Oklahoma football: A UCLA history primer
OU plays UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, and the Bruins are a magical name in college football. Even if such status is undeserved. Truth is, UCLA football is a mostly under-performing program that carries the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles, but little of the rich winning tradition of crosstown foe Southern Cal.
Here’s a primer on UCLA football history.
Conference titles: The Bruins have won 12 championships in the Pac-12 (or its forerunners) and tied for six others. But UCLA hasn’t finished atop the Pac since back-to-back Pac-10 titles in 1997 and 1998. UCLA’s glory years were four titles from 1982-87 and three straight titles from 1953-55.
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Bowl record: The Bruins are 16-19-1 in bowls, including 5-7 in Rose Bowls. Only six of UCLA’s 36 bowls were played in the Central or Eastern time zones. Outside the Rose, the Bruins’ only major bowl was the Cotton, when the Troy Aikman-led 1987 UCLA team beat Arkansas 17-3.
Best team: The 1954 Bruins won 32-7 at Kansas, beat defending national champion Maryland 12-7 and survived 21-20 at Washington. Then UCLA rolled to five blowout victories, finished No. 1 and was awarded the UPI national title.
Best historical position: UCLA has a “soft” reputation – thank you, Brian Bosworth – but if that’s so, why have the Bruins produced so many great offensive linemen? Jonathan Ogden won the Outland Trophy and played 12 years in the NFL. Max Montoya played 16 years in the NFL. Randy Cross was a cornerstone of the 49ers’ dynasty. Luis Sharpe played 13 NFL seasons. Dave Dalby was a great Raiders center.
Greatest player: Gary Beban was a high school single-wing tailback recruited by Oregon State coach Tommy Prothro. When UCLA hired away Prothro, he signed Beban, who became UCLA’s greatest quarterback. Beban was a three-year starter who placed fourth in the 1966 Heisman voting, then won the trophy in 1967. Like OU’s Billy Vessels in 1952, Beban won with an heroic game in defeat – in a 21-20 loss to eventual national champion Southern Cal, threw for 301 yards.
Arch-rival: Southern Cal, and it’s one of the most underrated rivalries in sport. What other college rivals share a city and for half a century shared a stadium? USC leads 49-32-7, but much of that edge comes from a 15-5 edge the last 20 years. From the start of World War II through the end of the 20th century, the Bruins were 27-29-4 against the stately Trojans.
Greatest win: In 1965, seventh-ranked UCLA played sixth-ranked USC for a Rose Bowl berth. The Bruins trailed 16-6 with four minutes left, but Beban threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Dick Witcher and a 52-yard TD pass to Kurt Altenberg, and UCLA had a 20-16 victory. The Bruins then went on to upset top-ranked Michigan State 14-12 in the Rose Bowl.
Greatest coach: Red Sanders coached the Bruins for nine seasons, 1949-57, and went 66-19-1, with three Pac-12 titles and the 1954 UPI national championship. Sanders came from Vanderbilt, where he was 36-22-2 in six seasons. But the Bruins have had some quality coaches – Terry Donahue went 151-74-8 from 1976-95, Prothro was 41-18-3 from 1965-70 then went to the Los Angeles Rams and Dick Vermeil was 15-5-3 in 1974-75 then was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Oklahoma connection: Forget Aikman’s transfer and the Boz’s pontifications. The 1975 Bruins will forever be loved by Sooner fans. UCLA, ranked 11th with an 8-2-1 record, played 11-0 and No. 1-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State had beaten the Bruins 41-20 earlier in the season. But UCLA, led by quarterback John Sciarra, delivered a 23-10 upset that gave the Sooners a chance at the national championship. OU beat Michigan 14-6 and indeed won the title.
Stadium: The Rose Bowl stadium was built in 1922 and soon became an American icon, with its splendid weather, the Rose Bowl game and view of the San Gabriel Mountains. UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982, from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, another iconic venue. The Bruins began playing in the Coliseum in 1933. So that’s 87 years of playing in either the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum.
Historical importance: The Bruins were on the forefront of racial integration. Long before he became a Brooklyn Dodger, Jackie Robinson was a four-sport star for the Bruins, twice leading the nation in punt return yardage.
Worst loss: In 1998, UCLA was 10-0, ranked third and headed for a likely berth in the national championship game. But on December 5 at Miami, the Bruins blew a 38-21 lead and lost 49-45. Quarterback Cade McNown threw for 513 yards and five touchdown passes, but Miami tailback Edgerrin James rushed for 299 yards on 39 carries.
Conference history: UCLA was founded in 1919 and joined the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic in 1920. In 1928, the Bruins joined the Pacific Coast Conference, the forerunner of what became the Pac-8, Pac-10 and Pac-12.
Career rushing leaders: UCLA has all kinds of great tailbacks – Gaston Green, Freeman McNeil, Wendell Tyler, Skip Hicks, Deshaun Foster, Theotis Brown, Maurice Drew, Kermit Johnson. But the career rushing leader is Johnathan Franklin, who gained 4,403 yards from 2009-12.
Career passing leaders: UCLA quarterbacks are well known, too. Brett Hundley, Josh Rosen, Drew Olson, Tom Ramsey, Tommy Maddox, Aikman, Dennis Dummit, Beban, Rick Neuheisel. McNown threw for the most yards, 10,708 from 1995-98.
NFL legacy: The Bruins ranked 13th all-time in number of NFL players produced, with 339. That’s more than Texas, Georgia or Texas A&M. The greatest Bruin ever in the NFL might be Aikman. But it might be Jimmy Johnson, the great 49ers cornerback from the 1960s and ’70s.
Notable alum: Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, Carol Burnett, Francis Ford Coppola, 100 basketball players. Dealer’s choice.