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In damp, muggy Austin, Texas last week a 19-year-old sophomore quarterback survived the biggest publicity buildup in college football since Pat O'Brien portrayed Knute Rockne, but his team did not. Super Bill of Texas did make the rain stop for national television, and he did score a touchdown, and he managed not to get hurt, but when, really, did anyone ever get the best of John Wayne? USC not only had the famed actor and ex-Trojan player on its bench, it had Super Troy, Super Steve, Super Rod, Super Rich, Super Ron and a whole lot more. So, despite Bill Bradley's truly marvelous stage presence and the hint that he may well become sensational in something more important than print, the final score was a lie. USC was better than the 10-6 margin by which it won an opening game over a tough, uncompromising team, and that means the Trojans are up there among the best in the land.
With Super Troy Winslow passing to Rod Sherman, his flanker, and to a couple of alternating ends, Ron Drake and Rich Leon, and handing off to Halfbacks Steve Grady and Don McCall, USC in the first half all but ran the Longhorns out to the L.B.J. Ranch. Coach Johnny McKay's deceptive, entertaining I formation, certainly the best collegiate offense since the split T, was seldom on better exhibition than it was against Darrell Royal's Texans, who are known for their stingy, even brutal, defense. USC drove 74 yards to a field goal in the first quarter and went 55 yards to a touchdown in the second, which Winslow himself scored. In between, the Trojans went 74 yards to the Texas four-yard line, but failed to score. The game was almost all over before Super Bill Bradley, a bona fide triple threat who did a great many fantastic things as a high school, freshman and spring-training star, could get his hands on the ball.
The 42,000 Longhorn rooters in Memorial Stadium probably felt relieved that USC was not ahead by as much as, say, 21-0 by intermission, because the Trojans certainly might have been. Texas had had the football for only five of the 30 minutes played, and if Royal carried a copy of first-half statistics into his dressing room he must have thought they read like a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. USC had 14 first downs, Texas had four. USC had gained 211 yards, Texas had scratched out only 52.
At this point it seemed that if Super Bill were going to accomplish anything miraculous, he would have to do it playing middle guard on defense. "When you can't get the football for more snaps than we got it," Royal said later, "all you can do is wait until they shoot the gun and go congratulate somebody."
The game was far from over, however. Texas, a young team littered with sophomores—some super, some not—did some splendid adjusting during intermission. The Steers got a better rush on Winslow, and began to get the ball more often. They also got an old-fashioned running game going in the third quarter, and whacked out a 91-yard drive in 15 plays without throwing a single pass. It ended with Super Bill scoring on a three-yard end run that practically nobody saw because the fake was so nifty. There were 14 minutes left, and Texas trailed by only four points and now suddenly had momentum and somebody else besides Bradley for the crowd to gaze at—Halfback Chris Gilbert, another sophomore. On Texas' touchdown drive, Gilbert, a low-running, finely balanced young man of Lebanese extraction, had darted into the Trojan line on runs of 29, two, seven, one, 12, four, two and one yards (he gained 103 in all). And he had helped carry off the fake that sent Bradley into the USC end zone on a keeper.
While Gilbert deserved most of the credit for shaking Texas to life, his success was partly due to Bradley's mere presence. "We had to be ready to stop Bradley first, particularly on his wide sweep," said McKay, shortly after presenting the game ball to "Coach" John Wayne in the Trojans' locker room. "He'd hit a home run in every game he'd ever played. We had to overshift our linebackers to the side of the field where Texas' flanker went. That's where Bradley could sprint out and run or throw. Darrell saw this and took good advantage of it. They ran Gilbert back inside the other way."
McKay had joked before the game that he was worried about his superdefense for Super Bill. Now he said, "Super Chris created a new problem. I called their touchdown play...told our defense to look for it, but the fake was so good it didn't matter."
Texas next got the ball again on its own 20, with a little over 11 minutes remaining—plenty of time for Super Somebody. Right away Gilbert squirted through for 13 yards and Bradley completed a pass for 16 more, and one quickly was reminded of Bobby Layne's statement about Bradley: "He's like Doak [Walker]. He's at his best when he's behind and time's running out."
Well, was he or wasn't he? The next thing Bradley did was lose eight yards on a sprint-out when USC Linebacker Adrian Young zipped through the burnt-orange Texas line unmolested. No, he wasn't. But then he caught a pass from Wingback Greg Lott for 13 yards, circling around a USC defender and fielding the ball like the shortstop he also is. Yes, he was. Unfortunately, he did not have another opportunity to prove he could run, throw or catch. It was fourth down and four yards to go at midfield, eight minutes left and time for Royal percentages. Bradley is perhaps better at punting then at anything else, and Texas' defense had stiffened. Kick them in deep, Royal figured, then don't let them out. Bradley did his part. He took the snap, gave a little jiggle as if he might run so his coverage could swoop down the field, then punted high and perfectly, 48 yards, to the Trojan two.
"When they brought it out of there, ramming it right at us and kept it for eight minutes, they proved they deserved to win," said Royal afterwards. "If I'd known we were never going to touch the ball again, I'd have tried anything on fourth and four at the 50, even a quarterback sneak."