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The Apisa Moment

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So on this last Saturday of college football’s offseason, I’d like to do a little flashback. I’d like to go back and bring up memories of 1966 Rose Bowl, when our Bruins stunned the college football world by upsetting a big, bad Michigan State team from the Big-10:

The UCLA Bruins, the team they said didn’t belong in a New Years Day Bowl game in 1966, stunned the football world by holding off a much bigger and stronger Michigan State team to post a tremendous upset. Tommy Prothro’s Bruins kept MSU scoreless for 52 minutes, three times held on downs, and finally stopped State’s two point conversion try to seal the victory. UCLA had been totally dominated by these same Spartans, 13-3, in their season opener of 1965.

Gary Beban ran for two touchdowns and threw for 147 yards to lead No. 5 UCLA to the 14-12 upset win over No. 2 Michigan State. Michigan State committed four first-half turnovers, with the first coming late in the first quarter as Don Japinga fumbled away a punt at the Spartan 6 that UCLA’s John Erquiaga recovered.

On the opening play of the second quarter, Beban scored on a 1-yard sneak to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead. UCLA then surprised the Spartans with an onsides kick that Bruin Dallas Grider recovered at the MSU 42. Beban hooked up with Kurt Altenburg for a 27-yard pass to the MSU 1. Beban capped off the five-play, 42-yard drive with another 1-yard sneak as UCLA scored twice in 3:07 to build a 14-0 lead. At halftime, the stadium crowd was stunned.

In the third quarter, UCLA used tackle-eligible plays and well designed short pass plays to hold onto the ball and keep it out of the Spartan’s hands. It wasn’t until the 52 minute mark that MSU was able to break through. They rallied late in the fourth quarter, scoring twice in the final 6:13. Steve Juday’s 42-yard strike to Gene Washington set up Apisa’s 38-yard TD run. Believing they would score again, the Spartans went for two, but Juday’s two-point pass attempt failed and the score was 14-6.

The Spartan defense held on the next series and Bubba Smith partially blocked Larry Cox’s punt to give MSU possession at the UCLA 49. Juday finished off the 14-play scoring drive with a 1-yard sneak with :31 left. On the two-point try, Apisa was stopped short of the goal line by Grider, Jim Colletto and Bob Stiles. Stiles came rushing hard from the endzone to put a crushing hit on Apisa. The impact was so intense that Stiles fainted. The Rose Bowl exploded.

Not just the Rose Bowl, the entire Bruin Nation exploded during that Apisa moment. Three time Super Bowl champion Randy Cross, the former Bruin/Forty Niner center watched that game with his Dad and posted these Bruin memories on (HT to the good guys over for flagging this story)

I spent that entire afternoon screaming whatever my dad did at the television, with as much fervor as my young lungs could muster, not understanding why but trying to keep up with his passion for this confusing game. The only real clear part of the game I understood was the end; the Bruins had given up a touchdown and were up 14-12 as the Spartans lined up to go for the two-point conversion. I didn't know stink about football, but I did know that zero points on this play meant a UCLA victory and two points meant a tie score.

Oh, and I knew my dad kept screaming, "If they hold 'em, you will have seen one of the greatest upsets in football history!"

Before the final play, my dad screamed, "They'll give the ball to the big fullback Apisa and he'll bull his way in! We're screwed!"

Just as the QB turned and handed the ball to big Bob Apisa, and it looked like the momentum would carry him into the end zone and Michigan State would win, a blur in baby blue and gold bolted in from the top of the screen. Suddenly, the unstoppable object was stopped -- and down. The play was over and the upset was complete.

On the ground was a little safety I had seen as that blur. Bob Stiles had knocked himself out making the tackle. It was heroic. I was the most exciting sports event I had ever seen.

Our Class of 66 shared these memories in an epic FanShot he posted 3 months ago explaining how he picked his avatar:

A couple of years ago I was in a sushi bar on Wilshire, can’t remember the name of it but it was around Barrington.

Anyway, on the wall was a picture of "the stop". Turns out Bob Stiles owned the sushi bar.

Anyone know the place? I’ll bet he’d give us a copy.

It is an incredible picture of a great moment.

For those of you who don’t know the story, Stiles saved a Rose Bowl victory. MSU scored at the end of the game and went for 2 to win.

Apisa was a huge running back. It looked like he’d be able to get into the end zone until a very undersized Bob Stiles hit him, one on one, and knocked him backwards. Stiles was knocked out. I was on the field, as a yell leader, just yards from the play.

Bob Stiles, another gutty little Bruin.

We really need that picture.

Well here is something for 66 and rest of those Bruins who experienced that magical moment:

 Photo Source:
My Favorite Bowls

You know, I along with others on BN have not been a big fan of the "Gutty Little Bruins" phase. To me that phrase represented the classic Donahue syndrome, which made way for excuses justifying an underachieving program relishing its status as underdogs. But thanks to 66, Fox 77, and number of others here on BN, I am seeing another side of that phrase, that represented the beginning of something special.

We have gone through a lot of tough times this decade, and I am practical enough to appreciate the tough moments we will experience next two years as Neuheisel goes about rebuilding our fallen program.

But as 66 noted few months ago, "History has a way of repeating and our time has come." I have a feeling that we are going to witness a new beginning starting next Monday night. We all get the sense Neuheisel’s Bruins will make Bob Stiles and his team-mates from 1966 proud, not just relishing their "underdog" status, but coming to the Rose Bowl with the same intensity and determination game after game.  

We have a long way to go in rebuilding this program. So we might not experience that Apisa moment for a while but no question that magical feeling is back. Now it’s just a matter of time.