Even though our season has been mired in frustration and unfulfilled high expectations once again I think we all look to this game for some degree of inspiration. Here’s hoping Coach N can inspire our current team to play man-for-man, with a bit of pride and for once, a sense of urgency. I think the fact that we are already backing up into the conference final (thanks to ASU and Utah) should be reason enough for us to summon the desire to win out of sheer pride. If I were a player, I truly would not want to lose this game and I’d love to prove we belong in the Pac-12 championship game (despite our record).
So, just a couple hours before kickoff, let’s summon the spirit and the winning record of those players who beat $C, and who in some instances DOMINATED them. A few alums on this site have repeatedly mentioned John Barnes whose performance in 1992, will forever be memorialized. If you were at the Rose Bowl that night, when our fourth/fifth string QB, surprised EVERYONE in attendance with a game of a lifetime, it is etched in your brain – that very image of Barnes running the length of the field after hooking up with JJ Stokes time and time again, against what had been a pretty competitive USC team (against a very crippled and frustrating UCLA squad; remember, we had 3-4 QBs hurt that season thus the reason for Barnes’ entry). But we won the game, this despite being down two TDs going into the 4th quarter. That game alone tells you that anything can happen in this match tonight, despite current records, Heisman candidacies, bulletin board material, and mediocre seasons due to bad coaching, underperformance or a bad culture. I remember 1989, probably one of the worst seasons in our history, a game where we were supposed to be CRUSHED. What happened? SC tied us late in the game at the Coliseum -- the last tie in the series. Recall Karl Morgan sacking the SC QB in the first game of the rivalry at the Rose Bowl in 1982, and winning 20-19. Morgan upsetting the TrOJans’ chance of going ahead with no time left on the clock. How about Marvin Goodwin picking off Rob Johnson in the endzone at the Coliseum in 1993 to clinch a Rose Bowl berth? Again, if you were there, one of those magical moments never forgotten. There’s always the Gary Beban comeback in 1965 (when ‘the Great One’ was a sophomore) when down by 10, with 4 minutes to play, the Bruins score 14 unanswered points to win 20-16 and head to the Rose Bowl. The 1996 game at the Rose Bowl was epic: down by 17 with six to play and winning in double OT. Stunning them and slapping them silly in the course of about 10 minutes. I was sitting right behind the SC bench and watched those clowns pout as the game wore on and as Skip Hicks nailed them to the wall. And of course there’s the #14-ranked Bruins overcoming EIGHT lost fumbles in the 1975 game and winning 25-22 against an unranked $C team. We’d go on to beat #1 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl that year.
Point is, there are so many examples when heart, guts, pride won out despite the expectations… and the Bruins won when least expected. Cade McNown, who was one of the better talented QBs in our history, especially in the last 20 years, simply knew how to beat SC. His overall record wasn’t THAT great, but he knew how to win big games and he certainly knew how to beat SC, never losing to them in his four years in Westwood.
Lastly, we all remember 13-9. They were supposed to annihilate us that year and look what happened.
The TrOJies are asking for it tonight. They’re riding a wave of euphoria having beaten Oregon and you better believe they are overlooking us, despite what they say. Regardless of Neuheisel’s chances of returning next year, you had better believe he will have to throw everything he can at SC. Perhaps tonight will be the Neuheisel we ALL wanted to see, what, three years ago? In my humble opinion, we never got the real Neuheisel these four years and this will be the game he proves it. Probably to no avail, but I’d rather he ACT as if he’s the last one standing on that island and needs to ‘burn the boats, fill the ‘passion bucket’ or whatever it is he uses to inspire these kids.
I believe Coach N is smarter than that idiot Kiffin. I hope he proves it tonight and that we can call our team the legitimate representative of the Pac-South next Friday. So how do we win?
