Washington's backfield was also somewhat unsettled. James had a difficult time picking a starting quarterback to replace Warren Moon, who is now with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. The man who won the job was Tom Porras, a transfer from Ventura ( Calif.) Junior College. In days gone by, the Huskies had eased into the season with pushover openers against the Puyallup Indians (1898), Lincoln High School (1911) or the crew of the U.S.S. Mississippi (1923). No doubt James would have liked to break in Porras against, say, the Bellevue Beauty School. But, no, it was UCLA—in a game that might eventually determine the Pac-10 title.
To ease some of the pressure, James put Porras off limits to reporters the week of the game. Acting as spokesman for his team, James told a booster-club luncheon Friday, "The Husky players are going to go out and fight and scratch and bust their fannies, and what more can you ask?"
Well, sunshine for one thing. The weather was so rotten that neither Porras nor anyone else had much chance to show what he could do. Defense took over. And the special teams.
Donahue had been prophetic earlier in the week when he said, "One of the strongest points of the Washington program is their kicking game. I think one of the keys in the ball game will be how sound our kicking game is in relation to Washington's."
It was sound enough. The Bruins got off to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, recovering a fumble on their 45 and slipping and sliding to the Husky 20 before bogging down. With fourth and 10 at the 20, Peter Boermeester kicked a 37-yard field goal. So much for UCLA's offensive point production.
A few minutes into the second quarter, Bruin Matt McFarland, who averaged 40 yards on seven soggy punts, kicked to Washington's Nesby Glasgow, who dropped the ball (one of his three fumbles) and fell on it at the Husky 15. In three plays Washington lost seven yards, and Aaron Wilson prepared to punt from his end zone. Easley, however, came racing in from the left side of the Bruin line and blocked the kick. The loose ball was flopped on by Strong Safety Brian Baggott for a TD. Boermeester made it UCLA 10, Washington 0.
"We figured that Washington would pressure our special teams," said Easley, "and we planned to do likewise with them. We had a block-punt play on. It's designed so that everybody on the inside gets blocked and I start way outside and get through. I took a running jump from about four yards away and I really figured that I'd missed the ball. When it hit my left hand it was a surprise to me."
Washington's only score came just before halftime. Owens and Bashore fumbled a handoff and Bruce Harrell recovered for the Huskies on the Bruin 31. Four plays later Porras passed to Tight End Scott Greenwood in the end zone, and Mike Lansford's PAT brought the Huskies to 10-7.
The second half was simply a matter of treading water as both teams had trouble slogging to midfield. But Washington's Rose Bowl hopes weren't completely doused. The Huskies got off to a miserable start last year (2-2 including a victory by forfeit) and came back to win the Pac-8 title. "They're not out of it and we certainly haven't clinched it," said Donahue.
As the spectators waded out of Husky Stadium it was still raining. The waterlogged but happy visitors from California wouldn't have been surprised to see, on the blacktopped path leading down to the nearby marina, a line of animals marching two by two.