The victory at Michigan has left a lot of Angelenos thinking that UCLA's shift to the Rose Bowl was a portentous one. Since 1929 the Bruins had played their home games in the Coliseum, just a stroll across Exposition Boulevard from the Southern Cal campus. But when Al Davis and the NFL Raiders barged in as Coliseum co-tenants, UCLA officials decided they didn't much like the neighborhood and moved out. "Sometimes I felt that we were dealing with Mr. Davis and not the Coliseum Commission," says UCLA Athletic Director Robert Fischer. "There's no doubt that with the Raiders and USC also in the Coliseum, we would've been No. 3."
Though the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is actually about 10 miles farther from the UCLA campus than the Coliseum (24 vs. 14 miles), Donahue has played up the "home team" angle. "It's the beginning of a new era with our own stadium," he says. "So I thought it was the ideal time to take on a new identity for ourselves."
That may be true, but what made the Bruins' transformation to a passing team possible was that Donahue finally had the people he needed to make it work. Foremost among those players is Ramsey, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior. UCLA Offensive Coordinator Homer Smith describes Ramsey's importance to the Bruins' attack this way: "The coaches here haven't had nearly as much effect on the offense as Tom Ramsey's parents."
Jim and Denny Ramsey of Newport Beach, Calif. are to be congratulated, but they could've improved their timing. The Ramseys brought Tom into the world at almost the same time Jack and Janet Elway were producing another quarterback. His name is John and he plays for Stanford.
Ramsey has been playing in Elway's shadow since their sophomore years in high school when Ramsey started for Kennedy and Elway started for Granada Hills, Kennedy's archrival. Donahue recruited both Elway and Ramsey, but Elway ended up in Palo Alto, where his career has inspired one long string of superlatives. Even Donahue can't help but gush: "He's an animal. He's in a class by himself. I think he's the best college quarterback to come along since Joe Namath."
No one is confusing Ramsey with Namath, but he has quietly carved a niche of his own at UCLA. Barring injury, by the end of this season he will have every UCLA passing record, surpassing the totals of, among others, Gary Beban, who was the Bruins' only Heisman Trophy winner, in 1967. Ramsey can throw long, short and on the run. He's an excellent reader of defenses—his 50-yard touchdown pass to Flanker Dokie Williams late in the second quarter against Colorado came on an audible—and an outstanding leader.
Understandably, over the years Ramsey has grown weary of hearing about Elway. Yes, they've met numerous times. No, they haven't talked quarter-backing that much. No, Ramsey doesn't think Elway has overshadowed him. What's the big difference between him and Elway? "The big difference is that they [Stanford] throw the ball 60 times a game," says Ramsey. Well, maybe that's coming your way, too, Tom.
UCLA Tight End Paul Bergmann, Ramsey's closest friend, can speak to the Elway-Ramsey issue if anyone can because he was Elway's favorite target at Granada Hills. But after meeting Ramsey in an all-star game, and deciding he didn't want to go to Stanford, Bergmann chose to follow Ramsey to UCLA. "I think Tom is about as complete a quarterback as you could want," says Bergmann. "He can drop back and throw it, he can scramble, he has field presence, he has everything. No, he can't throw it 75 yards off his back foot like John can, but that's just John. Nobody else can do that. But I do think Tom's every bit as accurate as John."
In addition to Bergmann, Ramsey has a well-matched set of wide receivers. Senior Cormac Carney, who leads the Bruins this season with 18 catches for 259 yards, has a reputation as a Fred Biletnikoff type: He has no particular strength but catches the ball whenever and wherever it's thrown to him. With eight more receptions—he now has 80 for his career—he'll supplant Kurt Altenberg as UCLA's alltime leading receiver. Carney feels his reputation for being slow, if steady, is a bum rap; his best 40-yard time is 4.7, and he hopes defenses may loosen up on him after they see the films of the 40-yard bomb he caught from Ramsey on a straight fly pattern early in the second half against Colorado. And with a 3.5 grade average in psychology and a possibility of becoming a Rhodes scholar, Carney is also the man to hit when a semi-erudite quote is called for, as in: "One thing Tom Ramsey has done is maximize his physical potential."
No one has made the most of things quite as well as the other wideout, Flanker Jojo Townsell, a 5'8", 180-pound senior who has caught 17 passes for 310 yards. With 76 career receptions, he also should surpass Altenberg's record. If Carney is Mr. Steady, Townsell is Mr. Spectacular. In the season opener against Long Beach State he caught TD passes of 23, 48, 32 and 18 yards from Ramsey in the first half. And in the comeback against Michigan he played a key role with seven catches for 108 yards.