Bumped. Great memories. GO BRUINS. -N
Since we don't have any UCLA sports that are active now, I thought it would be a good time to remember one of UCLA's better football teams that took an improbable path to a bowl game in Pasadena:
The prelude to the 1982 season was the 1981 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl at the Houston Astrodome which is where I spent New Year’s Eve that year (It was the last Bruin football game that I watched as an undergraduate). Unfortunately, the Bruins could not stop Butch Woolfolk who ran for 186 yards. Donahue insisted on playing single coverage on Anthony Carter who beat the Bruins for a fifty yard bomb from Steve Smith. On that play Smith had checked off at the line to a post pattern to Carter that put Michigan up 10-0, which was a deficit from which the Bruins never recovered. Kevin Nelson was held to 33 yards in 18 carries, and Tom Ramsey had an uncharacteristically poor first half, and by the time he finally completed some passes, it was too late. The final score was Michigan 33-UCLA 14.
The second game in the 1981-83 UCLA-Michigan trilogy was in September of 1982.The Bruin were 2-0 going into the game in Ann Arbor, but had never before beaten the Wolverines, and trailed 21-0 with 9:56 left in the first half. It was looking like a repeat of the previous New Year’s Eve, until Tom Ramsey found Dokie Williams on a 46 yard touchdown pass to put the Bruins on the scoreboard. On the next drive Ramsey scored on a quarterback sneak, and after a late field goal by the Wolverines (following a disputed time out call by Schembechler) it was 24-14 Michigan at the half. Two plays into the second half, Don Rogers intercepted a pass which was supposed to go to Anthony Carter at the Michigan 22. After a couple of completions from Ramsey to the Honorable Cormac Carney, and JoJo Townsell (the latter one for a touchdown), the Bruins were only down 24-21. Later a 65 kickoff return from Dokie Williams set up a short touchdown run from Kevin Nelson, and the Bruins had their first lead 28-27. After John Lee kicked an insurance field goal to put the Bruins up 31-28, the Bruins had to withstand a final Michigan drive which ended when the clock expired with the Wolverines on the UCLA 8. Part I of the revenge against the Wolverines was complete, but no one could have predicted what it would take for the Bruins to earn another game against Michigan.
The momentum from that game carried over into the Pac-10 season as the Bruins were 7-0-1 with only a tie against Arizona marring their record heading into the game against the 7-1 Huskies in Seattle. Unfortunately, although the Bruins outgained the Huskies, two interceptions and two fumbles doomed the Bruins to defeat in a 10-7 loss. UCLA’s only score came on a bomb to Townsell with six minutes left in the game. After the game Chris Baker of the Times predicted that the Bruins were all but out of the race for the Rose Bowl, since Washington and unbeaten ASU were in the driver’s seat for the Pac-10 championship. Even Donahue thought it was going to be a long shot for the Bruins to be playing in their first Rose Bowl since he had been hired in 1976. The Bruins had to beat Stanford (with John Elway) and USC in their final two Pac-10 games. ASU had to lose to both Washington and Arizona. Washington not only had to beat unbeaten ASU, but then had to lose to WSU in the Apple Cup. For good measure Arizona had to lose to either USC or Oregon. (You could have gotten pretty good odds against that parlay happening.)
The Bruins next played John Elway (in his senior year) and Stanford who had earlier given Washington its only loss. Ramsey was 19-27 with two touchdown passes and no interceptions and ran for a third score in the fourth quarter. Elway was 29-39 for 362 yards with one interception, but the Bruins, who led the whole game, won a back and forth shootout 38-35, while totaling over 600 yards in total offense. The Bruins got help from USC that weekend who beat Arizona 48-41. (The next week lowly Oregon who was 0-8-1 going into the game upset Arizona 13-7).
With things on track for the Bruins’ unlikely Rose Bowl Scenario, the Bruins still had to beat the Trojans to keep their dream alive. The Bruins took an early lead against the Trojans 7-0 when Ramsey hit Harper Howell (the backup tight end to Tim Wrightman) for an 11 yard touchdown. On the extra point the Trojans were offside and the holder, Rick Neuheisel opted to go for two with the free play. Unfortunately, when Neuheisel rolled out he was tackled from the side and separated his shoulder. The Bruins carried a 17-10 lead into halftime and after a Bruin field goal in the third quarter following a Scott Tinsley fumble, the Bruins led 20-10 going into the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Trojans got the ball down to the UCLA 6, but the Bruins held and the Trojans had to settle for a Field goal to make it 20-13. However, the Bruins had to punt with 5:28 left in the game, and after a couple of completions, Tinsley completed a touchdown pass to his tight end to make it 20-19 with three seconds left. To his credit John Robinson went for two, instead of going for a tie. However, when Tinsely went back to pass, UCLA’s nose guard Karl Morgan came off the line clean and sacked Tinsely to preserve the win for the Bruins in the first ever UCLA-USC game at the Rose Bowl.
Shortly, after the Bruins won, a friend of mine from Cal came by and said that while the Bruins were beating the Trojans, Cal had upset Stanford. He said in the Cal game (which was not televised) Cal had won with a series of laterals, and the Stanford band had gone onto the field during the winning score for Cal. It all sounded a little too hard to believe.
Later that same day, after the Bruins beat USC, the Bruins still needed 2-7-1 Washington State to win the Apple Cup. The Huskies were 18 point favorites going into the game. With 4:35 left in the game, Washington’s Chuck Nelson (now the color commentator for the Huskies) who had made an NCAA record 30 field goals in a row, missed attempt #31 to keep the score at 21-20. The Huskies defense held on the Cougars next drive but when Tim Cowan (father of Joe Cowan and Pat Cowan) went back to pass, he was hit from behind and fumbled. The Cougars made another field goal with 56 seconds left to win the game 24-21.
The Bruins still needed Arizona to beat ASU the following week to put the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. Going into that game, Arizona was coming two losses in a row and had lost 15 of 17 previous games against ASU. Arizona started off with a 92 yard pass to their tailback after catching the Sun Devils in a blitz. Later the Wildcats blocked a punt at the ASU 27 and kicked a field goal to put them up 10-0. The Wildcats’ ultimately increased that lead to 26-0 before holding on to win 28-18 (that total included two safeties for the Wildcats against the Sun Devils). The only UCLA fan who was disappointed with the outcome was purportedly, Terry Donahue’s wife who had been looking forward to a trip to Hawaii for the Aloha Bowl when destiny intervened. Bo Schembechler who had been in the desert scouting the Sun Devils now had to prepare to play the Bruins for the deciding game in their best of three series.
In the 83 Rose Bowl, Ramsey drove the Bruins to an early 7-0 lead with several completions for first downs on third and long. Michigan was then driving the ball down the field when Don Rogers intercepted a pass from Steve Smith to stymie the Wolverines. On the next drive, Smith was running around the next end, when he ran into Don Rogers which resulted in a separated shoulder for Smith. With a backup quarterback, and Butch Woolfolk having already graduated, the Wolverines chances of winning the game were effectively ended, and the Bruins won the rubber game against Michigan 24-14. It was a great end to a remarkable season.