Late in the fourth quarter the University of Southern California rooters began to chant: "We smell roses." The California stands retorted: "You smell. Period." But the significance of the 29-27 victory U.S.C. scored over Cal was undisputed. It made the Trojans a virtual cinch to represent the Pacific Coast Conference in the Rose Bowl New Year's Day.
The drama of the victory was quite something else. It might best be titled "The Perils of Paul," it was melodrama in the best traditions of Saturday matinee cliffhangers. California's quarterback Paul Larson, the resident Pearl White, is probably the country's most uninhibited college quarterback. On certain afternoons he's also the best. On this afternoon he was alternately both.
Because of his peculiar talent for doing the right thing as often, or more often, than the wrong thing, Paul Larson gets enough rope to hang himself. He frequently does. But when Larson is right he is brilliantly right.
November 1, 1954
The Trojans won partly because they got the breaks. They recovered the fumbled opening kickoff and scored from 30 yards out when the game was barely three minutes old. By the time the second quarter was three minutes old, Southern Cal led 14-0.
The Trojans won mainly because Larson is Larson, a quarterback who operates on the theory that all things come to him who waits (sometimes the things were horny-handed S.C. linemen). On every play Larson seemed infused with the belief that justice would triumph and that he was justice. Larson thrives on this kind of confusion. Once he collided with the referee, but still completed his pass with ease. If you think this sort of thing bothered his side guess what it did to the other team? Not enough, but Coach Jess Hill of the Trojans was still shaken as he sipped a coke after the game. "I'm glad it's over," he said. "That Larson sure made a believer out of me."
In the third quarter with the score 20-7 and Trojan rooters mentally deciding to fill out Rose Bowl ticket applications, Larson took the kickoff and danced 84 yards to the one-foot line. Then he powered over on the next play.
Before the cheers had died Larson was standing on his own 8. The score was 20-14, second down, 20 to go. Larson never decided what to do. He stood in the end zone considering a pass until an end named Don McFarland dumped him on the seat of his golden pants for a safety and two points—two points which won the game.
Larson engineered two more touchdowns in the final quarter but S.C. engineered one. The score was already 29-21 and only seconds were left when Larson set up the final touchdown.
The game was to be a duel between Larson and S.C.'s brilliant sophomore Jon Arnett. But S.C.'s coach used Arnett mostly as a decoy, let more experienced Lindon Crow do the damage. (Crow scored three times.)
California's Coach Lynn O. "Pappy" Waldorf, whose nerve endings must be raw after three years of Larson, had a melancholy task after the game. He had to confront his rabid Southern California alumni group, the Southern Seas (pun on "C's"). The Southern Seas was formed in 1930 after S.C. slaughtered Cal 74-0. To be sure Coach Waldorf has pared the deficit by 72 points but it may not help much when the Southern Seas see (no pun) U.S.C. (no pun, either) in the Rose Bowl.
Next Week: CINCINNATI vs. COLLEGE OF THE PACIFIC in Cincinnati