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SOCAL SPORTS ANNALS BEGINS ITS ANNUAL CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE WITH A REMEMBRANCE OF THE TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE GREATEST UPSET IN UCLA vs USC FOOTBALL HISTORY
Ten years goes by fast.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, it’s extremely hard to believe that a decade has gone by since UCLA’s Bruins scored the biggest upset in the history of their storied rivalry with USC in knocking out the rival Trojans at the Rose Bowl, 13-9.
December 2, 2006 was certainly a day that will live in infamy for ‘SC as UCLA, a 23 point underdog in the midst of a rather mediocre 6-5 season going into the annual clash, scored an upset on a level of David beating Goliath.
Or at least on a level of New York’s Miracle Mets winning the 1969 World Series.
That Bruin triumph was a joyous memory for me not only because I’m a UCLA alum, but because I was one of the 90,622 fans who witnessed that epic battle.
I remember the atmosphere being quite charged – which is usually the case for these Crosstown Clashes no matter what the records of the two teams are – as being a part of the UCLA Alumni Band, I did the pregame tailgating concert with them before heading into the Rose Bowl.
I also recall only the most diehard, rah-rah homer members of Bruin Nation thinking UCLA had any chance against a Trojan team that was ranked second in the nation and only had to beat the Bruins to punch their ticket to the National Championship game.
So when halftime found UCLA trailing by a mere 9-7, I distinctly remember telling my friends sitting around me, “We’ll take it,” because everyone expected the Bruins to be losing by far more than that.
It was UCLA’s defense that carried the day as they stuffed USC on fourth down time and time again, matching their intensity and showing for the first time in years that they wouldn’t going to back down, having lost 66-19 the year before and with ‘SC riding a seven game winning streak over the Bruins.
Patrick Cowan, UCLA’s quarterback, illustrated how he and his fellow Bruins weren’t backing down when after a vicious hit on him by USC’s all-everything linebacker Rey Maualuga, Cowan jumped right up as if to say, “Is that all you got?”
That intensity particularly manifested itself with roughly five minutes left in the game when during a time out, the Trojan players started dancing and getting hyped up on their side of the field.
Which the Bruin players apparently took offense to as they not only did the same thing on their side, quite a few of them started to approach the Trojans – who I think were doing a little taunting – some of them coming to within a few feet of each other before the coaches and the referees broke them up.
The complete highlights of the Bruins’ epic 13-9 defeat of the Trojans ten years ago, courtesy of YouTube
With UCLA getting a couple of field goals in the second half and leading 13-9, I and the other 90,000 fans – who I don’t remember sitting down for pretty much the entire 4th quarter – saw USC go into a no-huddle offense and march down the field.
Everyone wearing blue and gold was screaming in the stands to help the Bruin defense, who were playing spectacularly all game long, while everyone wearing cardinal and gold was screaming their heads off for every first down and yardage gain their team made, getting louder the closer they got to the end zone.
That’s when it happened…
I don’t remember what down it was or how many yards the Trojans were from scoring the winning, Bruin-beating, and national championship game-clinching touchdown, but I do recall seeing every true blue wearing football player and fan ecstatic over what I saw about a minute later on the video screen – Eric McNeal tipping, and then intercepting, a John David Booty pass (as was my habit, my eyes were covered at that moment because my anxiety couldn’t take watching it).
The thing I remember most was the fact that the upset wasn’t complete at that moment, but a little later on when Aaron Perez, after coach Karl Dorrell told him to punt the ball out-of-bounds to deny ‘SC a chance at a heartbreaking return,
Delivered the greatest punt in UCLA history, sending Desmond Reed back 20 yards, which allowed his teammates to stop him at around the 15 yard line.
Right in front of me!
When Booty’s last pass fell incomplete a second later, that’s when the celebrating really began as it was the first – and as it turned out, the only – time that the Bruins beat a Trojan team coached by Pete Carroll, who was like Mike Tyson beating up on Mini-Me as far as the Crosstown Rivalry was concerned since he arrived at USC five years before.
I don’t have to tell you how ridiculously happy Bruin Nation was over taking down the number two team in the nation, a team in the midst of a dominating dynasty that saw them play for the BCS crown the previous two years, winning one and coming oh-so-close in the other 11 months before, ironically on that same Rose Bowl field.
Of course I was as ecstatic as every one of my Bruin Nation comrades, celebrating outside the Rose Bowl with my Alumni Band friends in the dark before I headed over to what was an extremely long line to get to the shuttle buses, telling some Trojan fans while there who I saw winning in the other sports clashes between our two schools; I particularly recall saying that our basketball team, coming off a Final Four appearance, would sweep our ‘SC counterparts.
The interception heard ’round the Bruin world, courtesy of YouTube.
So much so that UCLA losing its subsequent bowl game to Florida State didn’t seem as disappointing to me as it normally would be.
When I first started writing online, I was part of Bleacher Report.com, where I did an article listing the Bruins’ ten greatest wins over USC.
This game came in second.
As for the game I listed as number one, UCLA’s greatest victory over the Trojans in rivalry history,
That will be discussed tomorrow as this year marks the twenty-year anniversary of that epic triumph.
COMING TOMORROW IN OUR CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE:
Remembering the only overtime game among the 85 football games that UCLA and USC have played against each other.
Be sure to check it out as that game was one that will always be remembered!
UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan (#12) running a play during the Bruins’ 13-9 shocking of second-ranked USC, shattering a seven-game losing streak and the Trojans’ BCS title hopes. Photo courtesy of flickr.com