Unlike other major football programs, perusing the internet searching for great UCLA football moments produced minimal result. Granted that we’re not a football powerhouse school, but I thought I should find at least a few websites that amicably denoted our tradition. But apparently not even fan sites have any concise articles about our past greatness. With that reflection, I compiled my own Top 10 UCLA Football Great Moments. My list is not necessarily focus on individual performance or particular game but also include point in time or era.
1. Kenny Washington and Woody Strode became the first African-Americans to play in the NFL. Kenny Washington signed a contract with Los Angeles Rams on March 21, 1946 as a Halfback. Soon after, Woody Strode, also signed a contract with Los Angeles Rams on May 7, 1946 as End. 7 years earlier, both were teammates with Jackie Robinson and Ray Bartlett. This 1939 Bruins was a rarity to have 4 African-Americans on the team. Incidentally, Jackie Robinson would later in 1947 become the first African-American to play in the Major League. Washington, Strode, and Robinson were all in the backfield for 1939 football season. Kenny Washington was our first consensus All American; however he was selected to 2nd Team All-American instead by the committee. His number 13 was the first to retired.
2. Our first 10 wins season in 1946 coached by Bert LaBrucherie followed historical mark of Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. We didn’t repeat this feat until 36 years later during our first season to play our home games at the Rose Bowl. This 1946 team was our first undefeated regular season led by Burr Baldwin. He was our first on the record for Consensus All American and his number 38 was one of eight retired numbers. Though we were soundly beaten by Illinois in 1947 Rose Bowl, we managed to finish 4th in AP poll which was the highest since 1939 (9th AP). The 1947 Rose Bowl marked the first PCC-Big Nine matchup agreement or later became Pac 10-Big Ten. One significant aspect of this agreement was that both conferences had the same sentiment about desegregation African-Americans to play football.
3. Red Sanders’ 1954 National Championship team led by the Calexico Kid, Primo Villanueva, was clearly the most dominant in our football team history. They led the nation with 40.8 points per game and only gave up 4.4 points per game. The 1954 Bruins had 5 shut out games including 34-0 trouncing of the Trojans in front of 102,548 crowds which was the largest for the season. Due to the no repeat rule, we didn’t get the invitation for the 1955 Rose Bowl. It wouldn’t have been a great match up against Woody Hayes’ Ohio State. The 72 points scored against Stanford is still our school’s record for most point scored in the game and largest winning margin. The squad was filled with either All Americans or All Conference players. There was no drop off with talents beginning with Primo Villanueva, Jack Ellena, Sam Bogoshian, Jim Salsbury, Bob Long, to Bob Davenport. We can also say that Red Sanders’ coaching staffs were the first UCLA Dream Team. Billy Barnes, George Dickerson, Jim Meyers, and Tommy Prothro were all future head coaches.
4. Gary Beban won the 1967 Heisman Trophy despite losing the showdown with the Trojans while playing with bruised ribs. He received 1968 total votes and won every regional voting accept the Midwest. Before Wayne Gretzky got his nickname, Gary Beban was the original “The Great One”. He was All AAWU team 3 times with 25-5-2 record. To date he’s the only Heisman winner for the Bruins.
5. 1976 Rose Bowl victory by beating Woody Hayes’ #1 ranked and undefeated Ohio State 23-10 was listed as one of the most devastating loss in the Buckeyes football history. This was the 4th straight years Ohio State invited to the Rose Bowl game as Big Ten champions featuring 2 times Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin. Archie Griffin was the only player to start on 4 consecutive Rose Bowl games. The 14 ½ points underdog Bruins avenged their earlier loss on October 4, 1975 at home against Ohio State. We were the only Ohio State’s opponent that scored more than 14 points in a game and we did it twice. John Sciarra had 2 touchdowns passes in the 2nd half that broke the game open. Both touchdown passes were to Wally Henry. One touchdown pass was a 16 yarder and the other was a big play 67 yarder. Another big play by Wendell Tyler’s 57 yards touchdown run clinched the game. 1976 Rose Bowl was the last Pac-8 post season bowl game and also the first as Pac-10/Big Ten matchup. Dick Vermeil left to coach Philadelphia Eagles after the season and Terry Donahue’s era begin.
