"All that talking won't do you any good unless you are playing U. of P. [ University of the Pacific]." said Richard Wood, an angry 6'2", 217-pound junior who stalks the middle. "They were talking and not paying any attention to who they were playing."
On the first play, Wood savagely served notice. UCLA sent McAlister over left guard and he made a yard before Wood flung him to the Coliseum's wretched turf. Then the linebacker leaned over and said, "You know who you are playing now?" Looking more Syracuse scissor than Wishbone, UCLA slugged twice more at USC's middle, gained little and punted.
The USC offense came on and, under the cool guidance of junior Quarterback Pat Haden, showed none of September's uncertainties while using up a little less than nine minutes, giving up the ball only after Davis had sizzled the final four yards to score. The march covered 68 yards in 15 plays, and except for the minor annoyance of an incomplete pass it was as faultless as a Marine precision drill.
After a UCLA field goal cut the score to 7-3, USC opened a second crisp attack, and a Bruin cheerleader grabbed a microphone and shouted, "Baby, this is it. If we don't stop them now something bad is gonna happen." The something bad was a 16-yard pass from a scrambling Haden to J. K. McKay, who was alone in the end zone.
Down 14-3, it was time for some sneaky UCLA passes. Rodgers pulled senior Quarterback Mark Harmon and replaced him with John Sciarra, a sophomore who is both a better passer and runner but unpolished as a ball handler. "When Sciarra comes in they want to make you think he'll throw," Wood said, "but they still want to run." Running, UCLA went 84 yards to score, with Johnson getting 39 in one chunk and the last three. A USC field goal, the first of three by Chris Limahelu, made it 17-10 at halftime.
From there, little went right for UCLA which, on the basis of a better record (9-1 to 8-1-1) needed only a tie to wind up in Pasadena on New Year's Day. The Bruins fumbled the first two times they had the ball in the second half, once managed to hold on long enough to kick a field goal and then fumbled again. As a change of pace Sciarra threw an interception, his second.
The final score was 23-13, but for Pepper Rodgers it will always be 6-0. "Can you believe that?" he demanded to know when it was over. "We hand that ball over six to zero. They were supposed to make the mistakes but they didn't make any today. Six to zero. Incredible!" He thought of the incredible for a moment, then added, "Aw, well. They've got six All-Americas. Who can play against a team with that many All-Americas?"
A man came in and wondered why UCLA had failed to attack the USC corners. It was suggested that perhaps Rodgers had decided it was an impossible task and had all but eliminated it from his game plan. Since UCLA had spent most of the afternoon hammering away at USC's jammed middle, it seemed a logical assumption.
"That's negative thinking," Rodgers snapped. "We didn't go outside because we thought we could run on them inside. That's positive thinking."
"I wasn't thinking of it negatively," the man demurred.