"Game of the Century", AAWU, Bruins, college football, Crosstown Rivalry, football, Gary Beban, Heisman Trophy, L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles Times, O.J. Simpson, Pac-8 Conference, Rose Bowl, Trojans, UCLA, UCLA Bruins, University of California Los Angeles, University of Southern California, USC, USC Trojans
O.J. Simpson (#32) getting tackled by a UCLA defender during the 1967 Crosstown Clash. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com
REMEMBERING THE EPIC “GAME OF THE CENTURY” BETWEEN UCLA AND USC IN FOOTBALL, AS IT WAS FIFTY YEARS AGO THIS COMING SATURDAY – TO THE DAY – WHEN IT ALL WENT DOWN
UCLA BRUINS vs USC TROJANS, 1967 – BY THE NUMBERS:
Date: November 18th, 1967
Place: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
UCLA: 7-0-1, #1 in AP & Coaches Polls
USC: 8-1, #4 in AP Poll, #2 in Coaches Poll
Odds: Trojans were favored by three
UCLA – Tommy Prothro
USC – John McKay
At Stake: The AAWU (Pac-8 Conference) championship, a berth in the Rose Bowl, the Heisman Trophy, and a likely national championship
Final Score: USC Trojans 21 – UCLA Bruins 20
Footage/highlights of USC’s epic 21-20 win over UCLA at the Coliseum on November 18, 1967. Courtesy of YouTube.
It is still widely thought of as the greatest game in the history of the Crosstown Rivalry.
I can’t think of a game played between these two college football teams calling Los Angeles home since, where absolutely everything was on the line.
Where both teams were ranked in the top four and where since only the conference champion played in the postseason in those days, it was literally a winner take all situation.
Add to that the fact that the Coliseum was home to UCLA’s and USC’s teams, the Coliseum split down the middle with cardinal on one side and blue on the other,
And that it would have been a big game even if both teams, located just 11 miles apart, were winless.
And you had what I’m sure was a VERY charged and intense atmosphere among the fans, the boosters, the alumni, and especially the students that whole week.
(I wouldn’t know, by the way; I turned five months old and was most likely getting my diapers changed the day that game was played)
The thing was, when I researched the Trojans’ 21-20 triumph over the Bruins that mid-Autumn afternoon,
Although everyone knows about a certain running back’s 64-yard touchdown run, performed by a Trojan who would go on to become well-known for various reasons and would become quite infamous today,
That 23-Blast play by O.J. Simpson was not the only factor in ‘SC’s victory. Far from it.
In fact, I don’t think that ultimately won the game for the Trojans as UCLA made some costly mistakes, such as USC linebacker Pat Cashman intercepting the Bruins’ all-universe quarterback, Gary Beban, running it back for a pick-six to tie the score at seven in the first quarter.
As well as Bruin kicker Zenon Andrusyshyn’s low trajectory costing his team six points, the Trojans’ 6′ 8″ Bill Hayhoe blocking two field goal tries in the third quarter.
According to my math calculations, those mistakes cost UCLA a 33-14 win.
You know I couldn’t write this piece without including a clip of the most famous run in Crosstown Rivalry history, by a certain Trojan who we all know. Courtesy of YouTube.
Not that I blame Beban as he took a horrible beating from USC’s front seven all day (an apparent combination of ‘SC blitzing and then Bruins’ offensive line not doing a good job protecting him), playing with bruised ribs and a detached cartilage; despite that, he ended up throwing for 301 yards on what to me was the perfect illustration of guts.
Indeed, Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote afterwards,
“If Gary Beban wins the Heisman Trophy, they ought to fill it with aspirin.”
Which he did, becoming to this day the only Bruin to ever win college football’s highest honor.
Although I’ll bet anything and everything that Beban would have happily traded that Heisman for a win over ‘SC, the Rose Bowl bid, the national championship, and all the trimmings.
As for O.J., not only did he finish with 177 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns,
That game made “The Juice’s” career, setting him up for winning the Heisman a year later and eventually becoming the greatest football player – and essentially the greatest athlete as football is everything in the USC community – to come out of that south of downtown L.A. institution.
And certainly its most famous as for the next two decades plus, you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing him either running through opposing defenders or airports, or acting on some TV show.
No African-American was more accepted in mainstream America than he was – at least until he went on that ride in his Ford Bronco in mid-June of 1994.
But we won’t go there; that’s another article.
The Trojans’ win over the Bruins that day got them all the spoils; the conference title, the Rose Bowl – which they won, beating Indiana 14-3 – and the national championship, setting them up for the rest of that decade and beyond as ‘SC dominated the 1970s, going to six Rose Bowls, winning three national titles and another Heisman Trophy for Charles White in that span.
Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to state that UCLA’s loss that day set them back.
With Beban out due to those ribs, those demoralized Bruins pretty much waved the white flag in their 32-14 loss to Syracuse the next week, ending the season on an extremely depressing note after it had so much promise.
Not to mention that defeat relegating them to more or less back seat status to their crosstown rivals, managing to only beat the Trojans twice and tie them once during the next 12 years, with a single Rose Bowl bid in 1976.
It’s difficult to believe that it’s been fifty years since that “Game of the Century”.
It’s also a safe bet that this coming Saturday, on the 50th anniversary of that monumental battle, one side hopes that history will repeat itself, while the other side hopes the exact opposite.
I’ll let you guess which sides…
UCLA’s Gary Beban (#16) with his teammates in a huddle. Photo courtesy of theplayerstribune.com