Pasadena, Calif. — Passing efficiency, I guess, may sound something like what happens when Fred Astaire crosses a dance floor. Actually the term is a relatively new one used in rating quarterbacks. The highest rated, of course, are those who keep finding their receivers for completions that eventually result in points on the scoreboard.
What Michigan never seemed to realize in its 24-14 Rose Bowl loss to UCLA is that the Bruins had the No. 1 man in the nation in that department in senior Tom Ramsey. There is also something significant in the fact that Stanford All-America QB John Elway, who had twice as much nationwide publicity as Ramsey, had to share Pac-10 Player of the Year honors with Tom.
Even though UCLA had beaten Michigan earlier in the season, the Wolverines made the mistake of preparing for Ramsey as though he were your standard signal caller. That is, their defense played his receivers close, but didn't maintain contact long enough to make it work.
What Michigan needed was a defense that could penetrate the protective pocket built for Ramsey, who completed 18 of 25 passes for 162 yards without an interception.
Comparing Tom's style to that of Elway is like comparing calendar art to Rembrandt.
While Ramsey isn't exactly a Horatio Alger story (he did finish seventh in the voting for the Heisman Trophy), National Football League scouts do not see him as a first-round pick in this year's college player draft.
Although they like what Tom does mechanically, there are zingier arms available, better scramblers around, and too many other quarterbacks from equally tough conferences who didn't stop growing at six feet.
But if you want to get into intangibles, Ramsey will be forever remembered among UCLA fans as the guy who got into the rhetoric barrel at this year's Rose Bowl game and made off with most of the superlatives. In leading the Bruins to a regular season 9-1-1 record (they lost only to Washington and were tied by Arizona), Tom completed 191 of 311 passes for 2,824 yards and 21 touchdowns.
In the Rose Bowl, UCLA also got a tremendous overall game from its defense. With the Bruins leading 7-0 in the second period, the Wolverines drove to within 10 yards of a tying touchdown. But that threat was snuffed out when Michigan quarterback Steve Smith cranked up and threw in the direction of his tailback Rick Rogers. Rogers caught the football alright, only it was the Rogers (first name Donald) who plays free safety for UCLA.
The Bruins' Rogers, who weighs 205 pounds and is all whipcord and whalebone, was part of another big second-period defensive play when he made a jarring tackle of Smith that resulted in the latter's permanent removal from the game. David Hall, who replaced the injured starter, had thrown the ball only 14 times all season.
Basically, Hall had played only in games in which Michigan had been way ahead. Yet under conditions that would have rattled most kids, he led the Wolverines to two touchdowns, one an unexpected pass to fullback Eddie Garrett.
What hindered both Michigan quarterbacks all afternoon was a rather ordinary performance by their three-time All-America wide receiver, Anthony Carter. Anthony, who often had to fight double coverage by the Bruins, caught only five passes, none resulting in more than a 15-yard gain.
For Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who sometimes breathes fire but was on his best behavior with the press in Pasadena, this was his sixth frustrating loss in seven trips to the Rose Bowl.
For those Wolverine fans who would like to dropkick Schembechler into California's nearby San Gabriel Mountains, remember that in order to be in line for that kind of treatment Bo first had to win enough games to get to Pasadena.
Meanwhile the payoff check that Michigan found tucked away among the roses is big enough to feed Rhode Island for a week! Of course, it must be split with the other Big Ten schools.