The 1967 USC vs. UCLA football game was an American College Football game played in the 1967 College Football Season on November 18, 1967. The University of California at Los Angeles, 7-0-1 and ranked Number 1, with senior quarterback Gary Beban as a Heisman Trophy candidate, played the University of Southern California, 8-1 and ranked Number 4, with junior running back O.J. Simpson as a Heisman candidate. This game is widely regarded as the signature game in the UCLA-USC rivalry as well as one of the 20th century Games of the Century.
In 1965, USC (led by Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett
) met UCLA (led by All-Conference sophomore QB Gary Beban), with a berth in the Rose Bowl Game
on the line. The scoring opened with All-American Tailback Mel Farr
running 49 yards for a Bruin touchdown. The extra point was blocked, Despite dominating in the statistics, USC led only 16-6 with under 4 minutes left in the game. UCLA linebacker Dallas Grider hit USC quarterback Troy Winslow and caused a fumble. UCLA scored on a Beban touchdown pass to Dick Witcher and successfully converted a two-point conversion to make the score 16-14 (A tie would have sent USC to the Rose Bowl, hence the reason UCLA went for two). Then Grider then recovered an on-side kick and two plays later, Beban hit Kurt Altenberg on a 49 yard touchdown bomb to win the game, 20-16. In the final Poll, UCLA was ranked 4th in the AP and 5th in the UPI. UCLA went on to upset #1 ranked Michigan State in the 1966 Rose Bowl
, 14-12. USC finished ranked #9 in the AP poll.
In 1966, due to uneven scheduling that left out new AAWU members Oregon and Oregon State, UCLA was 3-1 in conference games. The Bruins lost only one game, at Washington 16-3. USC was 5-0, but lost out of conference to Miami (Florida). It was widely assumed that the winner of the 1966 UCLA-USC game would go to the 1967 Rose Bowl. UCLA star QB Gary Beban was out with a broken ankle, but backup Norman Dow, making his first and only start at QB, led UCLA to a 14-7 win. A vote the next Monday among the AAWU conference athletic directors put USC in the Rose Bowl. It was speculated that this was to make up for 1964 when Oregon State was controversially voted in ahead of USC, and also because the directors believed Beban could not play for UCLA in the Rose Bowl due to the broken ankle, thereby giving the Big 10 representative (Purdue) a better chance to win. UCLA students protested by blocking the Northbound lanes of Interstate 405 at Wilshire Boulevard. A week after the vote, USC made the voters look really bad as they lost to Notre Dame 51-0. This still stands as the worst defeat in USC Trojan football history. USC entered the Rose Bowl unranked and lost to Purdue, 14-13. Ironically, Beban's ankle had healed and he could have played. UCLA finished fifth in both polls. In matches with the Rose Bowl on the line for both teams, UCLA was 6-1-1.
USC and UCLA began the season ranked seventh and eighth respectively. USC had been ranked #1 for six weeks since beating #5 Texas and later Michigan State. USC notched a 24-7 victory over #5 Notre Dame on October 14
. UCLA also had been ranked in the top ten, reaching #2 before tying Oregon State 16-16 on November 4th. A week later in a downpour in Corvallis, Oregon
, Oregon State would beat top-ranked USC 3-0, as O.J. Simpson could not get going on the muddy field. USC dropped to #2 in the UPI and #4 in the AP, while UCLA ascended to the top ranking after their 48-0 win over Washington. It was the first time since since the 1955 season that UCLA was ranked #1, and only the fourth AP weekly poll in the history of the school. UCLA's tie and USC's loss were both inflicted by the Oregon State Beavers
and their famed Giant Killers team
. This same Oregon State team had defeated #2 ranked Purdue. But a 16-3 loss to Washington earlier in the season combined with the UCLA tie relegated the Beavers to second place.
What was at stake
This game was for the Championship of the AAWU Conference (now the Pacific Ten
), a berth in the Rose Bowl game
, and for the likelihood that the winner of the game would be the AP Poll National Champion
, as the final poll was published at the end of the regular season. The next year, the final poll would be published after the bowl games.
