Stanford, the dismal team that had averaged less than five points a game in the 1939 PCC season, was undefeated and untied. Shaughnessy was voted Scripps-Howard Coach of the Year by the largest margin in more than a decade. Of course, it had helped to have Albert, the cocky quarterback. Nebraska Coach Biff Jones is supposed to have told Shaughnessy after the Rose Bowl game: "I'll buy you 120 acres of cornland if you'll tell me where I can get a Frankie Albert."
Were Jones still coaching, it is likely that he would find two Frankie Alberts on the Coast in 1966: Gary Beban, chief forger of all those miracles for UCLA last year, and Gene Washington, a sophomore at, of all places, Stanford. If Beban can't take the Uclans to the Rose Bow! again, Washington could get the Indians there.
For a while this spring it seemed unlikely that Gary Beban would be taking his team anyplace. Coach J. Thompson Prothro, in fact, was not pleased at all with what he saw at the start of UCLA's spring drills. Quarterback Beban was anything but the same young man who, as a sophomore, led the AAWU in total offense and led the nation in average yards per pass attempt (10.2).
"Then the Saturday before our final spring game, Beban took charge," said Tommy. "It was really the first time we went 11 against 11. He likes that action. Gary hit the first eight passes he threw; he ran great. Yes, he's better than last year."
Beban and Prothro are just two of the reasons why UCLA is favored to be best in the West again and return to the Rose Bowl for what would be Tommy's third straight appearance there (his Oregon State team lost to Michigan in the 1965 game).
"I've never been in a league where I didn't think we had a chance to win," said Prothro. Considering the peculiarities of his schedule—it is not only difficult, with Syracuse and Missouri in the second and third weeks and Stanford and USC at the end, but it includes only four conference games—Prothro maybe in trouble. "If we lose one we're behind everyone else," said Prothro. If he seems not too perturbed, chalk that up to his having, in addition to Beban, Halfback Mel Farr, one of UCLA's glaring strengths.
The poised 6-foot, 195-pound Beban can pass, run and handle the ball deftly. Best of all, he has the ability to break up a game with long touchdown passes, like the two he threw in the closing minutes of the USC game last year. Farr, a Texan, was first in the country last season in average yards per carry (7.0) and was running, blocking and catching passes better than ever in the spring. He has built up his weight to 208 without losing mobility. At the other half, Cornell Champion is ready to live up to his name after missing a year due to an injury. A pro scout said, "When Champion gets into the open, the only way to stop him is with a shotgun." This fine backfield will have at fullback either junior Steve Stanley or sophomore Rick Purdy, who, as if the Uclans needed it, can pass as well as run.
The big weakness is pass receiving. Beban's top three targets, End Kurt Altenberg, End Byron Nelson and Halfback Dick Witcher, are gone. Also departed is Rose Bowl hero Bob Stiles, defensive half who lost his senior year of eligibility when it was found he had spent a semester at Ole Miss. Still, the defensive secondary cannot be hurting too badly because Safety Man Tim McAteer was moved to offensive right halfback. Prothro rates his lines as only "fair," but the defense has at least two standouts in Guard John Richardson (6 feet 2, 254 pounds) and Linebacker Dallas Grider (5 feet 11, 212 pounds).
In what should be a five-way scrap for the AAWU title, STANFORD has the best chance to knock off UCLA. Much depends on sophomore Quarterback Gene Washington (see box page 88). Dave Lewis, the Chukchansi Indian who had a .513 passing percentage last season, has been tentatively moved to halfback, where his running and passing skills could make him murder on the option play.