Just as a manager would never cheer during his pitcher's no-hitter, UCLA Coach Terry Donahue is not mentioning that his Bruin football team has won seven straight Pac-10 games and is going into its annual showdown with archrival USC next Saturday playing not only for the Rose Bowl berth, but also to become the first team to sweep into the Jan. 1 game with eight straight conference victories.
After beating Washington, 47-14, before a crowd of 70,332 at the Rose Bowl Saturday, fifth-ranked UCLA has an overall record of 9-1 and a Pac-10 record of 7-0.
No Pac-10 team has ever won eight conference games in a season. And that counts for all the conferences in the history of this region--Pacific Coast Conference, Athletic Assn. of Western Universities and Pacific 8.
Seven is the most conference games UCLA has won since 1946, when the Bruins won the PCC title with a 7-0 record.
The Bruins have scored at least 40 points in five of their last six games.
Washington Coach Don James, who hasn't been beaten this badly since a 52-0 loss to Alabama in his first season at Washington 13 years ago, said: "UCLA has a lot of depth. They are a real good football team. They are comparable to last year's Arizona State team, except for the fact that UCLA can throw more often."
UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman completed 17 of 27 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown against the Huskies, who were having quarterback problems.
Senior Chris Chandler started at quarterback for Washington, despite the painful hip pointer suffered last week. He lasted into the second quarter but left with 8:22 to play in the first half with UCLA up, 13-7.
Sophomore Cary Conklin came in and led the Huskies to a touchdown on his first drive, as Washington went up, 14-13.
But that was the end of Washington's scoring.
The UCLA defense stopped the Huskies cold in the third quarter, and the Bruin offense, which scored on a 27-yard field goal by Alfredo Velasco before the first half ended to take a 16-14 lead, shifted into its dazzling mode.
What was the difference in UCLA's defense in the second half? Cornerback Darryl Henley said, "We just said enough is enough. We had been playing back on our heels and we decided to play up on our toes. We didn't make any changes or anything like that. It wasn't anything the coaches said. We just had to get our emotions together and start making some tackles."
Henley said he didn't see a big dropoff from Chandler to Conklin. But Donahue said the change "definitely affected the game."
He said: "Chris is an outstanding football player. He is vastly more experienced in this kind of a game. . . . Cary Conklin is a great prospect, but he wasn't really on his game today. I think that if Chris Chandler had finished the game, it would have been much, much closer."
UCLA held Washington to two first downs in the third quarter, leaving the UCLA offense plenty of opportunity to get on the field to do its thing.
Aikman said it was a question of getting the offense back in its own rhythm.
The game got off to a weird start when Washington tailback Greg Lewis fumbled on the second play from scrimmage and Bruin linebacker Ken Norton recovered on the Washington 22. UCLA tailback Eric Ball made a wide sweep to the right on the Bruins' first play and sprinted to a touchdown with just 55 seconds off the clock.
Washington was putting together a nice drive, powered by Chandler and fullback Aaron Jenkins, when it finally stalled at midfield and the Huskies had to punt. Five plays later, Ball made his way through the right side of the line and broke away for a 54-yard touchdown run. Suddenly, it was 13-0.
A mixed blessing?
Donahue said: "When you score that quickly on offense, obviously you're delighted to see the points on the board, but your defense is out there real quick again, without any rest, and your offense is on the sideline without having had time to get into their rhythm and play their game."
And while the Bruins were trying to get themselves squared away, the Huskies came back with two touchdowns, one on a 24-yard pass from Chandler to split end Darryl Franklin, and the other on a four-yard run by fullback Tony Covington on the drive that Conklin directed.
Brandy Brownlee made both extra points, and Washington took a one-point lead because Velasco had missed an extra-point kick for the first time in his Bruin career after a five-yard penalty for delay of game.
Velasco came back on the next drive with his 27-yard field goal and also kicked a 32-yarder on the first series of the second half.
By that time, the momentum had turned.
Conklin threw the first of his three interceptions at the end of the first half. UCLA cornerback Marcus Turner, playing in place of starter Dennis Price, who sprained a knee, got that one, and he grabbed another later in the game.
The third interception was picked off by safety James Washington. It led to the touchdown that put the game out of reach for the Huskies.
After Velasco's second field goal made it 19-14, Aikman scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Flipper Anderson (who once again caught seven passes, for a total of 106 yards) to make it 26-14.
Conklin was just starting to get the Huskies moving when UCLA's Washington made a diving catch, bobbled the ball and held on at the Huskies' 24.
In five plays, the Bruins made it 33-14, with Aikman dropping back to pass and then seeing an open avenue for himself to carry it into the end zone from the 12.
On the Bruins' first possession of the fourth quarter, tailback Gaston Green scored on a four-yard run, signaling his comeback from the pinched nerve in his neck that cost him most of the Arizona State game and all of last week's game at Oregon State.
The Bruins' final touchdown, a four-yard run by No. 3 fullback Brian Estwick, was scored with the help of a squad of reserve players, including No. 3 quarterback Bobby San Jose, getting his chance after Ron Caragher had played earlier in relief of Aikman.
Donahue explained Green's situation: "We had a couple of decisions to make about playing Gaston. One was whether he was ready to play, and the other was if he could play, should he start or should we save him until later in the game. I chose to play him in the latter stages of the game because I thought it would be demoralizing for the team if he went down early."
Green carried 6 times for 39 yards and declared himself fit and ready to start against USC. He said he still had some pain but that it does not lessen his effectiveness.
Green said, "I feel real good. I was glad to be able to get the rust off so I can be ready for next week. . . . But Eric (Ball) did a real super job the last couple of weeks. I think it's good that we'll both be ready."
Ball suffered a separated shoulder in the fourth game of the season but came back to gain 128 yards last week against Oregon State, and he rushed for 99 yards against Washington.
So, the tailbacks are healthy for the big game, but the rest of the Bruin roster seems to be in a constant state of flux.
Donahue was most concerned about starting defensive tackle Jim Wahler, who went out Saturday with an injury to the arch of his left foot. He left the game on crutches, worrying that the foot might be broken.
Also, Price's status for next week was uncertain.
Starting flanker Paco Craig suffered a severe hip pointer. And starting inside linebacker Ken Norton pinched a nerve in his neck.
Donahue wasn't about to guess who will be ready to go next Saturday. As he said, "I've seen kids make some great recoveries for the SC game."
And Norton confirmed that by telling reporters: "Both my arms went numb for a minute out there. It was pretty scary. . . . Next week? Oh, yeah. I'll play. I wouldn't miss that for the world."
So, once again, it comes down to just UCLA and USC in the Pacific 10 race.
Washington, usually a contender, is heading home for its final game against Washington State with a record of 5-4-1 overall, 3-3-1 in the conference.
The Bruin players heard, during all the postgame activities in the locker room, that USC had beaten Arizona, making their game next week a battle for the Rose Bowl berth. None of them seemed to think that was real good news or real bad news.
Aikman said, "It would have been nice to know, already, that we were going to the Rose Bowl. I don't think it would have taken away from our game next week. But it will be great like this, going down there and having it all on the line. This is what college football is all about."