Aside from conference standings, the top Heisman vote getter from the previous season, Beban, would meet Simpson, one of the most explosive running backs of that season. And as with all USC-UCLA games, the "championship" of Los Angeles and bragging rights within the city were also at stake. USC was the established football power with seven National championships, the most recent in 1962. UCLA was regarded as an upstart, but had one National Championship in 1954.
Both teams played their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
, when UCLA first went outside the city of Los Angeles
to play at the Rose Bowl
. The 1967 game would be a USC "home" game, which meant that USC fans sat on the North side of the Coliseum, while the UCLA fans sat on the South (press box) side of the Coliseum. Both teams also wore their home uniforms when meeting at the Coliseum, UCLA in Powderkeg blue and USC in Cardinal.
National Television coverage
The American Broadcasting Company
began showing College football on television
in color the previous season. By the NCAA rules, only 8 national and 5 regional telecasts were allowed during the season. This game would be the ABC-TV game of the week and would be presented live in color and feature the ABC sports "Slo Mo replay". ABC's number one broadcast team of Chris Schenkel
and Bud Wilkinson
called the action.
Gary Beban led the first scoring drive for UCLA. Greg Jones scored first for UCLA with a 12 yard run. Zenon Andrusyshyn
kicked the extra point. Pat Cashman would take an interception return 55 yards for USC to tie the score. Rikki Aldridge kicked the extra point to tie the game.
In the second quarter, Earl McCullouch would run 52 yards and catch another 13 yard pass. This set up O. J. Simpson for a 13 yard touchdown run through the entire UCLA defensive unit. He dragged two tacklers to the end zone.
Simpson was wearing a special foam sponge encased shoe on his right foot due to an injury.
In the third quarter Gary Beban hit George Farmer for a touchdown pass for 53 yards to tie the score. UCLA continued to dominate in the second half, despite the fact Beban had to be helped off the field numerous times after getting hit on his badly bruised ribs. However, USC head coach John McKay had noticed that Andrusyshyn kicked with a low trajectory, so he put 6'8" Bill Hayhoe in the middle of the line on the Trojans field goal defense unit; Hayhoe blocked two field goals to keep USC in the game.
With the game tied 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, an injured Beban gamely threw a touchdown pass to Dave Nuttall. The extra point attempt by Andrusyshyn was blocked by Hayhoe, resulting in a 20-14 UCLA lead.
The big play
With 10:38 left in the game, USC faced a 3rd and 7 from its own 36 yard line. Trojan quarterback Toby Page
, who had replaced Steve Sogge
, called a pass play, then saw the Bruin linebackers drop back into pass coverage. He changed the signals before the snap, calling an audible ("23 blast"), and handed off to Simpson. Simpson veered to the left sideline, got a key block from fullback Dan Scott, and then cut back to the middle to run 64 yards for a touchdown. Rikki Aldridge kicked the extra point, and the Trojans led, 21-20. John McKay stated, "I believe it was the most exciting college run I've ever seen." By now Beban could barely move or breathe, and UCLA never crossed midfield as USC won. Jim Gunn
came off the Trojan bench with a torn ligament and kept up the pressure on Beban.
Other key players were Ron Yary, Tim Rossovich, and Adrian Young for the Trojans.
Playing with badly bruised ribs, Beban passed for 301 yards. Simpson had a phenomenal run and finished with two touchdowns, 177 yards and 30 carries. Commenting on Beban's heroic effort playing through injury, Famed L.A. Times columnist Jim Murray wrote that if "Gary Beban wins the Heisman Trophy, they ought to fill it with aspirin
Keith Jackson, who was in his first year in ABC football broadcasting narrating the taped highlights of the game, declared it many years later to be the greatest game he has ever seen. So did Giles Pellerin, a USC graduate who attended every game USC played from 1926 until his death at the 1998 USC-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl, 797 straight games over 72 years, almost certainly a record for any college football fan.
Both Beban and Simpson were featured on the cover of the November 20 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine .
UCLA had still beat the point spread, they were a three point underdog despite being ranked number 1.