6. Beating legendary Bo Schembechler and his Michigan twice in 1982 football season is a feat that was only done once. On September 25, 1982, in front of 105,143 the Big House crowds, the Bruins engineered 21 points deficit comeback while only allowing the Wolverines 3 points in the 2nd half. Due to the loss against Washington and a tie against Arizona, we needed to beat the Trojans and Washington along with Arizona State to lose in order to go to the Rose Bowl. Against our rival, Karl Morgan, sacked USC Quarterback Scott Tinsley on the 2 point conversion attempt to preserve 20-19 win. About the same time of Karl Morgan’s sack, California was scoring in the now famous “The Play” against Stanford which overshadowed our dramatic ending of our game. Later on that day, Washington State beat Washington and the following week Arizona beat Arizona State to fulfill Terry Donahue’s early in the season promise of playing in the Rose Bowl game. The second meeting against the Wolverines was not even close as Tom Ramsey led the Bruins to 24-7 lead late into the 4th Quarter for the final score of 24-14. 1982 was the first season we played our home games at the Rose Bowl and it was also only the 2nd time we have had 10 wins season since 1946.
7. Terry Donahue’s 8 straight bowl victories from 1983 to 1991 was an NCAA record until Bobby Bowden’s Florida State broke it with 11 straight. 3 of them were Rose Bowl victories and in 1986 was the last time UCLA won the Rose Bowl. In addition, we won 4 Pac-10 Conference Champions during this streak. From 1982 to 1988, Terry Donahue’s Bruins held the record for winning bowl games in 7 consecutive years.
8. From 1991 to 1998, we hold the record for longest winning streak in the UCLA-USC series with 8. There are 3 memorable games in this series; they are the 1992, 1993 and the 1996. 1993 crosstown game had Rose Bowl game implication for both teams and also the following year for USC. 1993 game is one of the classic in the series as the game decided in the last minute. Marvin Goodwin intercepted Rob Johnson’s pass in the end zone to preserve 27-21 Bruins’ victory and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Another classic with a fairy tale ending is the 1992 game when our senior 5th string walk-on Quarterback, John Barnes, led the Bruins to 38-37 victory. In the previous year, John Barnes had to sneak in to watch the game. He rallied the Bruins from 14 points down in the 4th Quarter and threw for 384 yards including a 90 yarder to JJ Stokes with 2:04 remaining in the game. USC scored with 0:41 left in the game but linebacker Nkosi Littleton knocked the ball down on the 2 point conversion attempt to seal Bruins’ victory. 1996 game marked the first overtime in the series and it went double overtime. Quarterback Cade McNown rallied 17 points deficit with less than 7 minutes in the game to send the game to overtime. This Bob Toledo’s first year team won it in the 2nd overtime 48-41.
9. 20 games winning streak from 1997 to 1998 under Bob Toledo was the school record. After an 0-2 starts at the beginning of 1997 season, Quarterback Cade McNown led a huge upset on the road against Texas for a final score 66-3. In that game Cade McNown set a school record with 5 touchdown passes and the defense forced 8 turnovers in which 6 of them turned into touchdowns. UCLA shared Pac-10 Conference champions in 1997 and won outright Pac-10 Conference champions in 1998. 1998 was the first year of BCS Championship series. After beating the Trojans for the 8th straight times, we were ranked #1 in the BCS going to the Miami game. The game was originally scheduled for September 25, 1998. But Hurricane Georges cancelled the game and it was rescheduled to December 5, 1998. It ended both our winning streak and eliminated the chance to National Championship game in the Fiesta Bowl. That game also ended Arizona’s hope to their first ever Rose Bowl game.
10. 13-9 victory over the Trojans in 2006 ended both their hope for National Championship title game and 7 straight winning streaks in the rivalry series. Another streak that was snapped was their NCAA record 63 games in which they scored 20 or more points in the game. Our defense kept the Trojans to 58 yard total rushing and 6 of 17 on 3rd down conversion. All American Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis led the way with consistent pressures on Quarterback John David Booty. Eric McNeal’s tip and interception on the Bruins’ 20 yard lines with 1:10 remaining of the game preserved the one of the biggest upsets in the rivalry series.