While there is certainly a massively more important worldwide focus right now, a combination of missing March Madness and USC Trojans spring football, as well as some free time thanks to social distancing, has given us an opportunity to get a little creative in our coverage for the time being.
Today, we’re narrowing down the USC-UCLA quadrant of the bracket, and readers will be able to select winners in two matchups. (Be sure to make your selections in the USC-Notre Dame quadrant we posted yesterday.)
We’ll start with 16 games and the votes in these initial matchups will result in a final eight. As luck would have it, those 16 games resulted in a perfect blend of four Notre Dame, four UCLA, four Rose Bowl and four “other” games. So eventually, we’ll select a Final Four of one Notre Dame game, one UCLA game, one Rose Bowl game and one “other” game, before ultimately declaring a champion.
Up first, the matchup between the 1967 game and the 1990 game.
In 1967, the USC – UCLA game had as much at stake as just about any game in this long rivalry. The Trojans and Bruins spent the entire year toward or at the top of the national poll. Entering this game, UCLA was No. 1 and USC was No. 2 in the coaches poll (No. 4 in the AP poll), the winner would claim the AAWU and national championships and the Rose Bowl berth, and UCLA (Gary Beban) and USC (O.J. Simpson) had players that would finish Nos. 1 and 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting.
And then the game lived up to the hype, regularly featuring on every “Game of the Century” list.
UCLA jumped out to a 7-0 lead but USC tied it at 7 on an interception return touchdown by Pat Chashman. A 52-yard run by Earl McCullouch eventually set up an O.J. Simpson touchdown run and a 14-7 USC lead at halftime.
Beban threw for a touchdown pass to give UCLA a 20-14 lead, but the ensuing extra point was tipped and sent wide by USC’s Bill Hayhoe.
Then, with 10:38 left in the game, USC quarterback Toby Page called “23 blast,” on third-and-seven, and Simpson went 64 yards on one of college football’s greatest and most important runs. UCLA never threatened again and USC came away with the 21-20 win.
The 1990 edition featured a combined 42 fourth-quarter points and a game-winning touchdown catch with just 16 seconds remaining.
It earned its nickname, “The Shootout” and easily makes its case for one of the most thrilling football games of all time.
USC, led by quarterback Todd Marinovich, took a 21-14 lead into halftime, and a Marinovich to Johnny Morton touchdown with 3:09 left still wasn’t enough to win.
UCLA’s Tommy Maddox threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in this game, and eventually led the Bruins to a touchdown with just 1:19 left, giving UCLA a 42-38 lead.
True freshman wide receiver Curtis Conway brought the kickoff out to the 25-yard line and USC’s final drive looked doomed early, as a short pass and then an incompletion left the Trojans facing third and seven with just 44 seconds left, on their own 28. But Marinovich found Gary Wellman on back-to-back plays to take USC all the way down to the UCLA 23-yard line.
And Marinovich stayed hot, connecting with Morton on the next play, as the USC wide receiver made a leaping grab along the sideline in the endzone.
For entertainment purposes, this game was hard to top, and still stands tied as the highest-scoring USC-UCLA regulation game. It was also the last time USC beat UCLA until 1999.
The next matchup features two games from back-to-back years.
The 1988 version of the Crosstown Showdown comes with its own moniker as well: “The Measles Game.”
It pitted No. 2 USC against No. 6 UCLA in front of more than 100,000 fans at the Rose Bowl.
USC quarterback Rodney Peete spent two nights in the hospital with measles during the week leading up to the game, and it was unknown whether he would be able to play. But play he did, completing 16 of 28 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown, and added another touchdown on the ground.
UCLA, led by quarterback Troy Aikman, cut USC’s lead to 21-16 at one point, but an Aaron Emanuel touchdown run pushed the Trojans ahead 28-16 and they’d go on to win 31-22. With the win, USC captured the Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl berth.
The previous season, a highly-ranked UCLA team came into the Coliseum 8.5-point favorites over the Trojans, and looking to win their way into the Rose Bowl.
The Bruins got out to a 10-0 halftime lead–and only 10-0 thanks to an incredible hustle play by USC quarterback Rodney Peete, to chase down and stop what could have easily become a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown–and eventually led 13-0 early in the third quarter. USC quarterback Rodney Peete threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest went to wide receiver Erik Affholter, which came on a 33-yard pass with 7:59 left in the game and the Trojans trailing 13-10. Affholter made the juggling catch while falling out of bounds. Officials ruled him in, and the touchdown gave USC a 17-13 lead they’d hold for the rest of the game.