UCLA vs. Syracuse
With Beban out due to the rib injury, a disheartened UCLA would lose the next week to Larry Csonka
led Syracuse 32-14 and would not be invited to any bowl games due to the exclusive Big Ten/AAWU Rose Bowl agreement. UCLA finished second in the AAWU tied with Oregon State at 4-1-1, ranked 10th in the Coaches' poll and out of the AP poll top ten.
Despite the losses, Gary Beban would win the Heisman Trophy. O. J. Simpson would win the Heisman trophy the next season. The most common reason given is that Simpson was a junior, and would have a chance the next year. At the time, the Heisman trophy was rarely given to an underclassman.
USC would go on to the 1968 Rose Bowl ranked #1 and defeat the #4 ranked Big Ten champion Indiana Hoosiers 14-3. #3 Oklahoma would defeat #2 Tennessee in the 1968 Orange Bowl.
USC would finish ranked #1 and win the National Championship for 1967.
Simpson and Beban in the NFL
Simpson would go on to have one of the greatest professional careers any running back has ever had, rushing for over 11,000 yards, mostly for the Buffalo Bills
, at a time when an NFL
season was still 14 games. But Beban was a bust as a pro; he was drafted by the Washington Redskins
, who already had a future Hall of Fame
quarterback in Sonny Jurgensen
. The Redskins moved Beban to wide receiver, and he lasted only two seasons.
Arnold Friberg Oils
Artist Arnold Friberg
was commissioned by Chevrolet
to paint a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of American intercollegiate football in 1969. He created four paintings, each representing major turning points in the intercollegiate game. Painting number four was titled O.J. Simpson Breaks for Daylight
and captures a moment in this famous Game of The Century. These paintings were used during the 1969 Chevrolet advertising campaign
and were among the most demanding and exciting pieces Mr. Friberg had done. These paintings were such a success that they were taken on tour and shown at universities throughout the country.
The 1967 USC Trojan football team has been named one of the best teams of the Twentieth century by the Sporting News and college football historian Richard Whittingham.
Number 1 ranked USC would defeat a rebuilding 3-6 UCLA team again in 1968 behind Simpson, who would win the Heisman Trophy. One week later USC would drop to #2 in the polls after being tied by Notre Dame, 21-21. The Trojans then lost to Ohio State 27-16 in a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the Rose Bowl. In 1969 both teams would be undefeated with the Rose Bowl on the line again. USC would prevail 14-12. The loss in 1969 reportedly affected UCLA coach Tommy Prothro more than the 1967 loss. USC would get a 10-2-1 record against UCLA through the 1970's, and would win all six matchups in that period where the Rose Bowl was on the line for both teams. The Trojans would win three more National championships in 1972, 1974, and 1978. The 1972 Trojan team also was named one of the best teams of the Twentieth century. The Trojans would regain the top position again in college football in the Twenty-first century.
Since that meeting UCLA would come close to a national championship in 1976, 1980, 1988 with a two week #1 ranking, and 1998, with a season-ending loss in Miami keeping them out of the first BCS championship. They did beat top ranked Ohio State in the 1976 Rose Bowl, and later won 3 Rose Bowls in 4 years in the early 1980s.
In a 1995 vote of the greatest moments in Los Angeles sports history, O.J. Simpson's touchdown run ranked #5. The 1965 UCLA defeat of USC in the UCLA-USC rivalry game to get to the Rose Bowl ranked #35. Bob Stiles stop of Bob Apisa on the goal line to defeat Michigan State in the 1966 Rose Bowl ranked #26.
- Peters, Nick. (1988) College Football's Twenty-Five Greatest Teams: The Sporting News. Number 9 Southern California Trojans 1967 ISBN 0-89204-281-8
- White, Lonnie. (August 2004). UCLA vs. USC: 75 Years of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports: Los Angeles Times Books. ISBN 1-883792-27-4
- Whittingham, Richard. (December 1985). Saturday Afternoon: College Football and the Men Who Made the Day: Workman Pub Co. ISBN 0894809334 (Whittingham names the 1967 USC Trojans football team as the team of the decade for the 1960's)
- The Great One Confronts O.J. Sports Illustrated, November 20, 1967, Volume 27, Issue 21
- Florence, Mal - The Great Rivalries USC vs. UCLA. Athlon College Football Preview, Autumn 1990