Los Angeles — If head coach Terry Donahue could explain why his football team, the University of California at Los Angeles, was upset last weekend 23-17 by Arizona , a four-time loser, no doubt the Chrysler Corporation would be on the phone begging him for advice.
But except for the usual cliches, such as football is often more of a mental game than a physical one, Donahue doesn't have a whole lot of answers either. Even the game films haven't shown him much, except that a breakdown in UCLA's offensive line and defensive secondary were two of the problems.
What Donahue has to feel good about is that the Bruins, in a year when everybody said UCLA didn't have enough quality depth to make it big, were unbeaten, ranked second in the nation, and had won six in a row prior to Saturday's defeat.
Obviously this is not the same Bruins' team that went 5-6 last year; gave up 21 or more points in seven of its games; and trailed arch-rival Southern California 35-0 at halftime in its most important appearance of the season.
Out of this learning experience, until Saturday's defeat by Arizona, had come a a machine that previously whipped Colorado, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Stanford, and California. Pro scouts, who didn't look twice at UCLA's pass patterns a year ago, now say they have some of the most sophisticated in college football.
Although Donahue talked repeatedly at the start of the season about a depth problem and the importance of keeping his front-line players healthy, no such problem really seemed to exist until Saturday.
Most of the time Terry has been able to go to his bench with confidence and considerable hope for the future. In fact, of the Bruins' 14 best incoming freshmen this year, seven range in height from 6-2 to 6-5 and in weight from 210 to 240 pounds.
Those are the kinds of figures, of course, that eventually turn up on National Football League rosters, and right now UCLA is one of the most heavily scouted college teams in the country.
Donahue's primary objective going into training camp this fall was to find himself a first-string quarterback from among Tom Ramsey, Bernard Quarles, and Jay Schroeder, interesting since Ramsey started the final two games of last year.
Nevertheless, Schroeder also had an impressive set of credentials, including an arm that throws strikes. And, without another check, who could tell how much Quarles had matured over the summer.
Ramsey, according to people close to UCLA, won the job on balance and leadership. Tom, even though most of his plays are called from the bench, reads defenses well. He also throws with confidence; spreads the goodies around among his receivers; and almost never tries to force anything.
Offensively the Bruins have benefited greatly this year from the clever pass patterns installed by new offensive coordinator Homer Smith, former head coach at Army. Smith's patterns are so sophisticated that they even seem to take into consideration the possibility of land mines.
The Bruins feel they have two Heisman Trophy candidates in free safety Kenny Easley and tailback Freeman McNeil.
Easley, twice a consensus All-American, is a player with size (6-3 and 206 pounds); exceptional speed; good hands; and great instincts.
Going into the current season, Kenny had 17 career interceptions and a chance to become the first player in Pacific 10 history to earn all-league honors four times. The Bruins also consider him their best runner on punt returns.
McNeil, tanklike at 5-10 and 216 pounds, is a heavy duty runner who twice carried the ball 36 times last year against Stanford and Oregon. Overall Freeman gained 1,396 yards on the grounds, good enough to break Wendell Tyler's single-season record at UCLA. McNeil also gets excellent marks as a pass blocker.
Although UCLA (for a school its size) has one of the youngest head coaches in the country in Donahue, Terry has built an exceptional organization in terms of recruiting, preparation, and scouting.
So far this year Donahue has not received enough credit for his team's sliding defense that cuts down the run; pressures the opposing quarterback; and gives umbrella protection against the pass. Although statistics never tell the entire story, Terry had a .652 winning percentage going into his fifth year at UCLA.