Oh, how the mighty had fallen—or so it seemed. From 1982 to '88, Troy Aikman's senior year, Donahue won seven straight bowl games, including three Rose Bowls. In the next four seasons his record was 23-21-1, and UCLA went to only one postseason game, the venerable John Hancock Bowl. Donahue, once the best in the Pac-10 at attracting talent from all over the country, saw the flow of out-of-state players slow to a trickle. Bruin coaches say that the L.A. riots of May 1992 adversely affected this year's recruiting class, only two members of which aren't from California.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Pac-10 closed the gap. The 15th-ranked Bruins' next opponent, Arizona, the only Pac-10 team never to have been to the Rose Bowl, is 7-0 and ranked seventh. UCLA avoided being tied by Oregon State—allegedly the conference's patsy—when Beaver kicker Brooke Knight's 32-yard field goal attempt with 4:22 to go hooked left by less than a foot.
The Beavers pressed Cook, who had thrown 12 touchdown passes in the previous four games, and he completed only 15 of 31 on the day. Part of the trouble was that Cook had relied too much on Stokes and neglected other capable receivers, like Kevin Jordan and Mike Nguyen. Double-covered most of the game, Stokes had a quiet eight-catch, one-touchdown day, if such a day can be called quiet.
Neuheisel seemed delighted with the victory. "We came out flat and won," he said. "Championship teams win games like these."
Donahue was reserved. "We've got four games to go," he said. "It's too early to be talking about championships."
Let's see if we have this straight. Donahue's message last Saturday: Don't call us champions. His message five weeks ago: Don't call us ragamuffins.