There are many great rivalries in college football today that span decades. Ohio State‐Michigan, Auburn‐Alabama, Texas‐Oklahoma, Army‐Navy, Harvard‐Yale, Stanford‐Cal just to name a few. USC‐Notre Dame has the preeminent intersectional rivalry in the country. In an era of conference realignments and chasing big money contracts, the sanctity of century old rivalry games are facing extinction. Texas‐Texas A&M has likely ended their annual matchup which dates back to 1894 and this is just one of many. However there is only one rivalry with two teams from the same city; USC and UCLA. Both schools are located in LA and only separated by twelve miles. There is no other rivalry in the country that has so much overlap in the same geographic region, often with family members, great friends, and co‐workers on opposing sides of the rivalry. On one day every year, the city is divided into Trojan cardinal and gold and Bruin blue and gold. It is a special rivalry and one the players and fans love to be a part of. There is a certain energy to this game that is unique to all others. As a player on game day, it is amazing to arrive to the Coliseum or Rose Bowl and see the enormous crowds with the clash in colors, and the passion of all of the fans. The rivalry against Notre Dame has a national following but there is nothing quite like USC‐UCLA within the city of Los Angeles. The classic series will be renewed this coming Saturday at the Coliseum with a stadium half in cardinal and half in blue. The bands will be blasting their fight songs and the USC Song Girls and cheerleaders will be dancing with Traveler roaming the sidelines and UCLA will be leading their eight‐clap and Sons of Westwood firing up their team. This year, the Bruins are breaking with the recent tradition of both teams wearing their home jerseys by breaking out brand new uniforms with white helmets and white jerseys. For the first time in years, the game has larger implications on the line. With the new alignments of the newly formed PAC‐12 conference, the Bruins with a win will advance to the inaugural conference championship game. The Trojans are not only playing the spoiler role, they are playing for pride, bragging rights, and a return to a 10‐win season, which would be their best season since 2008. This win would not only stamp their return to national relevance, it would also send a message to the NCAA that their biased, injudicious sanctions will not prevail.
USC and UCLA, just the two names stir up contrast. It is the complete opposite of the rivalry with USC‐Notre Dame which is based on similarity and traditions that still stand today from decades past. USC is steeped in their tradition of cardinal & gold, black cleats, no names on the backs of their jerseys, Traveler, Tommy Trojan, the Coliseum, and the Trojan Marching Band blasting Conquest and Fight On. UCLA’s football program started playing more than 40 years after USC’s first season and they have always had a chip on their shoulder with the Trojans. UCLA’s football program has a newer, less structured tradition of their own with powder blue and gold, white cleats, names on their backs, the Bruin Bear, the Sons of Westwood, and the Rose Bowl with the Eight Clap and the Bruin Marching Band. The matchup between these two great universities has created many great games and memories over the years.
There have been many epic battles played in this series over the years. The all time series is currently 45‐28‐7 in favor of the Trojans. Although there have been runs of dominance, this is truly a rivalry in which the records can be thrown out and anything can happen on any given Saturday, with many games going down to the final seconds. Since the formation of the Pacific Coast Conference in 1916, USC has won or shared 38 conference titles and UCLA has won or shared 17 titles. Washington is third in overall conference titles with 15. Since the 1959 season, when the Pacific 8 conference (later the Pacific 10 in 1978) was formed through the 2008 season, the schools have won or shared 34 of 59 conference titles. USC has won 18 championships outright, shared eight, and has gone to the Rose Bowl or BCS bowl 22 times. UCLA has won six championships outright, shared five and gone to the Rose Bowl eight times. The schools have shared the championship three times and they have both played the spoiler role for the other derailing conference and national title hopes. The Rose Bowl and conference championship has been on the line for both teams 19 times and at least one team 37 times as of the 2008 season. USC’s all time record is 761‐307‐54 and they are 31‐16 (tied with Alabama for most all time) in bowl games including 24‐9 in the Rose Bowl. UCLA’s all time record is 540‐374‐37 and their bowl record is 15‐13‐1 and 5‐7 in Rose Bowl games.
