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UCLA Likely to Pick Stevens Quarterback for Rose Bowl Game

December 30, 1985|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

Although UCLA Coach Terry Donahue did not make it official after practice Sunday evening, there was every indication that junior Matt Stevens will start at quarterback in the Rose Bowl game New Year's Day in place of senior David Norrie, who still is having trouble with a pulled muscle in his leg.

Every indication included Norrie's long face, Stevens' bright eyes, Donahue's cringes and grimaces, and the assurances he could not make to Norrie.

As for solid evidence, there was the fact that Stevens continued to play the role of starter and got most of the work in Sunday's practice, the last practice in full pads before two very light workouts today and Tuesday.

"Based on today, I would say that David couldn't play in the game," Donahue said. "I know that David feels he could, but he is not 100%. I don't think you want a bunch of angry, 270-pound guys in black shirts coming at you if you can't go full speed and get out of the way or if you don't have the mobility to fight the ball back up to the line of scrimmage.

"David can't pivot, he doesn't have full range. He's throwing the ball well, but he was visibly dragging his (right) leg.

"He has improved dramatically, but I find it hard to believe that he would be able to get to 100%."

Still, Donahue was not ready to announce the change. In Norrie's favor is the fact that he does seem to be on the road to recovery and that the coaches are going out of their way to help him make up for the time he lost in the last week.

Offensive coordinator Homer Smith jogged to the locker room to bring back the first-line receivers to do extra work with Norrie after practice had ended.

Asked if he considered it an advantage to keep Iowa off-balance by not announcing the starting quarterback, Donahue said: "Not at all. The offense is going to stay the same no matter who we start at quarterback."

Norrie, who had been noticeably irritated at the way he was held out of so many repetitions during Saturday's practice, was much more at ease with the situation on Sunday.

"I was a little bit frustrated yesterday," he said. "I think there was a bit of urgency on both the coaches' part and my part. . . . I want to make sure the coach knows I feel good and I feel ready to play.

"I felt very good today. My arm feels good. The only thing I didn't want to do 100% was sprint, but that's because I want to rest it. All the swelling is gone from my leg now. It has been a little stiff before, but I'm sure it will be fine on Wednesday.

"But I don't want to cause any disruption. Whether I start or not, I know I'll get a chance to play. Whatever the coaches decide, Matt and I will abide by it. We have all season."

Stevens, who had been the first backup to Steve Bono the year before, lost out to Norrie for the starting position in the opener at BYU, but came off the bench to pull out the victory. In the next game, at Tennessee, it was the other way around, with Stevens starting and Norrie coming in for the comeback for the tie.

Stevens, who was being careful not to say that he would start the game, had to admit that "it looks that way." He said that he felt confident. But he did empathize with Norrie's situation.

"He's the one who got us to the Rose Bowl," Stevens said. "He has played wonderfully all the season and he has had to deal with a backup quarterback like myself who was always pushing him. That's a lot of pressure.

"I thought he really showcased himself in the SC game. He's been playing very well. He's the quarterback of this team."

Donahue asked to assess how much of a dropoff there would be from Norrie, who started 10 games for the Bruins this season, said: "As I said yesterday, David Norrie has been to us what Chuck Long has been to Iowa. He took us to the conference championship and had a great season. I don't think it would be fair to David Norrie to say that we wouldn't miss him. We would miss him.

"But if I had to go with a second-string quarterback, I can't think of anyone I'd choose ahead of Matt Stevens."

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