On one of the final plays of last Saturday’s 34-3 USC rout of Washington State, center Tony Gnau snapped the ball to punter John Stonehouse, then charged downfield and made the tackle.
Not only was it a meaningful moment for Gnau, but it also stirred memories for Coach John Robinson, who said later that his thoughts flashed to the 1958 Rose Bowl game.
In the 1950s, Robinson was a reserve offensive and defensive end at Oregon. With 15 seconds left in Ohio State’s 10-7 victory over Oregon that year, Robinson got to play.
“They snapped the ball, the Ohio State quarterback fell on the ball and their end came up and slapped me on the back and said: ‘Great game.’
“I said: ‘Thank you.’ ”
Robinson said he thought about his Rose Bowl moment watching Gnau Saturday, in Gnau’s first play for USC, after two seasons.
“For the first game (North Carolina), I didn’t want to suit up the entire team, so I asked about a dozen guys, including Tony, to sit in the stands. I was afraid the sideline would be too crowded.
“Tony came to my office to talk. And he made a very telling case. He told me how much he’d given to the USC football program, how much he loves being part of this football team, and how much it would hurt him to have to sit in the stands.”
Robinson told Gnau he and the others could stand on the sideline with the uniformed players and that he’d “review the policy.”
Gnau, a center, is a non-scholarship player. He is a 5-foot-10, 200-pound broadcast journalism major.