The Victory Bell
This rivalry is played for bragging rights for Los Angeles. The victor is awarded the Victory Bell, which was originally from an old Southern Pacific railroad locomotive. It was originally given to the UCLA student body by the UCLA Alumni Association in 1939 but was later “borrowed” by the Trojan Knights in 1941. During the opening game of the 1941 UCLA football season, six USC students stole UCLA’s Victory Bell right out of their rooting section and loaded it onto a truck. They hid the Bell for over a year, first in a frat house basement, then at several private homes, and even under a haystack. The prank wars continued until a truce was called and it was decided that the bell would be awarded to the winner of the annual USC‐UCLA football game.
The Early Days
The Trojans were already an established football power under legendary Coach Howard Jones and had a major rivalry with Notre Dame when UCLA joined the Pacific Coast Conference in 1929. UCLA did not open as the University of California Southern branch until 1919, some 39 years after USC was founded. UCLA began as a two‐year institution, developed into a four‐year school in 1924, and came of age quickly enough by 1929, that they were ready take on its cross‐town rival for the first time in football. USC was already established and they had just won their first of 11 National Titles in 1928. USC dominated the first two games over the fledgling Bruins 76‐0 and 52‐0, respectively. In the first game, USC piled up a staggering 712 yards rushing! The game was suspended for five years 1931‐1935 until UCLA was able to improve and they squeezed out a 7‐7 tie and some much needed respect in 1936. The rivalry began to flourish through the years, especially as UCLA’s athletic prowess developed. By the late 1930′s, UCLA started getting star players such as Kenny Washington, Jackie Robinson, and Bob Waterfield which enabled UCLA to compete.
Shifts of Power
The series began to run in cycles, with USC’s Thundering Herd teams dominating one era and Red Sander’s devastating single‐wing teams consistently beating the Trojans in another. The Bruins won their first game over the Trojans in 1942. In the 1950′s, the power shifted with the hiring of Hall of Fame Coach Henry “Red” Sanders and UCLA held the advantage 7‐3‐1 during the decade with the climax coming with their one National Championship in 1954. One of Red’s famous quotes was “beating SC is not a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that.” Coach John McKay came on the scene in 1960 and restored a struggling USC program to national prominence, finishing with four National Titles and a 10‐5‐1 record against the Bruins from 1960‐1975. For the majority of seasons from the mid 1960′s to the end of the 1970′s, the two programs were the top powers on the west coast. What many people don’t remember is that in that era there was not a proliferation of bowl games so you played to win the conference and go to the Rose Bowl or you stayed home. In the 15 Rose Bowls played from 1966‐1980, USC or UCLA played in twelve of them. Even with the rise of Washington’s program under Don James in the 1980′s and early 1990′s, USC or UCLA still went to the Rose Bowl seven times between 1981 and 1995. UCLA dominated the series in the 1990′s winning eight straight from 1991‐1998. USC won seven straight from 1999‐2005 and have won the last three contests going into Saturday’s matchup.
There have been some legendary coaches that have been part of this huge rivalry. UCLA had Red Sanders, Tommy Prothro, Pepper Rodgers, Dick Vermeil, Terry Donahue, and currently have Rick Neuheisel. UCLA has been mired in mediocrity since Bob Toledo’s departure in the late 90′s and they have been working to get back to being a consistently competitive program. Coach Donahue had a record of 151‐74‐8 and Red Sanders led the Bruins to their only National Championship. USC had greatness as well with Howard Jones going 121‐36‐13 with 4 National Championships in 16 years. John McKay was 127‐40‐8 with 4 National Titles in 16 years. There was also John Robinson, Jess Hill, Pete Carroll, and now Lane Kiffin. Pete Carroll finished his career 97‐19 and led the Trojans to 7 consecutive PAC‐10 Titles, 7 straight 11 or more win seasons, 2 National Championships, and 3 Heisman Trophy winners in this his 9seasons. It was arguably the best nine year run in the history of college football. There has been controversy in the Reggie Bush aftermath but there is no disputing the dominant run that Carroll created in the modern BCS era. Coach Kiffin, in his second season, is defying the odds and is embarking on a 10‐win season.
