Despite the long, woeful season that the UCLA Bruins have had in football this year, this is still a big week for myself and all the other members of Bruin Nation.
This Saturday at the Rose Bowl, our Bruins will play the No. 5 ranked, crosstown rival USC Trojans, with their No. 1-rated defense and their litany of All-Americans.
This week Los Angeles will turn into a sea of Blue and Gold/Cardinal and Gold Verona, with Bruin and Trojan students, fans, and alumni enacting on a hatred level comparable to the Montagues and Capulets.
I'm not stupid or naive, and I don't live in Never Never Land—I know full well that the Bruins' chances of beating USC are slim to none—I know that UCLA is a 30-point underdog to those men of Troy.
But, I thought that I'd spread a little cheer among UCLA fans by unveiling my list of the Bruins' 10 greatest victories over the Cardinal and Gold. Believe it or not, UCLA does have some.
Here we go, in descending order:
10. 1950, 39-0: The Bruins' largest margin of victory over USC.
9. 1980, 20-17: This was called the Probation Bowl, due to the fact that both teams were barred from bowl games for recruiting violations. UCLA won in the last minute on a tipped pass from Jay Schroeder to Freeman McNeil.
The Trojan defender who tipped the pass? None other than the current Tennessee Titans' coach, Jeff Fisher.
8. 1954, 34-0: The year UCLA arrived at the Promised Land and won their lone National Championship.
7. 1942, 14-7: The Bruins' first ever victory over USC!!
Incidentally, this was just after the two student body presidents signed a pact making the Victory Bell, which was the source of an all-out prank war between the two schools, the trophy of the game, a status it retains to this day. It is painted red when USC wins, and blue following a UCLA triumph.
Personally, I think UCLA caved. The Trojan fraternity boys who stole that bell, which was originally UCLA's, should have been arrested.
6. 1965, 20-16: Gary Beban, UCLA's lone Heisman Trophy winner, threw a last-minute touchdown pass to beat the Trojans and send the Bruins to the Rose Bowl.
5. 1982, 20-19: This was where Karl Morgan sacked Scott Tinsley with no time left on the clock and USC going for the winning two-point conversion. It sent the Bruins to the Rose Bowl and started an early '80s dominance over the Trojans, winning four-out-of-five during the first half of the decade.
I remember this game well, being in high school and a member of my school's marching band at the time. My friends were listening to the game on the radio in our band director's office, and I had a great time rubbing it in to my USC friends in the band!
4. 1992, 38-37: It's the John Barnes—UCLA's version of Rudy—game. Having been a fourth-string quarterback all year, he threw for over 300 yards to lead the Bruins, who sealed the win when Nkosi Littleton knocks down the winning two-point conversion play with less than a minute left.
My friend, who was at the game, told me that he got an obnoxious USC fan ejected for rubbing a foam finger in his face that night.
3. 1993, 27-21: Where Marvin Goodwin picked off Rob Johnson in the end zone with just over a minute left, sending the Bruins to the Rose Bowl at the Trojans' expense!
That's right, the Rose Bowl was on the line for both teams that day.
I got to attend that game at the very last minute, and I unfortunately found myself sitting among USC students and fans.
They gave me a lot of grief during the second half, but were strangely quiet when UCLA picked off that pass. I remember seeing USC's Song Girls crying their eyes out, too.
2. 2006, 13-9: In my book, the second greatest win ever over USC, as well as the biggest upset in the rivalry's history—the Trojans were a 23-point favorite!
Everyone recalls Eric McNeil's interception, but that did not win the game for the Bruins.
Aaron Perez's punt, which boomed 20 yards over Desmond Reed's head after then-coach Karl Dorrell told him to kick it out of bounds, was what really won it.
Instead of the 35 yard line, Perez put Troy on their own 12.
That's a huge difference—and it happened right in front of me!
And now, my pick for the greatest victory over USC in UCLA Bruin Football history...
1. 1996, 48-41 (2OT): The only overtime game in the history of this rivalry!
I'm sure that everyone from the two schools remembers that day—the Bruins were down by 17 points halfway through the fourth quarter after R.J. Soward went nuts with those 70-yard touchdown runs.
Yes, I was there, and the next thing I knew after LaVale Woods fumbled (which allowed us to tie the score), we blocked their winning field goal attempt to force OT.
Everybody in Bruin Nation recalls quite fondly the 25-yard Skip Hicks touchdown run in the second OT that won the game after we were dominated for three and a half quarters.
I know I do.
I remember after the game lying down in my seat thanking God for that miracle, which is what it was, and also seeing Soward crying like a baby on the way back to USC's locker room, as well as some hysterical Trojan fan kicking trash in a temper tantrum outside the Rose Bowl.
And the best thing about that day?
That game was purely for pride—no bowl game was at stake and nothing was on the line for either team.
Often that makes for the best games, because teams playing for just pride have nothing to lose.
Kind of like the UCLA Bruins this Saturday.
That's about it for my list. Hopefully it will produce good memories from Bruin fans, in light of what's likely to happen on Saturday.
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