Across the way the USC students had raised a banner that said THE WILD BUNCH TAKES NO——! The Wild Bunch is the Trojan defensive unit, and all season it hasn't let anybody's offense push it around, including UCLA's. All afternoon and evening the Wild Bunch bounced Dennis Dummit around the coliseum floor like a double dribble, smothering him for loss after loss and forcing him to throw the football upward, downward and sideways. This was the main reason USC eased into the Rose Bowl last week for a record fourth straight year. In this unwitting era of scoring, the defense finally had its day.
It would be tempting to sit back and say that USC whipped the Bruins 14-12 on the biggest break since the San Francisco earthquake, meaning a pass interference call on a poor, sad, sick UCLA defender named Danny Graham, a play which gave USC a chance to come up with a winning touchdown pass in the game's last two minutes. But actually that Wild Bunch of Coach John McKay had slowly been winning the game all afternoon by burying Dummit no less than 12 times when he was searching for a receiver—and intercepting him five times.
Dummit is a marvelously accurate thrower when he has time to glance around for somebody, but the Trojan defense is a quick, vicious crew which doesn't like to wait around for that. Especially the front five, which consists of Al Cowlings, Bubba Scott, Charlie Weaver, Jimmy Gunn and Tody Smith, Bubba Smith's brother. That UCLA almost pulled it out when Dummit somehow, some way, after he had been chased, whomped, injured and terribly maligned all afternoon, moved the Bruins to a touchdown with only 3:07 to play for a 12-7 lead is a fine tribute to him. For a fleeting spell there before the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's 90,814 fanatics, it looked as if Dummit, the transfer from Long Beach, had risen from the dead to become one of the great Hollywood legends.
But USC is accustomed to winning late. Going into Saturday, the Trojans had won four games in the fourth quarter, a feat which had earned them another nickname—the Cardiac Kids. Stanford they had beaten with no time left on the scoreboard clock. In fact, McKay's gang had won or tied 11 of its last 19 games in the last quarter. So what was the big deal about trailing the hated Bruins with only three minutes to play in a game for the Roses, the Pacific Eight Championship and what the two schools like to call the city championship? All you do is let this zany sophomore quarterback, Jimmy Jones, finally start completing passes. Of course, he sometimes has to have a miracle, but he gets that, too.
Here's how it went for all of you television viewers who were lulled into a nap by the old-fashioned defense that flavored the day. USC had the ball on its own 32 with only those three minutes left and it had to pass, right? And Jimmy Jones had thrown 13 times so far and had completed only one—for one yard.
Up in the press box a wit said, "Throw the one-yard bomb, Jones."
But Jones didn't do that. He found an end for 10 and a first down. Then he threw to another end for eight. Then he hit a third pass, and the ball was across midfield. The clock had been rolling, though, and there were less than two minutes left. The UCLA defense, a unit known as the Quiet Bunch and led by an end named Bob Geddes and a tackle named Floyd Reese, hadn't done a bad job on its own. It had shut down Clarence Davis, who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher, giving him only 37 yards. And until now it had been scampering after Jones, harassing him into throwing the ball toward downtown. Jones, in fact, then proceeded to throw four straight incompletions from the UCLA 43, and the Bruins went berserk. The game was over. The Bruin cheerleaders, who had the best moves of the day, were ready to go back into their boogaloo chant, "We got the spirit and we got the soul."
There was only one thing wrong. Down on the UCLA 32 where a Jones pass for Sam Dickerson had missed him from Watts to El Segundo, a flag had fallen. UCLA's Danny Graham, overanxious, had needlessly banged into the receiver as the ball sailed overhead. Interference.
So on the next play, a thing called "60 play-action pass X-post on the corner," one that will have to be filed away with all of those runs that people like O.J. Simpson and Cotton Warburton and Morley Drury made, Jimmy Jones drifted back and let go to the far right-hand corner of the dark end zone. Dickerson, a fast junior from Stockton, raced toward it, beating his coverage. The ball and Dickerson somehow met in a diving, falling, desperate instant—just six inches inbounds—and USC had made the Rose Bowl.
In regard to these heart-attack games that McKay and Prothro keep playing against each other, McKay said later, "I've checked my heart and I don't have one."