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OUR CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE CONTINUES WITH A REMEMBRANCE OF A UCLA vs USC GAME WHERE THE WINNER GOT THE ROSE BOWL BID; WHICH I HAD THE PLEASURE TO ATTEND
The 25 Year Anniversary of This True Crosstown Showdown
Friday, November 19, 1993. Around 11:00 p.m.
I got a phone call from a neighbor of mine, saying that because he had to go to a funeral, he couldn’t go to the Crosstown Rivalry Clash between USC and my alma mater, UCLA.
Which would decide the Pac-10 title and the trip to the Rose Bowl that went along with that.
Being an Bruin alum and expecting to watch the game on TV, when my neighbor offered me his ticket, you get one guess as to how I responded.
Eight hours later, I found myself having breakfast with a young lady (I had talked to her on the phone the night before) who had bought the tickets, before we headed east on the 10 Freeway towards Vermont Ave and the Coliseum, where the 63rd meeting of the Bruins and Trojans in football would commence.
I emphasized to the young lady, a tall, attractive, friendly girl, that we needed to get to the Coliseum real early due to the heavy traffic and crowds that were guaranteed to accompany a game of this magnitude.
Of course it goes without saying that I was ecstatic at getting to go to the ‘SC game at almost literally the last minute, even though it was at the Coliseum – enemy territory for Bruin Nation.
Which meant that I completely understood that I had to be on my best fan behavior and to make sure I didn’t start any drama; I didn’t feel like getting harassed and beaten up by Trojan fans.
So my new acquaintance and I got to the Coliseum with surprisingly light traffic – no doubt due to me insisting that we get there early – and as we began walking toward the Trojans’ house we came across some (to me) familiar faces.
The UCLA Alumni Band was doing a pregame concert in front of the north side of the Coliseum!
While I was a member of the Alumni Band, having joined right after I graduated two years before, because of life in general I had done only one event with them that year – the Cal game at the Rose Bowl in September – and I didn’t do any gigs with them the year before.
Which meant that I had no idea that they were going to be at the Coliseum that morning, which is what I told the band conductor when he asked why I didn’t bring my tenor saxophone (I didn’t have one anyway, so moot point)
My acquaintance and I had a great time listening to the Alumni Band, and I had a great time introducing her to my friends and interacting with then-UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, who came by to check the band out.
As for harassment from the Trojan family, the only pregame taunt I got was from a guy who saw my navy blue Bruin cap and yelled, “Get another hat, buddy!”
To which I replied, “Get a new shirt!”
I was looking forward to being among my fellow members of Bruin Nation in the Coliseum, so you can imagine my surprise when my acquaintance and I arrived at our seats at around the 40-yard line and found ‘SC students and fans sitting in that area.
It turned out that I and my young lady acquaintance was in a Trojan section, and I subsequently prepared myself to endure a lot of bad treatment from those USC students and fanatics over the course of the game.
Especially if their cardinal and gold heroes were winning.
Indeed, I saw some of those ‘SC students sitting behind me drinking hard liquor that they had obviously sneaked in, so I was steeling myself for the taunting and abuse that I was sure was to come.
The full broadcast of the 1993 UCLA-USC Crosstown Rivalry Clash, won by the Bruins 27-21. Courtesy of YouTube.
All right, let’s get to the game…
Because the Bruins scored the games’ first seventeen points and went into halftime leading by that margin, my acquaintance and I were pretty much left alone, one guy remarking as the Trojans came out of the tunnel for the third quarter, “Seventeen points is nothing!”
Which was proven right as behind quarterback Rob Johnson, USC got right back into the game with two touchdowns before UCLA quarterback Wayne Cook’s pass to all-everything wide receiver J.J. Stokes made the score 24-14.
The real drama happened with the Bruins up 27-21 with roughly three minutes left…
As I was only one in our section – and in the Coliseum, most likely – not standing up, Johnson completed long passes to Johnnie Morton and Ken Grace, getting to the Bruins’ two-yard line real quick.
I shouldn’t have to tell you the level of loud craziness that was enveloping the Trojan faithful as I was covering my head with my eyes closed, not wanting to see that back-breaking touchdown, and thinking about how much time UCLA would have after ‘SC had scored to go down the field and win with a last-second field goal.
A few moments later, I noticed my acquaintance jumping up and down and screaming for joy while all the Trojan folks around us were silent.
“What happened?” I asked.
“We intercepted the ball!!” she exclaimed.
“WHAT?!!” I yelled, opening my eyes to see a bunch of guys wearing gold helmets and white jerseys going crazy on the far sideline.
I then looked at the video screen on top of the peristyle to get confirmation.
Which I happily did, as a replay of Marvin Goodwin becoming a forever Bruin legend by getting in front of Tyler Cashman and picking off Johnson in the end zone was shown.
Like absolutely everyone else wearing blue and gold at the Coliseum and elsewhere, I was one extremely happy Bruin as I hugged my acquaintance and yelling at Cook, who was taking a series of knees to run out the clock,
“Stay down! stay down!”
As ecstatic as I was when the clock hit three zeroes, being on Trojan turf I made sure to do no in-your-face gloating or trash talking in my section whatsoever, shaking hands with the extremely heartbroken USC folks around me and saying “Good game”, feeling quite proud of my sense of sportsmanship as the Bruins won the third of what would be an eight-game winning streak.
Which remains the longest in Crosstown Rivalry history.
I remember running into an ex-UCLA band mate of mine as we were watching our team celebrate on the field with roses in hand, having accepted the Rose Bowl bid right then. She enthusiastically suggested that “We gotta get back in!” to the band for the big January 1st parade and the Granddaddy of Them All in six weeks – which of course we weren’t able to.
I also remember encountering a high school football player who I knew who was at the game and considering USC as his college choice.
In light of what has just unfolded, wearing my powder blue UCLA Starter jacket of course I happily exclaimed to him,
“You’re gonna come to UCLA now, aren’t you?!”
To say that I was one happy member of Bruin Nation as my acquaintance and I journeyed west on I-10 back to Santa Monica (where I lived at that time) would be a pronounced understatement.
I don’t think any of the 93,458 people who were at the Coliseum,
Or anyone wearing true blue or cardinal anywhere,
Would realize that there would be just one more time that the Bruins and Trojans would meet on the gridiron with the conference championship directly on the line – in 2005, with a Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush-led USC team blowing UCLA out, 66-19.
With the Bruins making one Rose Bowl over the past two decades plus and with the Pac-10 becoming the Pac-12 with two divisions and a conference title game in 2011, the biggest thing at stake in the Crosstown Rivalry Clash now (in that context) is a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game against the North Division winner.
I never saw that young lady again, and it would be 23 years before I would next set foot in the Coliseum.
But twenty-five years later, I still have the sports pages from the Los Angeles Times and the South Bay’s Daily Breeze buried somewhere proclaiming that UCLA triumph.
And those memories of that fall afternoon continue to induce pleasant feelings in me.