Visitors come and go. Jess Hill, the USC athletic director, says the crowd will probably reach 70,000. Two officials come to get the names of his captains. McKay looks at the list of officials in the program. The umpire is from the Southwest Conference. "We'll get a holding penalty for sure," he says, grinning. You are not certain he is kidding. There are, suddenly, yips and banging noises filtering through from the locker room next door. "That will be Texas," says McKay, lighting up a cigar. " Texas has arrived."
USC had actually begun preparing for Texas way last spring. As a matter of course, McKay's assistants—Levy, Stangeland and Fertig on offense, Marv Goux, Dick Coury, Phil Krueger and Rod Humenuik on defense—break down the films of the previous game between the teams, if there was one, and the spring intrasquad game of each opponent. USC had beaten Texas 10-6, in the first game of their 1966 season. The teams exchanged movies of their spring games. USC also borrowed films of four other 1966 Texas games from other sources, a common practice. From these at least the preface of a book on Texas could be written.
USC had opened this season with a 49-0 victory over Washington State. That meant Texas would have the advantage of an updated film to study. USC, on the other hand, would have the advantage of a game under its belt.
On the following Sunday McKay looked at the films of the USC-Washington State game. The pleasure was not his. The score was big and USC had dominated the play, but the USC offense had been lucky and the defense had stumbled around too much to suit McKay. He had suggested this to the writers after the game. He picked up the paper the next morning and saw where his comment was interpreted as "moaning." "I wasn't moaning," he said. "I was stating facts. It's an old flaw of mine. Ask me a straight question, I'll give you a straight answer."
He met Monday morning with the coaches of the defense and got some things off his mind. When he saw Levy just before lunch, he was still exasperated. Levy wanted to talk offense. "Let's just figure out how we can score a lot of points," said McKay. "We'll need them."
At noon he zipped over to the Sheraton-West to keep a standing luncheon double date: first with the Trojan Club, a group of USC alumni and fans, and then with the L.A. sportswriters. He dallied with a slab of roast beef—leaving the carrots and potatoes—and titillated the Trojan Clubbers.
"One newspaper said I wasn't happy with our 49-0 win over Washington State," he said. "That same paper would mess up the Second Coming." He said there was no question Washington State had been outmanned. "But when you have men open 15 yards and you overthrow them 15 yards more, you have to think you might not get away with that against a team like Texas." He said Texas was going to show them a couple things: Quarterback Bill Bradley, for one, and Tailback Chris Gilbert, for another. "The best thing that happened to us last year was that Darrell Royal didn't find out what a great tailback Gilbert was until the second half of the game. Gilbert gained 103 yards on us in the second half."
He said it was doubtful USC's first-string quarterback, Toby Page, would play against Texas, that he had sorely bruised his ribs against Washington State and was on the mend. "If you read it in the papers that he will play, don't believe it," he told them.
McKay gave basically the same material to the writers, who were equally responsive. Then he was asked if he would compare the relative value of his sensational junior running back, O. J. Simpson, and Mike Garrett, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1965. "Yes," he said. "One has played one game for USC. The other played three years."
There are meetings and there are meetings in football, and mostly there are meetings. The filmwork is endless; coaches sniffing around like ferrets for an opponent's tendencies, for something to pin an attack on, for something on which to key a defense. The week of the Texas game at USC evolves, like most, from general confusion and despair into stunning clarity as McKay sifts through the information he is getting and with his coaches puts together the plan.