SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
October 14, 1968
Miami had its Mad Stork on defense, USC had an offense named Orange Juice and the confrontation was billed as epic, but the showdown was something less as the Trojans gave the Hurricanes the bird
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October 14, 1968

The Face-off That Never Was

Miami had its Mad Stork on defense, USC had an offense named Orange Juice and the confrontation was billed as epic, but the showdown was something less as the Trojans gave the Hurricanes the bird

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The best thing O.J. knew about Hendricks was that The Mad Stork was not going to be hitting him first. Nobody does. "I run to hit the tackier before he hits me," said O.J. "I want to be the punisher, not him. People say to me, and I look at films sometimes and see it, that I could have made more yards on a particular run if I had cut outside, or something. Well, most of the time I didn't because I'm tired and didn't feel I had the energy to go all the way, or because I knew I had the five yards we needed, or something like that.

"Running is a feeling," O.J. continued. "I don't wear a lot of pads because I want to 'feel' the game, the contact. It helps to be able to feel a tackier hitting you or grabbing at you. You know where he is and what to do." For this reason Simpson wears no elbow pads or forearm pads. He does not even wear the conventional hip pads. Instead, he tapes a couple of small knee pads to his hips and leaves his tailbone unprotected. "I feel more loose that way," he said. And, of course, he seldom gets hit from behind, so he has no reason to be alarmed about his tailbone.

Defense is a feeling, too, and a sort of knowing. At least it is for a Ted Hendricks. He lines up outside the end, on the left side as the Miami defense faces the foe, and he looks for things that will tell him where the play is going, things which have helped him cause 12 fumbles in his career. "On a running play the man on offense who is opposite you has to dig in with his back foot and rest his weight on his arms and hands," The Mad Stork said before the game. "And because I'm right on his head, I can't see his feet. I look at his arm. If the muscles bulge out, I know it's a running play and he's coming straight at me. This is what I'll look for with Bob Klein, who'll be blocking on me most of the night. By his first move, I'll know where the play's going. If he blocks me head-on, I'll know that O. J. is running inside. If he comes at an angle, I'll figure it's a sweep. If he goes downfield, it's a sweep to the opposite side. If the muscles don't bulge, he's set to pass protect."

Hendricks said his peripheral vision would help him as well. "You can pick out blockers coming at you from the interior line. You read the near back and you can pick up the direction of the play from the angle he moves out of his stance. Mostly I'll expect O.J. to run when USC is in the I. If they are in a T, I'll figure the fullback to run or a pass."

The Mad Stork thinks a great deal, and not always about football. He is something of a brain in math who has said, "I sometimes wish I was just a student." If his long arms and cold grasp don't always stop runners, his Miami curriculum might: electromagnetic theory, statistics, differential equations, topology and mathematic analysis. His chief hobby is dismantling automobiles, not ballcarriers.

Alas, like a lot of things in life, most of last week's fun was in the anticipation. Only twice during the course of the game was Hendricks in a position to grab O.J. and stop him for no gain. He got himself fooled a few times, as McKay had planned, and he got himself run straight at frequently. Once, on a play McKay relishes calling Student Body Right because of all the interference Simpson has on it, O.J. flashed around Hendricks' end for 30 yards—his longest gain of the night.

Miami was so Simpson-conscious that USC was able to display a rather stylish passing game. Quarterback Steve Sogge, a little guy who does not get much credit but just keeps on winning games, punctured the Miami defenses repeatedly with his throwing. When he had the visitors—who had arrived at 2 a.m. Friday and seemed a trifle leg weary from an ill-advised trek to Disneyland that day—thinking only of O.J., he shot a 28-yard pass to his wide-open wing-back, Lawrence, for the first touchdown. His throwing continued to move the Trojans when they were not being penalized for holding (three times) and when O.J. was decoying. "They lullaby you with Simpson," Charlie Tate later confessed, "and then they hit you with the pass. But it's Simpson's presence that makes everything else work."

Simpson's two touchdowns came from close in. He dived over guard for one, and he slanted over left tackle—away from Hendricks—for the other from three yards away. The Mad Stork's biggest moment came when his long claw reached out and caused Fullback Dan Scott to fumble, an error that Miami's futile offense could not take advantage of. Hendricks really was not close enough to O.J. the entire evening to speak to him.

If a defense was to be lauded for the night, it was USC's, led by End Jimmy Gunn and Linebacker John Blanche, who between them broke through to throw Miami players for losses 10 times. " Miami has a pro-style offense," McKay noted later, "which is great as long as you can throw and catch." The USC defense kept Miami from doing much of either.

In the end, the only conclusion anyone could make was that there probably are a lot of mad storks to be found in the world, but there is only one bundle like O. J.

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