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Neuheisel's first victory is similar to Donahue's

September 02, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Rick Neuheisel just joined an exclusive list:

UCLA coaches who won in their debut.

Before Monday, only two of 10 football coaches since World War II had won in their first game -- Red Sanders in 1949 and Terry Donahue in 1976.

Neuheisel's was similar to Donahue's in that it came over a heavily favored, nationally ranked opponent.

Donahue's win came against third-ranked Arizona State, which was led by feisty coach Frank Kush.

"I remember being scared to death, frankly," Donahue said Monday. "A week before the game, I was watching a college football show. They had film of Frank Kush running through the desert, with no shirt and in the heat and all that. I thought 'Oh my goodness, what is going on? This guy is Hannibal.'

"I called Pepper Rodgers, one of my mentors, and told him I was scared to death, 'I'm playing Frank Kush.' He said, 'No, you're not, Donahue. Frank Kush doesn't play, his players play.'

"That statement was a very calming statement for me. Frank had all the notoriety, but the reality was his players were going to play and my players were going to play and we'll see what happens."

What happened was quarterback Jeff Dankworth led the Bruins to a 28-17 victory in Tempe, Ariz., "that jump-started my career," Donahue said.

Donahue said he had not offered similar words of encouragement to Neuheisel, with whom he is close.

"Rick has been with two real big programs, at Colorado and Washington," Donahue said. "He's at a different stage in his career than I was. I was a 31-year-old guy who had never been a head coach before."

Volunteers in reserve

Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer is 14-2 in season openers -- two of the losses to UCLA.

The other loss to the Bruins was by the score of 25-23, at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 3, 1994.

Tennessee's starting quarterback that day was fifth-year senior Jerry Colquitt, who suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the game. His replacement was Todd Helton, who never made much of a name for himself in football but would later win a batting championship for the Colorado Rockies.

Also seeing playing time at quarterback that day was a freshman named Peyton Manning.

Bud Ford, longtime Tennessee sports information director, recalled that Manning had no inkling he was going to play. In fact, Manning thought he might end up as a redshirt that year.

"He thought he was out here on a cruise," Ford said.

Ford said Manning entered the huddle for the first time and tried to pump up his teammates. As the story goes, one veteran lineman told Manning, "Shut up and snap the ball."

Manning would become, of course, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football history and now stars for the Indianapolis Colts.

Futures market

About 60 potential recruits were expected at the game, including quarterback Richard Brehaut (Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos) and linebackers Isaiah Bowens (La Puente Bishop Amat) and Todd Golpher (Arcadia), who have committed to UCLA.

Among others expected were tight end Chris Coyle (Westlake Oaks Christian), who has committed to Arizona State, and defensive back Byron Moore (Harbor City Narbonne) and tight end Morrell Presley (Carson), who have committed to USC.

Injury report

Four key Bruins were injured: Senior wide receiver Marcus Everett suffered a dislocated toe, senior tight end Logan Paulsen suffered a fractured foot that will require surgery, senior tailback Kahlil Bell had a high-ankle sprain and will have an MRI exam and junior linebacker Reggie Carter had a knee ligament sprain.


Times staff writer Chris Dufresne contributed to this report.


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