Anthony Davis had just stepped onto the Southern Cal sideline at
the Los Angeles Coliseum last Saturday when a security guard
nudged him out of the way to make room for Traveler, the white
horse that gallops around the stadium after every USC score. "I
should have stayed up there," he said, motioning to the stands,
where he had a seat on the 50-yard line. "It's too crowded down
here. This is why I almost never watch games from the sidelines."
But this was the UCLA game, and everyone knows that's where USC
royalty gathers when the Trojans meet the Bruins. Keyshawn
Johnson, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver who now has
lots of time on his hands, roamed the area behind the USC bench
wearing a Trojans jersey and chatting with Lisa Leslie, the
former USC basketball star. Lynn Swann, one of the greatest
receivers in school history, divided his time between doing
sideline reporting for ABC and slapping the backs of former
teammates, including the 51-year-old Davis, who finished second
to Ohio State's Archie Griffin in the 1974 Heisman voting.
By the middle of the second quarter the Trojans were well on
their way to an easy 47-22 victory that, combined with Ohio
State's loss to Michigan earlier in the day, lifted them to
second in the BCS standings. If USC wins its final game, against
Oregon State on Dec. 6, and stays No. 2 in the BCS, it will, in
all probability, play in the Sugar Bowl for the national
championship. The Trojans were so thoroughly dominating the
Bruins that Davis, like many of the other sideline observers, was
only half-watching the game. "It's a shame, UCLA just isn't in
our class right now," he said. "I remember when I was playing, we
were both as good as anybody in the country. We beat them all
three years that I played, and the scores weren't all that close,
but it still felt like we'd been through a real battle every
time. I bet if you ask our kids after this game, they'll tell you
the same thing. There's just something about playing UCLA."
Davis, who now owns a real estate development company in Los
Angeles, is best remembered for his six-touchdown game against
USC's other big rival, Notre Dame, in 1972. But he saved some of
his best games for the Bruins, with 178 rushing yards in 1972,
145 in 1973 and 195 as a senior in 1974. "It's funny that I'm
standing on this field in the second quarter of this game," he
said, "because in the second quarter of the UCLA game in '74,
right here in this stadium, I broke O.J. Simpson's school
[career] rushing record."
December 1, 2003
USC sophomore receiver Mike Williams, who was shredding the
Bruins' secondary, had just caught a 31-yard pass when a big hand
tapped Davis on the shoulder. Davis turned to see whom it
belonged to, then hugged the man hard. "This," he said, "is Sam
Cunningham, the hardest-hitting fullback there ever was." Better
known as Sam Bam to Trojans fans, Cunningham was Davis's lead
blocker in 1972. Many longtime USC followers believe that the '72
team, which won the national championship with Cunningham, Davis,
Swann and quarterback Pat Haden, was the best in school history.
There are also those who believe that that team would have been
hard-pressed to beat the current edition.
"This team is definitely more creative on offense than we were,"
Cunningham said. "We pretty much just ran the sweep, but that's
all we needed. The better the team, the simpler the scheme."
When the public address announcer informed the crowd that Ohio
State had lost to Michigan, the fans cheered. Davis shook his
head. "That's great for us, but I don't believe in the BCS
thing," he said. "With two weeks of playoffs, you could wind up
with a champion that nobody would argue with, a champion that won
it on the field. The system we have now just doesn't make any
sense, and I'll say the same thing even if we win the national
The Trojans' performance on Saturday made that seem like a
reasonable possibility. At halftime the score was 33-2, and Davis
headed back to his seat in the stands. "I've had my time on this
field," he said. "Time to leave it to these kids."