The largest crowd of the football season, 102,548, sweltered in midsummer heat last Saturday in the huge Coliseum in Los Angeles. A thermometer at ground level registered a fantastic 110°, although the official reading was a Novembery 87°. The crowd's loyalty, untempered by the heat, was split right down the middle, for this was one of the grand traditionals: a cross-town rivalry between two outstanding teams, each in a position to gain greatly from victory.
For UCLA, victory would mean the Pacific Coast Conference title, an undefeated-and-untied season and, possibly, the national championship. They were heavily favored.
Still, the pregame psychological edge plainly favored Southern California. The Rose Bowl invitation was already theirs (UCLA had gained it the year before and could not by the rules accept it a second successive time). Here was their chance to win the Conference title and add lustre and prestige to the Rose Bowl game by knocking top-ranked UCLA from the ranks of the undefeated.
November 29, 1954
And, my, how they tried. Their valiant defense prevented UCLA from marching for a touchdown in their first series of plays for the first time this year. They never gave up. Nonetheless, the Trojans simply didn't have the horses to do battle with what may be the best single-wing team of our time.
At first glance, the UCLA offensive setup—single wing with a balanced line—looks primitive. There are no shifts, no men in motion, no flankers, no "multiple offense," no buck lateral series. For a change of pace, they will switch from right to left formation. That is all. Nothing fancy. Football for the purist. Then you look closer and discover the fine Italian hand of Coach Henry (Red) Sanders: the little nuances, the split-second timing, the absolute execution of minute details. Actually, the ultimate in deception is for all plays to look alike until the last moment, and that is the basis of the UCLA attack.
Two new variations of standard offensive maneuvers were added for this game, and both resulted in touchdowns. The first was used the second time the Bruins got their hands on the ball. It was second down and four yards to go on the Trojan 48. Formation was to the right. The snap was to Tailback Villanueva who began to drive off tackle to his left on the basic power play to the weak side. Left End Bob Heydenfeldt, instead of blocking his opposing tackle, took off down the field and veered toward the sidelines. The Bruins' blocking back and fullback came over shoulder to shoulder as if to annihilate the USC defensive right end, but the fullback took him alone, and the blocking back slipped on into the left flat. Southern California's Halfback Lindon Crow, a great athlete, spotted the blocking back and made one false step toward him. The end got behind Crow, Villanueva straightened up, hit Heydenfeldt with a perfect pass at the four, and UCLA was out in front to stay.
Southern California threatened seriously in the third quarter when they brought the ball to the 8-yard line, first down and goal to go. But then UCLA Halfback Jim Decker intercepted a Contratto pass and the Trojans were never again in the ball game.
In the fourth quarter, UCLA scored four times, the second of this last quartet of touchdowns coming on the second variation on the standard Bruin offense: a sneak pass to the blocking back. The final score was 34 to 0, and UCLA had passed into football history as a great team. USC had nothing to look forward to but powerful Notre Dame this Saturday and unbeaten-untied Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
Some cynics say the Sanders-Neyland version of the single wing is antiquated, yet it crushed a good USC team equipped with all the versions of the "multiple offense." But in the final analysis, it was not the system of offense that decided the game so much as the beautifully coached and well-manned Bruin defense. Not by the wildest stretch of imagination could this defensive display be called "horse and buggy" football. UCLA intercepted five passes and ran them back for a total of 167 yards, a feat in itself enough to beat any team. USC's running attack was held to a net gain of just five yards.
I had heard much of UCLA Tackle Jack Ellena and Guard Jim Salsbury. They lived up to their advance notices, but the best man on the field was End Bob Long, who packs 220 pounds on a 6-foot 4-inch frame. He did everything a football player should. Why he is unsung, I don't know, but if I know the pros, he'll be somebody's first draft choice.
I know that overemphasis is a horrid word, but wouldn't it be wonderful if UCLA could play Ohio State or Oklahoma, someplace, somehow?
HICKMAN'S HUNCHES for Games of Saturday, Nov. 27
•Navy vs. Army. The Middies' defense looks tougher. The Cadets offense is more explosive. A good offense over a good defense...ARMY.
•Notre Dame vs. Southern Cal. The Fighting Irish improve each week. The Trojans could be in a dangerous mood after last week's thumping by the Uclans but...NOTRE DAME.
•Miss. vs. Miss. State. Bitter rivalry exists in this one. Ole Miss can capture a Bowl bid by beating scrappy State—and will. MISSISSIPPI.
•Georgia vs. Ga. Tech. The Bulldogs have surprised everyone this season. The Yellow Jackets are not up to snuff, but they have too much talent for the stubborn Bulldogs. GEORGIA TECH.
•Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma A & M. The Sooners cinched their seventh Big Seven championship in a row last week. The Aggies from Stillwater will make it close for the state title. Still, 19 in a row...OKLAHOMA.
•Boston College vs. Holy Cross. B.C. is having its best season in years, the Crusaders their worst. Anything can, has, and does happen here, but...BOSTON COLLEGE.
•Baylor vs. Rice. The Bears will get a share of the Southwest Conference championship and a possible invitation to the Sugar or Gator Bowl by beating the Owls. In a stern test...BAYLOR.
•Florida vs. Miami (Fla.). No love lost between these two. The Hurricanes have the better record but the Gators have the potential to upset the applecart. In a grueling affair...MIAMI.
•Alabama vs. Auburn. Another traditional grudge match—rivalry became so hot that a hiatus was declared for years. The Crimson Tide has disappointed. The Plainsmen, off slow, have hit their stride...AUBURN.
•North Carolina vs. Duke. This is another one of those games. The Tarheels are improved but the Blue Devils need this one to go to the Orange Bowl...DUKE.
•Southern Methodist vs. Texas Christian. Baylor bumped SMU from Cotton Bowl contention after the Mustangs had mauled Arkansas. The Horned Frogs are still hungry but...SOUTHERN METHODIST.
Wyoming over Arizona
Clemson over The Citadel
Arkansas over Houston
South Carolina over Wake Forest
LSU over Tulane
Tennessee over Vanderbilt
Fordham over Villanova
Texas Tech over Hardin-Simmons
Last week's hunches: 18 right, 7 wrong, 0 ties
Record to date: 162-62-9