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John Underwood
October 02, 1967
USC's John McKay goes through the typical week of a college coach faced with a big game and has it end happily as his Trojans crisply execute his plays and come from behind to defeat a highly rated rival
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October 02, 1967

A Man In Motion Beats Texas

USC's John McKay goes through the typical week of a college coach faced with a big game and has it end happily as his Trojans crisply execute his plays and come from behind to defeat a highly rated rival

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John McKay's Saturday night pregame talk to his team is at first analytical, the last long look at contingencies, then swiftly to the point. He said they should know by now that Texas is a far better team than they had faced last week, but by the same token they could be a better team than they were last week. He said that it is always the story in Texas that nobody runs the football on the Longhorns, but that USC can run on anybody if they went about it right. He said that a lot of high-ranked teams had found out this day that you are only as good as the game you have just played. And then he sends them out to play their game.

On the sideline there is a great, enormously exciting confusion of color and noise. Brass and garnet and white and drums and orange. The night is bracingly cool and the crowd is 67,000 strong, packed around the giant horseshoe, but those behind the USC bench have the strongest lungs. McKay is in the middle of it because he seems to control it. He is calling out defenses, calling out plays; he is watching the clock, the officials, the other sideline. When he makes a move, watch the other side because Darrell Royal, no less aware, will surely counter. Royal sends a man in and the number does not register in McKay's memory. "Who's No. 45? No. 45?" he shouts. They are detached by the battle going on between them, but they are as much in a fight as they would be if they were pugs brawling on a street. It is a testing game, and as time passes it becomes clear McKay is winning because he has better players and is using them brilliantly.

The players are sweating and some are bleeding, and though it is cool and he is in short sleeves McKay is sweating, too. Texas makes yardage on a throw-back pass and McKay calls to his defensive coaches to watch that throw-back pass. There are two crucial holding penalties in the first half, and they are both against USC, and McKay purses his lips, looks down and shakes his head slowly from side to side. He paces; he squats; he yells for reinforcements. He rams his toe into the grass, leaving divots when something goes against him, but that is all, and when there is success he only sets his expression and begins once again to stay one play ahead of the game. He is always one play ahead. Levy is yelling plays in one ear and Coury is yelling defenses in the other, and somehow McKay sorts them and makes decisions. Sometimes he stammers getting off an order as his mind races for the answer, but his answers seem always to be the right ones. O. J. Simpson limps off the field with cramps, and McKay calls for a trainer and expresses concern that maybe Simpson is being run too much.

Texas has scored first, a painstaking 85-yard Bradley-Gilbert drive off a USC fumble in the first quarter. USC has fumed around and finally evened it at 7-7 on a slide around left end by O. J. Simpson, set up by a pass off 93-T-Swing. The half ends.

McKay runs behind the learn all the way to the dressing room for the half-time break. He stands before them, making changes, flashing chalk. He orders more passes on first down. He will now use two tight ends because double coverage by Texas has sealed off Split End Earl McCullouch, normally a key man in the USC attack. Texas has tried a spread formation, but otherwise what they are doing is no surprise. Texas wins games on execution, not on surprise. Now McKay, turning analysis off and emotion on, shouts, "You ran in. They could hardly walk in. Now's the time to put it to them."

USC puts it to Texas. In the second half the play is taken away from Texas. End Tim Rossovich tackles Bradley as if Bradley has swindled his mother. Chris Gilbert tries the cut play and Rossovich takes a chunk of him, too. Safety Mike Battle is throwing his 175 pounds around like a madman. O. J. Simpson is rolling up yardage.

Little Sogge is getting better as the game goes on, and McKay is going with him all the way. Page could probably play, and he stands there waiting in a clean uniform; but no. Sogge hits Bob Miller for a touchdown: 14-7. Rikki Aldridge kicks a 30-yard field goal: 17-7.

Two of Sogge's passes are dropped when they should have gone for touchdowns. But it doesn't matter. Texas has made only two first downs since its touchdown drive in the first quarter. By the time Bradley finally gets Texas cranked up again to avoid a rout, Simpson, with 158 yards, has outrushed the entire Texas team. Super Bill and Gorgeous Gil included. O.J. has been a lizard, slithering in and out of slits and crevices. "He makes the three-yard run exciting," says McKay.

It is over: 17-13. McKay is swarmed upon by fans in the tunnel under the stadium. Finally he gets to the dressing room. He gives the game ball to Sogge. He tells his players it was a fine win. He tells them conditioning was a big factor. And he sets curfew at 11:15, trying not to laugh. The players laugh.

At a fancy alumni party a little later, McKay cracks jokes and shakes hands and eats fancy little hamburgers with a toothpick. Just after midnight he leaves.

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