SI Vault
Make way for the Wild Bunch
Dan Jenkins
December 01, 1969
That's the nickname for the USC defense, an unyielding group which last week helped to beat crosstown-rival UCLA
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 01, 1969

Make Way For The Wild Bunch

That's the nickname for the USC defense, an unyielding group which last week helped to beat crosstown-rival UCLA

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

All week there had been some concern among those who care about big games as to whether Saturday's usual 90,000 would turn up in the coliseum. The tickets had all been sold, of course, but officials from both campuses might not have been too surprised if a lot of the students had given them away to, well, let us say perhaps the Committee for the Liberation of Perspiring Cafeteria Employees who Vote Democratic. The attitude toward the game was especially apathetic, it seemed, out around UCLA, the big school, the one with so many students it has many of the social concerns and civic elements that USC doesn't, USC being the tidy little school, the "conservative" school. Both campuses were littered with signs and placards nailed to trees, but few of them in Westwood had anything to do with beating the Trojans.

Rather, the signs dealt with beating America, or beating American "imperialism." They also dealt with grape boycotts, with housing problems and with lost-and-found items like puppies and transistors. One afternoon in midweek a trim Oriental girl stood on one of the malls before a concerned group and asked everyone to join in the protest to "rehire Charles," apparently a cafeteria worker who had been fired. And numerous signs were displayed calling for a lunch-in in behalf of the same distressed individual. In fact, The Los Angeles Times quoted a student member of the UCLA rally committee as admitting, while the game drew closer, that "people don't care about going to the Rose Bowl as much as they care about Asian movements."

It was slightly different around USC. Some thoughtful protectors had draped cellophane around the statue of Tommy Trojan in case UCLA pranksters tried to dump blue and gold paint on it, as they had on occasions in the past. Except for a table on a corner by the athletic building where some kids were selling peace buttons, and except for a mall where several students knelt down and painted slogans like EXPAND THE MIND, all was tranquil and looked like campuses used to look. Collections of magnificently beautiful coeds strolled along toward classes, and all sorts of near-Katherine Rosses pedaled around on bicycles.

No one who cared in the least about fresh air and exercise and who had a ticket was about to miss the big game, however. It is a ritual as much as anything, like Texas-Oklahoma or Army-Navy. And after all, this time both teams were undefeated for the first time since 1952. It did not have the added importance of Who's No. 1? and the Heisman Trophy as it did two years ago in what has become cherished as the O.J. Simpson-Gary Beban game. But it had the old question of whether USC's John McKay has UCLA's Tommy Prothro's number, or vice versa, and the new question of precisely how good the two teams were, being unbeaten but practically forgotten in terms of national prestige.

This, of course, was the situation on Friday. By noon Saturday, after everyone had watched TV and seen Michigan do that unbelievable thing to Woody Hayes and Ohio State, the Trojans and Bruins had even more incentive. Suddenly everybody was back in the race for No. 1.

The gates to the coliseum had opened at 9 a.m. so the students from both schools could enter and begin what has become one of the longest and most colorful days in sport. They bring food and drink, they bring music, and they turn the coliseum into perhaps the world's largest open-air discotheque. This time they listened to Ohio State take the 10-count on the radio and they let out howls between dancing and beverages and needling one another across the field.

When the game started, UCLA looked like it might lay as big a claim to No. 1 as any other undefeated team. Dennis Dummit rolled the Bruins 75 yards in eight plays for a touchdown which came on Greg Jones' pass to George Farmer, a surprise halfback-to-wingback flip which Prothro ordered on third-and-one. The play covered 41 yards and caught the Wild Bunch snoozing for one of only two times. The other time came when Dummit hit Brad Lyman with a 57-yarder there at the last, the play which set up his go-ahead scoring pass to Gwen Cooper from the USC seven.

In between all of this, however, the game belonged to the Wild Bunch. They kept the Bruins back in their own end of the field, and it seemed they would never get out. The Wild Bunch would pound Dummit and then help him up, and End Charlie Weaver would say, "Come on, get up so we can hit you again." Weaver explained, "We hoped to discourage him somewhat. And I think we did. By the middle of the third quarter I thought he began to panic. He'd drop back and start looking for us instead of his receivers, and he'd get rid of it before he wanted to."

Actually, everyone should have known the Trojans would find a way. On Friday the Bruins had an ex-student named Raquel Welch at a pep rally, but on Saturday the Trojans had Anthony Quinn and Bill Cosby on their bench. And guys can beat girls at football any old time.

1 2