Reflecting on the incident today, Prothro says, "There is no doubt about it. We were trying to gain an advantage. But the Z streak isn't a real hideout play. Remember, our receiver reported to the huddle. He didn't remain at the sideline and conceal himself, which is considered unethical. The Z streak is legal. But if you were to put it on the ballot I would vote against it. Deception should happen after the ball is snapped, not before."
The deception that beat USC two weeks later was quite in the open. Losing 16-14 in the fourth quarter, Prothro called for an onside kick. UCLA recovered and went on to score the winning touchdown, advancing to the Rose Bowl game against Michigan State, a team that had gone without defeat during the season. Included in its record was a 13-3 win over UCLA in the opener.
Prothro has two basic approaches to a football game. "When I have the stronger team," he says, "I rarely gamble. I take chances only when I'm the underdog. Some coaches look at things the opposite way, that is, they gamble only when they have superior strength, figuring that if the gamble fails they still can overpower you. As an underdog, they play conservatively, hoping for a break."
Sizing up Michigan State during the early mornings, Prothro concluded that the Spartans for a certainty were stronger than UCLA. He would gamble. "I tried to figure what Duffy [Daugherty] was thinking," he says, "and I heard him say to himself that since he had a team that had won 10 straight it would be wise to stay in the pattern that won for him."
Thus Prothro built a defense keyed to stopping Michigan State's basic plays, especially on third down when short yardage was needed for the first down. This required commitments which would leave UCLA dangerously vulnerable, but, as Prothro says, "We pictured them trying safe ground plays, the kind that had worked all season, and thought we would gamble by throwing all our defense into stopping them."
Guessing that Michigan State would look for conservative offensive play on the part of UCLA, too, Prothro decided to call for passes on most third-down situations on which short yardage was required. Other thoughts were tossed in. For instance, Prothro decided that if UCLA scored first in the opening half the Bruins would come back with an on-side kick. "I figured that, if we recovered, the shock would be damaging to Michigan State," says Prothro.
Breaking the calm of Michigan State seemed vital to Prothro. To accomplish this, he drew a new play to open the game. It was a variation of a standard Bruin play on which Beban handed off on the belly series to Mel Farr. This time Beban would fake the handoff and circle right end, but to make sure nobody tipped the play off and all assignments remained exactly the same, only Beban and Farr knew what was going to happen.
Beban gained 27 yards before a defensive back, the last Spartan with a chance, caught him from behind.
"It was worth more than 27 yards," says Prothro. "We wanted Michigan State players to ask themselves, 'What will those lunatics do next?' "
Six times during the game UCLA's defense stopped Michigan State's predictable running plays short of a first down on third and short yardage. UCLA scored first in the second quarter, came back with the onside kick as planned, recovered it and scored again. State was unable to gather itself until the fourth quarter, and wound up losing 14-12. It was Prothro's biggest win.