The Games to Remember: Good, Bad, and Ugly
The 1967 game is known as one of the defining games of the 20th century. It matched No. 4 USC with O.J. Simpson against No. 1 UCLA with Gary Beban for the Conference Championship, National Championship, and Heisman Trophy. With the Trojans losing, USC quarterback Toby Page audibled to “23‐Blast” on 3rd and 8, a straight blast up the middle. Simpson took the handoff right up the gut, cut to the left sideline, and then cut back to the middle of the field going 64 yards for a 4th quarter touchdown that proved to be the difference in a 21‐20 Trojan victory and a game for the ages.
The 1929 game had USC just coming off an undefeated National Championship season under legendary coach Howard Jones. In the opening game of the season, the USC “Thundering Herd” crushed UCLA 76‐0, the most lopsided game in the history of the series.
In 1952 UCLA was ranked No. 3 and USC was ranked No. 4. Both teams were undefeated and untied. USC defensive lineman Elmer Willhoite intercepted a Paul Cameron pass and returned it 72 yards to the Bruins eight‐yard line. Four plays later, tailback Jim Sears threw a pass to Al Carmichael for the touchdown that won the game, clinching the conference title and a trip to Pasadena, 14‐12.
The 1954 game included the best team in UCLA history. The Bruins capped their perfect season by overcoming a tight game 7‐0 after 3 quarters, to pound the Trojans 34‐0. UCLA went on to win their only national title.
The 1965 game was dominated by USC and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett for most of four quarter but a couple of late fumbles by USC, let the Bruins back in. Gary Beban, a future Heisman winner as well, fired two long touchdown bombs in the final four minutes to stun the Trojans, 20‐16 and led the ‘Gutty Little Bruins” to the Rose Bowl.
1969 pitted #6 and undefeated UCLA (8‐0‐1) against #5 and undefeated USC (8‐0‐1) with the 1970 Rose Bowl on the line. Trojan wide receiver Sam Dickerson pulled in a last second 32 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Jones for a heart‐stopping 14‐12 victory.
In 1976, Undefeated #2 UCLA (9‐0‐1) vs. #3 ranked USC (8‐1) met to determine the Rose Bowl, and an outside shot at the National Championship that year. USC won 24‐14 in the first rivalry game for both John Robinson and Terry Donahue.
In 1980 UCLA quarterback Jay Shcroeder’s pass was deflected by USC defensive back Jeff Fisher right into Freeman McNeil’s hands, who raced 58 yards for a touchdown that beat the Trojans 20‐17.
In the 1986 season just before halftime with UCLA leading 24‐0 at the Rose Bowl, UCLA pulled a fake kneel down and threw a Hail Mary pass to go up 31‐0 at halftime. The play became known as the “Hail Mary and In Your Face.” UCLA pounded the Trojans 45‐25.
The 1987 game had UCLA leading 10‐0 before half with the Trojans in position to score at the UCLA goal line. On the last play of the half UCLA cornerback Eric Turner intercepted a Rodney Peete pass and looked like he would take it all the way back but Peete chased him down and caught him on the USC eleven yard line with no time on the clock. The play changed the momentum and Erik Affholter’s juggling catch in the Peristyle end of the Coliseum in the 2nd half iced it for the Trojans 17‐13.
The 1988 game matched #2 ranked and undefeated USC (9‐0) and Rodney Peete against 9‐1 and #6 UCLA led by Troy Aikman. Rodney Peete was stricken with the measles the week before the game and it was not known if he would even be able to play. He did and led the Trojans to a 31‐22 victory at the Rose Bowl. Peete and Aikman finished second and third in the Heisman balloting to Barry Sanders that year.
1990 was a shootout at the Rose Bowl with Tommy Maddox of UCLA and Todd Marinovich of USC. It was a back and forth struggle and truly looked like the team with the ball last would win, which it did. In the end USC receiver Johnnie Morton came down with a finger tip catch with 16 seconds left to lift the Trojans to a 45‐42 victory.
In 1992 John Barnes, a fifth string walk on for UCLA emerged from obscurity to throw for 385 yards and three touchdowns, including a 90 yard bomb to J.J. Stokes with three minutes to play to upset USC, 38‐37 at the Rose Bowl.
In 1996, UCLA came back from a 17 point deficit with six minutes to play and beat USC in overtime 48‐41 at the Rose Bowl. Skip Hicks’ 25‐yard touchdown in overtime overshadowed a record day for USC wide receiver R.J. Soward, who finished the game with 260 yards and three touchdowns.
