.

The Pacific 10 title and the Rose Bowl berth will be strongly affected, of course, but the pride that is on the line is really stirring things up.

For years, UCLA was one of the big reasons Arizona State didn’t go to the Rose Bowl. Last year, though, Arizona State got to Pasadena early in the season and beat UCLA, 16-9. Then the Sun Devils--not the Bruins--ended up in Pasadena on Jan. 1, playing in their first Rose Bowl game.


Going into today’s game, UCLA is the only undefeated team in the Pac-10, with a conference record of 4-0. Arizona State is 2-1. The only other team with just one loss in conference play is USC.

UCLA Coach Terry Donahue has been warning all along that Arizona State, the Pac-10’s defending champion, had to be considered the favorite again this year because of its schedule, but only now is the Sun Devils’ advantage becoming clear.

ASU plays only seven conference games, while the other contenders play eight. And one of the teams that ASU does not play is USC, the Bruins’ final opponent.

The way the Pac-10 tie-breaking procedure works, victories do not help, but defeats hurt. Points are computed by losses and ties, not victories.

The first tiebreaking procedure is head-to-head competition, so if the other contenders were eliminated and ASU and UCLA finished with the same number of losses and ties in conference play, the winner of this game would play in the Rose Bowl.

Arizona State Coach John Cooper is calling this game the biggest in the three years he has been the Sun Devil coach. “If we lose, we’re out of the Rose Bowl race, in my opinion,” he said.

The second tiebreaking procedure is a point system that takes into consideration overall schedule. If ASU were to finish in a conference tie with USC, the overall record would come into play, and that would benefit ASU because USC has lost to both Michigan State and Notre Dame. Besides the Nebraska game, which Arizona State lost, the Sun Devils’ nonconference schedule included victories over Illinois, University of the Pacific and Texas El Paso.


Ideally, every team in the conference would play every other team, and there would be no such inequities. But these schedules were juggled after the Pac-8 became the Pac-10.

Then too, the athletic directors, who can make more money by scheduling Nebraska and Notre Dame instead of being locked into games at Oregon State and Washington State, are willing to sacrifice the round-robin.

As Donahue said: “I understand why the athletic directors would want to play a schedule that will make more money. It makes sense to leave room for three nonconference games. But I have always said that I think everybody should play the same number of conference games.”

This season, Arizona State’s schedule also has just four games on the road and seven at home.

And Sun Devil Stadium is a formidable home field. Today, the crowd is expected to be a standing-room-only throng, despite the 70,491 seats and live television.

“Please don’t misunderstand me,” Donahue said. “I’m not complaining about Arizona State’s schedule. I admire their foresight in setting up a schedule like that. . . . Quite frankly, I envy their schedule. You have to take your hat off to them and say that’s a great job and the mark of a fine athletic program.”


That statement came from a coach who had just accused his old buddy, Cooper, of being a “stroker” when Cooper went on and on about UCLA’s depth and talent.

The coaches outdid themselves this week, trying to list their own weaknesses and praise the strengths of the other guy.

As Donahue listed the Bruins’ injuries by telephone for assembled reporters in Tempe, Cooper took his handkerchief from his pocket and mockingly dabbed at his eyes.

Cooper said: “So James Primus is not going to play? That’s the biggest decision (Donahue) has to make this week? Who’s he going to play? I feel sorry for him. They’ve got some third-team guys we’d love to have. Eric Ball--you can’t find him on the depth chart. And he rushed for four touchdowns in a Rose Bowl game.”

But, then, Donahue had said that Cooper deserved an Academy Award for his performance in singing the blues over his injury situation and his lack of an established quarterback.

Cooper has said that he will wait until game time to decide between junior John Walker, who came off the bench in the second half and led Arizona State to a 30-21 victory over Oregon State, or junior Danny Ford, who has been the starter.


After beating UCLA last season, ASU lost a dozen players who either were drafted or signed as free agents in the NFL.

And ASU has been hard hit by injuries in the secondary. The Sun Devils have lost three of their top five defensive backs.

But Donahue said: “Their situation in the secondary is really no different from ours, when we lost three of our top five linebackers and continued to play well. . . . Good programs have players who come up and rise through the ranks to play great.

“Eric Crawford (a freshman cornerback) has come up to play great.

“I don’t think their situation in the secondary will affect our approach to the game.”

Likewise, Donahue said that he didn’t expect the Sun Devils’ choice of a quarterback to affect the Bruins’ approach.

Donahue was much more concerned about the Sun Devils’ strong offensive line and running game.

Arizona State’s biggest strengths are tailback Darryl Harris and fullback Channing Williams. Last Saturday, Harris gained 190 yards and scored 2 touchdowns, and Williams added 147 yards.


“They have the best two running backs in the conference in the same backfield, as far as yardage goes,” Donahue said.

Bruin Notes UCLA has an overall record of 6-1 after losing at Nebraska, 42-33. Arizona State has an overall record of 5-2 after losing to Nebraska, 35-28, and to Washington, 27-14. Arizona State looks better on the comparative scores against Nebraska, but as Terry Donahue pointed out, the Sun Devils had the benefit of the film of the Bruin game and also did not play in Lincoln, Neb. . . . Arizona State Coach John Cooper coached with Donahue as assistants on Pepper Rodgers’ staff at Kansas in 1966-70. . . . Cooper had a record of 57-31 in eight years as head coach at Tulsa before coming to ASU. . . . UCLA leads this series, 6-1-1, and is 3-0 at Sun Devil Stadium. . . . All of the key Bruin players who were questionable with injuries earlier in the week made the trip, including tight ends Joe Pickert and Randy Austin, tight end-fullback Mel Farr, fullback James Primus and tailback Eric Ball.