The fans lingering in Section 16A were flabbergasted. Just minutes before, right there at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, UCLA's underdog Bruins had finished chewing up Ohio State's No. 2-ranked Buckeyes 17-0. Now, barreling up toward the spectators from the playing field, two rows of seats at a time, flanked by a pair of huge cops in orange rain slickers, came Terry Donahue, the UCLA coach. A gray-haired, fiftyish woman flinched and retreated behind a friend. "What's he up to?" she squealed.
"Got to find my wife," Donahue shouted to her. Then, arriving at the side of a petite brunette, he lifted her off her feet with a great big hug. Gently, he set her down and then dashed back toward the field. As Andrea Donahue turned away, she wiped a tear from her cheek.
Emotional outbursts are unusual for Terry Donahue, but then, lately, so are big victories. Four years ago Donahue was a hotshot 32-year-old rookie coach with a 9-2 record and the world on a string. Last December he was a 5-6 coach who had guided UCLA to its poorest season since 1971. Then things got worse. Four players who were supposed to be back this season were cut for disciplinary reasons. Eight others dropped out of football because of academic shortcomings. Of the 12, six were starters.
Worse still, five of Donahue's assistants moved on. One was Bobby Field. Donahue's outside linebacker coach and best friend. Field quit to do landscaping near Dallas mainly because the thrill was gone. It was going fast for Donahue, too. The wolves were howling for his hide. Often he would find a page missing from his newspaper. That was because Andrea took to removing criticism of Terry rather than letting him read it. As time wore on, there were more and more missing pages. Donahue says now that he thought about Field a lot. Coaching is terminal, anyway. There are two kinds of coaches, he says, those who have been fired and those who will be. But it was in the darkest moment that Andrea revived him. "You're enduring your players," she said. "Give it one more go. But enjoy them."
Enjoyment was just what Donahue and the Bruins experienced in the weeks before coming to Columbus. Using a retooled offense that had UCLA throwing 17.3 passes a game, more than double what it attempted in 1979, the Bruins had gone 3-0, with lopsided wins over Colorado (56-14), Purdue (23-14) and Wisconsin (35-0). New Offensive Coordinator Homer Smith, who has written four volumes about football offense, had put together a new UCLA playbook, which features a zoom receiver, no-huddle series and a tight end in the backfield. In Cormac Carney, a transfer from Air Force, Smith had a receiver Bruin fans rank with wonderful Wally Henry. UCLA's 1975 Rose Bowl MVP and currently a Philadelphia Eagle. And sophomore Quarterback Tom Ramsey not only had completed 55.9% of his passes, but had also been compared by Donahue to Jeff Dankworth, UCLA's last true passing threat. Not that Donahue figured Ohio State's being a 10-point favorite was unreasonable. "We haven't been tested by a quality team yet," he said the night before the game. "And, you know, this was our first week in class. The players were getting books and changing classes. We had to work out in pads and shorts two days instead of just one. I'd call our practice workmanlike. Heck, we cut all of them short. Now we get here and it's like a whirlwind. Distractions all over. This is as far east as we play, so a lot of our Eastern players have family and friends here. That's a distraction. So's the weather. It's 49� here. It was 90� when we left."
Ohio State also came into the game with a 3-0 record, but, beyond that, the Buckeyes had realistic designs on a national title. Many experts considered this Ohio State team superior to the 1979 squad that won 11 consecutive games and lost the Rose Bowl by a single point to a killer USC team. With reason. Ohio State's flashy defense had blanked Syracuse for a half and shut out Minnesota altogether, and its offense was in overdrive, averaging better than six yards a play. On Friday night Donahue allowed as how he had no hope of controlling Art Schlichter, the Buckeyes' gifted quarterback. All Schlichter had done the week before, against Arizona State, was complete 14 of 19 passes, three for touchdowns, to raise his career total to 22, an Ohio State record. And Donahue was concerned, too, about Buckeye Tailback Cal Murray who—remarkably—was averaging 7.4 yards a carry. "I can see them blowing us out," Donahue said. "But I can't see it the other way around."
However, while football's glamour is in the backfield, the game is usually decided in the boiler room, the front lines. This one certainly was. For example, on offense Bruin Center Dan Dufour, guards Larry Lee and John Tautolo and tackles Gregg Christiansen and Luis Sharpe so abused Ohio State's 5-2 defense that UCLA kept the ball for 11:17 of the game's opening 15 minutes. On defense, the Bruins dominated even more. When it mattered, Murray couldn't move on the ground simply because he couldn't carry the ball and UCLA's Irv Eatman at the same time. Eatman, a 6'7", 261-pound tackle, was named the game's outstanding player for helping out on or making 10 tackles, four of them for losses totaling 19 yards.
Eatman lives in Dayton, Ohio, and last summer he was constantly badgered about the Buckeyes' 17-13 victory over the Bruins a year earlier, in which the winning touchdown was scored with 42 seconds remaining. "I don't want to hear again I should have gone to Ohio State," he said. "I decided long ago that I was going to play the best game of my life here today. No one was going to stop me. And you know what? No one did."
Certainly not Schlichter, who completed just five of 12 passes for 59 yards. He also was sacked on half a dozen plays, chased out of the pocket more often than that and intercepted once. After Tackle Mike Barbee dropped him for an 11-yard loss early in the fourth quarter, Schlichter left the game for good. To his sorry stats, add a mild concussion. In all, UCLA held Ohio State to 230 yards of offense, 236 below its average. "I didn't ever expect to see that in Ohio Stadium," said Buckeye Coach Earle Bruce.
An early clue to the upset came in the second quarter, with UCLA leading 3-0 on a 27-yard field goal by Norm Johnson. Ohio State drove—from its 24-yard line to first-and-goal on the UCLA nine. Schlichter rolled left and threw to his favorite receiver, Doug Donley, in the end zone. Except, who should step in front of Donley but Strong Safety Tom Sullivan, who turned, grinned and made perhaps the simplest interception of his career. Up in the coaches' box, UCLA Defensive Coordinator Jed Hughes shook his head in disbelief. "I don't know why Art threw it," he said later. "Donley wasn't even visible out there behind Sullivan."