In 1999, USC won 17‐7 breaking the Bruins winning streak of eight straight.
In 2005, USC had been ranked #1 all season and faced a one‐loss eleventh ranked UCLA (9‐1) team as its last obstacle to the dream 2006 BCS Championship matchup with #2 Texas. USC featured Heisman trophy winner Matt Leinart and eventual winner Reggie Bush. USC mugged UCLA 66‐19 in one of the most lopsided games of the series since the first matchup in 1929. Bush finished with 260 yards and the Trojans pounded UCLA with 430 yards rushing.
The 2006 game gave further proof that you can throw the records out in this rivalry. UCLA finished 7‐5 that season but pulled off one college football’s biggest upsets of 2006 by defeating the Trojans 13‐9. The Bruins not only ended the Trojans streak of 63 games of scoring 20 or more points, but also dashed the Trojans’ hopes of playing No.1 ranked Ohio State in the 2006 national championship.
The 2011 Game
So now the 81st game in this classic cross‐town rivalry resumes this Saturday at the Coliseum. The last two seasons both teams came into this matchup reduced to playing for pride and city bragging rights. This game is much different since UCLA still controls its own destiny in the PAC‐12 South Division and is vying to play in the first PAC‐12 championship game. It has been a very long time, since both programs had national relevance but this is a step in the right direction. UCLA is 5‐3 in conference and 6‐5 overall and are coming off the most lopsided win in the Neuheisel era with their domination of Colorado 45‐6. USC is 6‐2 in conference, 9‐2 overall and are coming off the biggest win in the Lane Kiffin era, upsetting the powerhouse Oregon Ducks, 38‐35 at Autzen.. This is a game that is also about pride and represents the farewell tour for the seniors and the first game for the freshman playing in this matchup. Even though Coach Kiffin does not ordain it as such, this is a bowl game for the Trojans. It will be played at the Coliseum, with a packed house, and former Trojans players creating a human tunnel for the seniors before the game. This is the beauty of college football‐ playing a game in late November at 7:00 PM because no national networks cared about picking up the game in a primetime slot. There are other implications at stake including recruiting, longevity of coaches, and momentum for a program. The talk of heavy handed sanctions levied against the Trojans has become a lot quieter recently. While everyone in the East is sleeping away, two teams and a Coliseum filled with Cardinal and Blue will care. It is still a glorious day when the City Of Angels is divided. The Bruins are seeking the first win over the Trojans in the Rick Neuheisel tenure as well as respect and a chance to win the PAC‐12 South. The Trojans are young and hungry with many freshman and sophomores playing significant roles and they have not yet been to the top of the mountain. They are still the hunters not the hunted and they should revel in it while they can. This is a rivalry game and history has shown that anything can happen. It will come down to winning the turnover battle, making big plays, and wanting it more.
This is an opportunity for the Trojans to get back to the battle field and to finish what they have started this season. Who will be the player in this game that will step up and make the play, to be a difference maker, and to lead his team to victory? As a Trojan, it is about stepping up in big games against your arch rival and about finishing. Conquest is coming! It is time for the Trojans to play together as brothers for one cause. It is time to dominate your opponent in the trenches, to block downfield and to gang tackle. It is time to make big throws on 3rd down and it time to pound the football for an extra five yards. It is time to swarm their quarterback with sacks and turnovers. It is time to thrive on pressure and step up when the going gets tough. It is time to make a stop with the game on the line. It is time to play like Trojans; with desire, heart, inspiration, and confidence. As Trojans, we never retreat, never surrender, and never underestimate our opponents. It is about Fighting On no matter the circumstances or opposition. It is time to raise the sword and go into battle, to play like Trojans and to always Fight On!
Beat the Bruins!
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Shane Foley played quarterback for the Trojans from 1986-1990. He is a Private Banker for Wells Fargo in Pasadena, CA. He serves on the Executive Board for Pete Carroll’s A Better LA, Board of Councilors USC Dornsife College, USC Alumni Association Board of Govenors, and is involved in several other charities. He can be reached at TheFoleyReport@gmail.com, or at The Foley Report on Facebook