UCLA Bruin Football: The Ten Greatest Wins Over USC


Two institutions, both alike in dignity, in the City of the Angels, where we set our scene…

This Saturday at the Coliseum, the UCLA Bruins will renew their crosstown war with a USC Trojan team that’s seeking redemption for their recent 55-21 beat down at the hands of Stanford.

Once again, as has been the case for the past eighty-one years, Los Angeles will turn into a Blue-and-Gold / Cardinal-and-Gold Verona, with Bruin and Trojan students, alumni and fans enacting on a hatred comparable to the Montagues and the Capulets.

I thought I’d spread a little cheer and good feeling amone my fellow members of Bruin Nation by unveiling my list of UCLA’s ten greatest victories over Troy in their history.

Here we go, in descending order…

10.  1950, 39-0:   The Bruins’ largest margin of victory over USC.

9.    1980, 20-17:  This was called the Probation Bowl, due to the fact that both tams were banned from bowl games that year for recruiting violations. UCLA won in the last minute on a tipped pass from Jay Schroeder to Freeman McNeil.

The Trojan defender who tipped the pass? None other than the current Tennessee Titans’ coach, Jeff Fisher.

8.     1954, 34-0:  The year the Bruins arrived at the Promised Land and won their only national championship.

7.     1942, 14-7:    The first victory ever over USC!

This was just after the two student body presidents signed a pact making the Victory Bell, which was the source of an all-out prank war between the two schools, the trophy of the game, a status that remains to this day.  It is painted red when the Trojans win, and blue following a Bruin triumph.

Personally, I think UCLA caved. The Trojan fraternity boys who stole that bell, which was originally UCLA’s, and caused the prank war, should have been arrested and spent time in jail.

6.      1965, 20-16:   Gary Beban, the Bruins’ lone Heisman Trophy winner, threw a last-minute touchdown pass to beat USC and send UCLA to the Rose Bowl.

5.      1982, 20-19:     This was the game where Karl Morgan sacked Scott Tinsley with no time left on the clock and Troy going for the winning two-point conversion. It sent the Bruins to the Rose Bowl and started an early 80s dominance over ‘SC, winning four out of five contests during the first half of that decade.

I remember this game well, being in high school and a member of my school’s marching band at the time. My friends and I were listening to the game on the radio in our band director’s office, and I had a great time rubbing it in to my USC friends in the band afterward.

4.        1992, 38-37:   The John Barnes – UCLA’s version of Rudy – game.

Having been a fourth string quarterback all year, he threw for over 300 yards to lead the Bruins, who sealed the win when Nkosi Littleton knocked down the winning two-point conversion with less than a minute left.

My friend, who was there, told me that he got an obnoxious ‘SC fan thrown out for rubbing a foam finger in his face that night.

3.       1993, 27-21:   This is the one where Marvin Goodwin picked off Rob Johnson in the end zone with just over a minute left, sending the Bruins to the Rose Bowl at the Trojans’ expense!

That’s right, the Pac-10 title was on the line for both teams that day.

I got to attend that game at the very last minute, and I unfortunately found myself sitting among USC students and followers.

They gave me a lot of grief when the Trojans were making a comeback during the second half, but were strangely quiet when UCLA picked off that pass. I recall seeing the ‘SC Song Girls crying their eyes out on the video screen afterward.

Needless to say, that gave me much joy.

2.       2006, 13-9:     In my book, the second greatest win over Troy, as well as the biggest upset in the rivalry’s history; USC was a 23 point favorite!

Everyone remembers Eric McNeil’s interception of John David Booty, but that did not win the game for the Bruins.

Aaron Perez’s punt, which boomed twenty yards over Desmond Reed’s head after then-coach Karl Dorrell told him to kick it out of bounds, was what really won it.

Instead of the 35 yard line, Perez put the Trojans on their own 12.

That’s a huge difference – and it happened right in front of me!

And now, my choice for the greatest victory over USC in UCLA Bruin Football history:

1.        1996, 48-41 (2OT):    The only overtime game in the history of this crosstown war!

I’m sure that everybody from the two schools remembers that day – the Bruins were down by 17 points halfway through the fourth quarter after R.J. Soward went nuts with those 60 and 70-yard touchdown runs.

Yes, I was there that day, and the next thing I knew after LaVale Woods fumbled (which allowed UCLA to tie the score), the Bruins blocked Adam Abrams’ winning field goal attempt to force OT.

All of Bruin Nation recalls quite fondly the 25 yard touchdown run by Skip Hicks in the second OT that defeated the Trojans for the sixth straight year after UCLA was dominated for three and a half quarters; I know I look back on that instance with a happy heart.

I also remember after the game lying down in my seat and thanking God for that miracle, which is what it was, and also seeing Soward weeping like a baby on the way back to his locker room, as well as some hysterical ‘SC fan kicking trash in a temper tantrum outside the Rose Bowl.

And the best thing about that day? That battle was purely for pride – no bowl game was at stake and nothing was on the line for either team that day.

Which ofte makes for the most exciting contests, because teams playing for just pride have nothing to lose; that was UCLA’s and USC’s mindset.

And they did not disappoint.

That’s about it for my list. Hopefully it has produced good memories for UCLA Bruin supporters, and helps them to look forward to the upcoming latest edition of this crosstown war this Saturday.

Could this year’s game, if won by the Bruins, possibly make this year’s list?

I suppose there’s nothing  left to do but find out.