Obviously they have been going exceedingly well so far, but that could all be forgotten pending the outcome of this week's meeting in the Coliseum with USC, which is ranked immediately behind UCLA in the polls. The Bruins have no stars of the caliber of USC's Ricky Bell; still, Donahue has put together a group of folks who manage to get their uniforms on frontwards and win games. Vermeil didn't leave Donahue exactly bereft of talent, just some holes.
The hole that had caused the most concern was at quarterback. Donahue has filled it with senior Jeff Dankworth, who chose UCLA over Stanford because he "wanted stability"; now Donahue is the third coach UCLA has had since Dankworth arrived in 1972. More accomplished as a runner than as a passer, Dankworth nevertheless is happy that Donahue doesn't object to throwing the ball. "Under Pepper Rodgers, UCLA didn't pass," says Dankworth. "We didn't know if the ball would fly or not, although just by standing around and looking at it, it seemed that aerodynamically it should work." Says Donahue, "Sure, I wish Jeff could pass a little better, but I'm also certain that he wishes I could coach a little better."
Dankworth's backfield buddies in the veer-style offense that Donahue helped install while assisting Vermeil are senior Wendell Tyler and sophomore Theotis Brown. Tyler went past Kermit Johnston, UCLA's all-time leading rusher, in the third game of the season; the pros like his style. He's tough. Last year, in the seven games he played with a broken wrist, he gained 821 yards and had five 100-yard afternoons. Of Brown, who is averaging 93.4 yards a game this season. Assistant Coach Don Riley says, "He has so much talent it's scary."
Sophomore Linebacker Jerry Robinson is the Bruins' leading tackier and is happy he didn't end up at USC. "I think I enjoy beating them more than I would playing for them," he says. Other prominent defensive players are Tackle Manu Tuiasosopo and Safety Oscar Edwards, who came into the public eye after his girl friend decided he wasn't getting enough media attention. She designed a towel depicting a skull and crossbones for him to wear tucked in his waistband, whereupon he was nicknamed Dr. Death. Now a dozen UCLA players have towels designating themselves as Hollywood and Top Cat and so forth. Edwards, described by Donahue as "a great player and a better person," says he battled his way to a starting job in 1975 spring practice "by not giving any slack."
That's one of the hallmarks of the Bruins: giving no slack. That's how they dumped then No. 3-ranked Arizona State in the nationally televised season opener, climbed out of a mess to get past Stanford, tied Ohio State. Somehow, Donahue has been able to maintain a mix of professionalism and wide-eyed innocence. The night before the Ohio State game he sat in his hotel suite overlooking an ARCO station and a Burger King and mused, "Just think, I've never even coached Little League and now I'm going to coach against Woody Hayes."
Donahue knows football, obviously, but his success may stem even more from his ability to understand football players, who often need a load of understanding. Never a star himself, Donahue was a 195-pound walk-on at UCLA who ended up starting for two years. "I am an overachiever," he says. "And very, very...ah, average. Actually, 'sorry' is probably the word I'm searching for." Once, when Donahue was ejected from a game along with the Stanford quarterback, Prothro said, "I'll trade a defensive tackle for a quarterback anytime." Terry was deflated.
Donahue says he has learned much from all the coaches he has been associated with, including Prothro, who once described his poker strategy to Donahue: "Take every penny that everybody else at the table has got." Still, Pepper Rodgers is Terry's main mentor and buddy. Rodgers gave Donahue his first coaching job "when, just think, he could have chosen one of 1,000 other guys, but he chose me." This was after Donahue worked five months for free. Seems he had been told earlier to come to Kansas to work for Rodgers as a graduate assistant coach. But he had no intention of taking courses, so he received no scholarship. Instead, when he arrived at Lawrence in his station wagon, he was given a movie pass to all the theaters in town and told he could eat with the football players. A paycheck was not one of the perks.
Donahue's first day at a Kansas practice also was the first day for Karl Salb, the huge shotputter whom Rodgers had been trying for years to lure onto the football team. Donahue reported after practice that he and Salb had had words, and Salb quit. Screamed Rodgers, " Donahue, do you have any idea how hard it is to get a 6'4", 260-pound defensive tackle and how easy it is to get a 23-year-old smart-aleck assistant coach?" Terry got the message. Salb was back the next day and starred on the 1968 Kansas team that went 9-1 and played in the Orange Bowl. Donahue followed Rodgers to UCLA when Pepper got the top job there in 1970 and almost followed him to Georgia Tech in 1974. Does Rodgers have any advice for Terry? "Sure. He should quit after this year."
Don't count on it. Donahue says, "Ever since I walked onto the UCLA campus to play football, my dream was to be head football coach at UCLA. I'd hate to leave this place even for heaven." Still, Terry, who grew up in North Hollywood, thought he would have to leave UCLA at least temporarily because of the school's penchant for not hiring head coaches from its own staff. He was bitterly disappointed last December when Craig Fertig beat him out for the head coaching job at Oregon State.
Donahue is the son of a doctor, one of five boys, and was raised under the thumb of a mother known as "The Sarge." He was a plugger in school and a brawler in his spare time. On the day his mother was in the hospital giving birth to her fifth son, Terry was out on the streets of his neighborhood getting hit by a car. As the ambulance carted him away he was seen waving from the back window.