When the final gun sounded, leaving his Bruins clear winners 14-13, UCLA Coach Red Sanders decided only Shakespeare could do justice to the occasion. "Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just," he rhapsodized. "What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!"
The plain facts were, though, that what beat Stanford in the Los Angeles Coliseum last Saturday was not the pure in heart but a front-line rush as resolute and unstoppable as that at a dinner hour in a boarding house. The target was John Brodie, Stanford quarterback and the best passer in the country, who had already thrown for 10 touchdowns and 969 yards in six games when he took the field against the Bruins. He completed a bare nine out of 20 against UCLA and threw for one touchdown on a circus reception. And the statistics did not reflect the dozen times he was smeared trying to get a pass away, showing up merely as a minus-66 yards rushing in 10 tries.
Coach Sanders, who had gotten out of a sickbed to take personal and energetic charge of the Stanford game preparations, often until long after the practice field lights had to be turned on, listened politely as his scouts and advisors wrangled long and loud over whether Brodie or his receivers were more important to Stanford's pass offense. But Sanders' solution was simple: receivers cannot catch what isn't thrown. When Brodie danced back to look for receivers, the Bruin line—from end to end, shrieking " Omaha!" the code name for pass—swarmed on him. Grinned Brodie: "I couldn't find my receivers. I know they were probably there some place. But all I saw was blue. A nice, pale UCLA blue."
The game was decided midway in the first quarter by the nice pale blue of a crashing punt blocker. Brodie, smeared on two plays trying to get a pass off, dropped back to punt. Dazed, he was too close to scrimmage. UCLA Right End Hal Smith, who usually started his rush from the linebacker spot before the ball was snapped, crashed into the ball as it left Brodie's foot. The ball squirted up into the air. Brodie spun, looking up like a catcher for a foul tip. He waited with out-stretched arms, but while he was still looking up, Bruin End Pete O'Garro leaped like a basketballer, cradled the ball and took off for the end zone, his pipestem legs churning like a scared stork's. Brodie could only stand there, mouth open, and watch the decisive touchdown being scored on the 40-yard gallop. It made the score 14-0, and Stanford never caught up. Brodie was even lucky: in later series of downs as many as three panicky passes in a row hit UCLA interceptors only to have them drop the ball.
Before the game, Sanders, who deals in superlatives, had one for his 1956 team. "It's the slowest team in America," he drawled. It was true. The UCLA line time and again gouged holes in the Stanford line. But the backs just couldn't make it in time. Stanford, on the other hand, flapped like a pinned butterfly in its offense. Only for a brief sputter at the start of the second half did Brodie look like a bonus-choice quarterback when he took the kickoff and marched 70 yards in six plays, the last 30 a touchdown pass to Halfback Mickey Raftery, to come within one point of tying the score. UCLA's 230-pound quarterback Don Shinnick, easily the outstanding player on the field, shot through the line to block the try for point.
It was the first conference defeat for Brodie and a team which had dusted off its other PCC opponents with the deftness of a river-boat gambler playing with his own deck.
The upset did not unnerve Quarterback Brodie greatly. A young man who looks perpetually as though he had just heard something funny and would burst out laughing if it weren't impolite, John Riley Brodie, son of Aloysius and Maggie Brodie, is an anomaly in big-time football. He and Leland Stanford University were made for each other. Neither gets too excited about a football game. Brodie is probably the only star quarterback in big-time college football who pays to go to college. He had applied for a scholarship but, since he is the son of a well-paid Kaiser Industries Insurance official and the nephew by marriage of Herbert O. Kalmus, the head of Technicolor, Stanford takes the attitude that he doesn't need it. And, Stanford being Stanford, the money goes to a more needy athlete.
A born gambler who would rather play golf than football (he has reached the finals of the San Francisco city championship) and who has been known to loiter on the way to practice to pitch pennies in the Stanford Quad, Brodie puts football in its proper perspective at a school where a student protest was lodged last week because the library was closed while the Stanford-USC game was being played; i.e., a shade below draw poker as a diversion. Stanford applauds this attitude. On a squad where 200-pound linemen wear their glasses in practice and where the first-string center reads Plato while they change the reels in the scouting films, a mere defeat is as inconsequential as a cut in English lit. Brodie, a mediocre student in medieval history, shares this lighthearted view. Drying himself after his shower, Brodie grinned: "I don't think it's a catastrophe. I still think we'll go to the Rose Bowl."
To do so, Stanford must whip Oregon State College at Palo Alto next Saturday. UCLA's Sanders is one who does not think this will happen. Oregon State Coach Tommy Prothro was a Sanders assistant until last year. Only last week he upset his ex-employer 21-7, and may have the fastest team on the Pacific Coast.
Stanford Coach Chuck Taylor, the first to admit Sanders is the Pacific Coast's best coach, is not yet willing to concede. "Everything is not lost," he insisted. "This was a good one to get out of our system to get ready for Oregon State. It prepared us for Oregon State." What was his prediction? he was asked. "I have a feeling we will win," cheerfully noted Taylor. At Stanford, this is exactly the position one should take. After all, if he doesn't, so what?