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Hello, hello," Tommy Prothro barked into the telephone headset. "It doesn't work," he said, turning to a telephone maintenance man. "It's got to work, how else can I run my team?"
"They haven't plugged their set in on the field," the phoneman said.
Moments later Prothro was connected with Doug Bradley, the Oregon State backfield coach. Bradley's job was to relay Head Coach Prothro's instructions to Bob Watson, his first assistant, who was in charge on the field. With Prothro in the Los Angeles Coliseum radio booth was Ron Siegrist, co-captain and blocking back on Prothro's first Beaver club in 1955.
Prothro was tense. This was to be the last meeting between these old rivals until November 16, 1963. Only three times since 1916 had Oregon State defeated USC, and never in the five-year reign of Tommy Prothro had Oregon State won in Los Angeles. Only one starter from Prothro's so-so 1959 team was playing, Wingback Art Gilmore. Most of the rest were sophomores, and 16 of them would be playing in their first varsity game.
"Hello, Doug," Prothro called. "Stay right here with me from now on. Don't leave for any reason.
"You got those quarterbacks with you? You'd just better have them so when we get the ball we're ready to go.
"Man," he said a few seconds later, "let's get going."
It was 8:02 p.m. "Doug," Prothro remembered with a start, "have the manager give you the extra-point tee, the rubber one. Have it with you all the time. We might need it."
It was 8:04 p.m. when Amos Marsh, an end from Wallowa, Ore. kicked off for Oregon State to the USC 23. "He's been kicking off into the end zone for two weeks," Prothro said, "I guess he's more nervous than I am."
Prothro had good reason to be nervous. Last spring, after passage of the "wild card" rule, he and his staff devised an intricate card system intended to keep track of substitutions. They wanted most to conserve the Beavers' limited manpower and to keep the 16 first-year men from playing both on defense and offense. This system was in the charge of Bud Gibbs, a pre-Prothro letterman end at OSC. Line Coach Bob Zelinka, ex- UCLA, was to handle the defense.