1- Blitz the HELL out of Barkley and make him run. Recall what we did to John Booty (out of the NFL by now, after becoming a journeyman QB in the NFL and riding the bench and holding clipboards for four years) back in 2006. Barkley, like every overrated SC QB (Booty isn’t the only one who stinks, btw… see Matt Leinart who starts for the first time in YEARS tomorrow, Rodney "I played for 10 nfl teams" Peete, and yes, even Sanchez and Palmer, who I believe are both way overrated), has comfortably settled into the SC system behind a behemoth O-line. If we ruffle his feathers and get him out of the pocket tonight, we can win. I’ll give credit to the SC O-line all these years, they’re the reason for their offensive success, not necessarily their QBs or their receivers (though they’ve had some good ones). Our D-line and linebackers obviously have to play their best game for sixty minutes for this to happen. But it can happen.
2- Hog the football. Eat the clock. Again, preaching to the choir here, as we’ve read this before. But if K. Prince can take over this game, by running, scheming accurately, audibling when necessary and playing smart (NO TURNOVERS!), we will win. This isn’t SC’s best defense; they’re actually pretty soft. If KP can run like he did against Cal and ASU, then we can win. If he can complete 15 solid passes, targeting Shaq, Rosario and Fauria… mixing it up to each of them AS WELL AS TO THE RBs, namely Coleman, we can win. I want, for once, to see our offense outsmart their D. I think we can.
3- We need special teams to step it up. That means hold on to the ball, hit people hard… and strip their ball carriers. Big plays on special teams take out the crowd noise and their influence… I’d come up with something here too. This game always comes up with one or two big plays on special teams. We need to have that advantage tonight.
4- Coach Rick needs to scheme away. Take something out of the hat and fight off that supposed island and rub their noses in it if you can. I’d like to see us play with attitude for a change. Can we recall the last time we had real attitude not only in this game (2006) but in ANY game? Is this possible? Is that what the all-white uniform can do? If so, I’ll take it, but I’d like pride and guts and a warrior spirit to be more a motivator than a mere fancy uniform that’s being hyped by the Morgan Center. More importantly, Rick… SHOW us why this gap has supposedly been closed. Prove it. Here’s your chance… while some of us are doubtful, some of us EXPECT it, despite our 6-5 record.
5- Summon those spirits of winning football and those 108 championships… I bought a new UCLA sweatshirt this week in my own way to summon the UCLA gods. Let’s win this game and let’s show $C, the scumbags that they are, that we can take them… that we’ll fight them (‘fight on’, right??) anywhere and show them what pride, history (a clean history, not one that is ripe with cheaters, criminals and a classlessness), and attitude can do in this game. Hopefully, whether Neuheisel stays or goes, this game marks the new streak in this rivalry and a new streak for the program. I think we’re all ready for another eight years. Those of us who were THERE when we thumped $C every year for nearly a decade know what it tastes like. It’s time to begin flogging them into submission and letting loose that mighty bruin roar.
See the links below… found it on youtube. That was my FIRST UCLA-SC game a whole 20 years ago (my third year in Westwood). That was GAME ONE of the 8-game streak. We eeked out a 24-21 win against a pretty mediocre Larry Smith-led SC squad, but we won. And won and won again. Watch Terry Donahue hoisted by his players at the end of the game, Terry leaning DOWN to shake Smith’s hand in the end, not bothering to tell his players to bring him down. Total euphoria, led by a pretty decent D and a young sophomore Tommy Maddox. It’s filmed/recorded by someone on the sideline who had access to the locker room. Check out in the second video how when Coach Donahue walks in, he’s treated like royalty… clearly their leader. Something the team has lacked in recent years. You’ll also see a young, exciting, and energetic Rick Neuheisel, about 30 years young. Twenty years ago, folks. That’s how it started. We may not have had the better team all those years, but we had the fight in us. Here’s hoping, we regain it tonight.
GO BRUINS. CRUSH $C!
UCLA vs USC Locker Room Celebration '91 (via EagleBusiness).