Donahue Quietly Hoping Bruins Speak Volumes
First of all, let’s get one thing straight. There will be no talk of Terry Donahue’s opportunity to become the winningest football coach in Pacific 10 Conference history with a victory over the Washington Huskies today at the Rose Bowl.
At least no talk from Donahue.
“I’m not going to say anything,” the UCLA coach said.
That’s because, against his better judgment, Donahue talked about it with reporters before last week’s game against Arizona State, only to see his team lose, 37-33.
And there will be no talk about the Bruins’ collapse in that game. UCLA gave up a safety and three fumbles on four consecutive possessions starting late in the third quarter to blow a 17-point halftime lead.
“We are not going to let them [the players] think about it,” Donahue said. “We’ve got to get on to the business of beating Washington.”
There will be no talk of the Bruins’ chances for a bowl game if they can win today and next week against USC. The Cotton Bowl, Sun Bowl, Aloha Bowl and others remain possibilities for UCLA, 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference, depending on the last two games. But Donahue doesn’t plan to use that as a big motivating factor for today’s game.
“We used that last week,” he said, “and it didn’t happen.”
And finally, there will be no win-one-for-(fill in the name of the injured player) speeches. For the first time since opening night against Miami, the Bruins are nearly at full strength. Leading receiver Kevin Jordan, out two games because of a bruised knee, will rejoin the lineup.
And Donnie Edwards, who was sidelined for seven weeks because of a back injury and was used only sparingly on the pass-rushing unit in his return last week, will be back at middle linebacker, perhaps even in the starting lineup.
No, Donahue used up all his emotional angles against Arizona State and wound up with as frustrating a loss as he has experienced in recent memory.
So this week, the volume will probably be turned down on the motivational speeches. The key to the game won’t be found in the locker room. It will be found in the UCLA secondary.
Bruin defensive backs have struggled at crucial times this season. Oregon quarterback Tony Graziani passed effectively against UCLA, handing the Bruins their first loss when he directed a late drive and threw a touchdown pass with just more than a minute to play. Jake Plummer, Arizona State’s quarterback, picked the UCLA secondary apart so badly that Donahue said the pass defense was, at times, “nonexistent.”
The Bruins are seventh in the Pac-10 in pass defense, giving up an average of 250 yards a game.
Now comes Damon Huard, Washington’s senior quarterback, who may be even better than Plummer. He ranks second in the Pac-10, one notch ahead of Plummer. Huard has completed 63.7% of his passes for 1,880 yards and nine touchdowns with four interceptions.
Don’t expect any major lineup changes in the secondary today. Donahue says he doesn’t have the personnel to make radical moves. Paul Guidry will remain at left cornerback. Teddy Lawrence and Javelin Guidry will continue to share the right corner. And Ted Nwoke, Shaun Williams and Glenn Thompkins will get the majority of the work at safety.
But if Huard starts to look like Plummer, Donahue will probably start shuffling players and mixing up the combinations, giving more playing time to Anthony Cobbs, Andy Colbert and Aaron Roques.
Whatever happens through the air, there should be plenty of action on the ground. UCLA, of course, will hand the ball to tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar 35 to 40 times. And why not? Abdul-Jabbar has rushed for more than 200 yards in each of the last three games to break Gaston Green’s single-season Bruin record of 1,405 yards rushing. Abdul-Jabbar is already at 1,419.
The Huskies, battling for a Cotton Bowl slot with a 5-3-1 overall mark and a 4-1-1 conference record, can also be expected to run. The team’s No. 2 rusher, Leon Neal (539 yards and a 5.4-yard average), is out because of a toe injury. But that will leave more carries for tailback Rashaan Shehee, who has rushed for 673 yards, a 5.6-yard average and nine touchdowns.
Finally, and don’t mention this around Donahue, if the Bruins should win, it would be a fitting way for him to set the record.
The victory would be his 98th in the conference, breaking the mark of Don James, who set it coaching for today’s opponent, the Huskies.