Before this season began, the Oregon football team looked at quarterback as a problem position. Chris Miller, a two-time all-Pacific 10 quarterback, had been drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and he had left no heir apparent.
There were challengers, of course. But the Ducks went into their opener at Colorado unsure between a redshirt freshman and a struggling sophomore.
Now, the quarterback is considered the Ducks' No. 1 asset. Oregon will play UCLA at the Rose Bowl this afternoon with a quarterback who ranks fourth in the country in passing efficiency and is drawing raves from all sides.
Bill Musgrave, the redshirt freshman, got the starting call for the opener in his home state of Colorado and led the Ducks to victory. He stayed in control during Oregon's 24-14 loss at Ohio State and has been the star in three straight victories over San Diego State, Washington and USC.
UCLA Coach Terry Donahue has called Musgrave "the hottest quarterback in the country" and a "major, major factor" in Oregon's success.
Oregon Coach Rich Brooks can't say enough about the player's poise, confidence and decision-making.
The statistics are even more impressive. Musgrave has completed 85 of 130 passes--that's 65%--for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns with just 3 interceptions.
After studying the films, Donahue said: "Musgrave has been the guy, offensively, who has made it all work for them."
Obviously, he's not doing it alone. His own coach explained: "We have more people contributing to the team than we've had in the last couple years with Chris, when we were depending solely on him. I think the team has rallied around Musgrave because he is young. We've talked about the fact that we would have to give him support."
In his last victory, over USC, Musgrave completed passes to 10 receivers. And those include some pretty impressive athletes. Fullback Latin Berry was the Pacific 10 triple-jump champion and split end J.J. Birden won the conference long jump title.
Derek Loville, the team's leading rusher this season, is a sophomore who also led the team last season, despite injuries. Loville is one of the first mentioned when Brooks starts talking about how the Ducks have had three straight very good recruiting classes.
Which explains why Donahue keeps saying that the Ducks are for real.
The consecutive victories over traditional Pac-10 powers Washington and USC were pretty convincing. Oregon is going into today's game with a 2-0 Pac-10 record, the same as UCLA's. Oregon and UCLA are the only teams still undefeated in Pac-10 play.
But apparently those victories were not convincing enough. Oregon is a solid underdog today.
Brooks is used to that. The Ducks were underdogs at Colorado, at Ohio State and at home against Washington. "With the way we've been squeaking out wins, it doesn't surprise me that we're considered an underdog when we're going on the road against a team as strong as UCLA," he said.
Although Oregon fans are ecstatic over beating both Washington and USC for the first time in 16 years, over breaking into the national rankings for the first time in 17 years, over the chance to, maybe, make a bowl game for the first time in 24 years, it's no wonder there are still skeptics.
They find that the last time Oregon beat Washington, USC and UCLA in the same season, was 1948. That team, with Norm Van Brocklin at quarterback, ended up in the Cotton Bowl.
But adding UCLA to its list of upsets figures to be pretty tough for the Ducks.
Bruin Notes Today's game will not be televised live but will be shown by Prime Ticket at 11:30 p.m. today and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. . . . Each team is 4-1 overall, 2-0 in the Pac-10. Oregon lost to Ohio State, 24-14, at Columbus before a crowd of 89,882. Oregon has beaten Colorado, San Diego State, Washington and USC. . . .Coach Rich Brooks is in his 11th season at Oregon. He was on the UCLA staff under Coach Terry Donahue for a year before getting that position. Donahue is in his 12th season at UCLA. They have met eight times, with Donahue winning six games and Brooks the two others. Brooks' Oregon team beat UCLA in their last meeting, 20-18 at the Rose Bowl in 1984. . . . UCLA is expecting a crowd of only 50,000 today, despite the impact the game will have on the conference race and even though there is no live TV. Obviously, plenty of tickets are available.
Gaston Green, who became UCLA's career rushing leader with a 139-yard game at Stanford, leads the Pac-10 in rushing, averaging 116.8 yards a game. He's averaging 149.6 yards a game in all-purpose ground gaining. . . UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman leads the nation in passing efficiency, having completed 60 of 86 passes for 963 yards and 6 touchdowns with 1 interception. . . UCLA's attack couldn't be much more balanced. The Bruins are averaging 219 yards a game rushing and 216.6 passing. . . . Inside linebacker Ken Norton leads the team with 57 tackles, an average of 11.4 a game. . . . UCLA ranks third in the nation in total defense and is second against the rush.
UCLA free safety James Washington will start today after missing three games with a knee injury. Receiver Reggie Moore also is expected to be back after missing almost all of the early season with a stress fracture in his foot. Tailback Eric Ball will not suit up. He is still recovering from a separated shoulder. . . . Oregon defensive backs Thom Kaumeyer, who was hospitalized with a concussion after the USC game, and Brett Young, who went to the sidelines with a sprained right knee, are both expected to play today. A hip pointer suffered by defensive back Rod Gould turned out to be minor, according to Brooks.