The University of California at Los Angeles, cloistered in the Santa Monica Mountains between plush Bel Air and the Pacific Ocean, is a school where students can enjoy a diversity of activities. In one week last term they could hear Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, expound on the evils of Communism in the Student Union Grand Ballroom or listen to the late neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell in Royce Hall. They could also attend a Human Be-In Picnic "for students who are tired of the dehumanization process at the university" or an abortive flag-burning ceremony staged by CRISIS (Committee for Rhodesian Independence and Support of Ian Smith). Now that fall has come, UCLA will doubtless have many of the same type of attractions with which to intrigue the catholic tastes of its students, but it will have another, too, one that will outdraw Welch, Rockwell, Be-In and CRISIS put together—Gary Beban and the UCLA football team.
Until Beban and Coach Tommy Prothro came along two years ago, Bruin football had been about as stimulating as a flag burning; you could hate it if you wanted to, but it wasn't worth the bother. Then Beban, a poised young man who throws a football better than most college quarterbacks and runs with it like an All-America halfback, began to shake things up. He led UCLA to two winning seasons and in the process amassed some outstanding personal statistics. These included completing 156 of 309 passes for 2,728 yards and 15 touchdowns, running for 1,042 yards and scoring 148 points, averaging 188 yards per game and breaking the school's total-offense record, with a year still to play.
Beban is strictly a roll-out passer and runner who has the ability to wait until the last second to exercise his options. It is this refusal to commit himself early that has made him one of the best quarterbacks in the country, another being Dewey Warren of Tennessee, whom Beban will face in the season's opener. Beban also has a talent for lifting his team up with a big play. These qualities, and another good year, could make him UCLA's first Heisman Trophy winner.
But if Prothro is blessed with a quarterback wonder, he is also saddled with a constant nightmare: what will happen if his wonder is injured? The answer was painfully apparent in spring practice when Beban had to sit out the last two weeks with a pulled hamstring. Without him, the Bruins flickered and faded like an old Hollywood movie. "If we lose Beban," says Prothro, "we are going to be in trouble. Plain, simple trouble."
There is also some worry that without Mel Farr, last year's All-America halfback who kept pressure off Beban by being such a threat himself, Beban may find defenses ganging up on him. The Bruins, however, do have an experienced fullback in Rick Purdy, a compact 203-pounder who excels at inside line smashing. Replacing Farr will be Greg Jones, a hard-running sophomore who is expected to develop quickly—and will have to. Steve Stanley, who was a fullback last year, is moving to wingback. One result is that Prothro's shifting T will be more of a quarterback-fullback offense this year, with the emphasis on movement and passing. Much of the movement may come from Hal Busby, a 9.3 sprinter who will spell Stanley at wingback. A wispy 5'11" and only 154 pounds, Busby is about the fastest college player in the country. He can also catch the ball—which is a help. At split end is sophomore George Farmer, who is a turtle by comparison, being a mere 9.9 man, but bigger and stronger at 6'4" and 205 pounds.
How well UCLA moves the ball will depend largely upon the blocking of the offensive interior line, and this should be more than adequate. Larry Slagle a 227-pound tackle, is the best of the linemen.
If all else fails, the Bruins have a soccer-style place-kicker with the unlikely name of Zenon Andrusyshyn whose job is to get them points in bunches of three. Born in Germany of Ukrainian parents, Andrusyshyn turned up last fall as a freshman and told Prothro he could place kick 70 yards. He passed up freshman football but came out this spring and one afternoon kicked 14 field goals in a row from 45 yards out.
UCLA's offense may be Beban plus a prayer, but the defense is a fine one. It is not big—Tackles Al Claman and Hal Griffin are a mere 192 and 196 pounds, respectively—but it is fast and vigorous. End Vic Lepisto, who has a reputation as a tough cookie to crumble, is only 188, while the linebackers, Don Manning and Wade Pearson, are both under 200. The deep secondary is small, too, but Halfbacks Mark Gustafson and Andy Herrera and Safety Sandy Green, each 5'10" or less, have a way of swarming upon pass receivers like an ant colony attacking a gumdrop.
Prothro is pleased with his team. "We have more kids who can play than we've ever had," he says. "But I guess if you find yourself thinking about depth, it means your first team isn't any good." Whether it will be good enough depends upon Beban. If he is healthy for 10 games, UCLA has a chance to win them all, even the ones with Tennessee and USC. But if Beban gets hurt, Bruin fans may have to get their kicks watching UCLA's pompon girls.
Washington State at Spokane
at Penn State
*Box indicates team's toughest game