Bruins’ 29-10 victory had Trojans eating words, and crow

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UCLA 29, USC 10

Nov. 17, 1984, at the Rose Bowl

Setup: Seventh-ranked USC (8-1) had already clinched a Rose Bowl berth after winning its first seven Pacific 10 Conference games. UCLA (7-3) was unranked and hoping to improve its chances for a New Year’s Day bowl. With the stakes relatively low, the late Times columnist Jim Murray described the matchup as being “like a dance with your sister, a card game with your maiden aunt, a meal without wine, a movie about a dog or a book about manners. . . . Wholesome entertainment for the family. Nothing more.” But USC quarterback Tim Green added some spice the week before the game when he predicted that UCLA was going to get a whipping.


What happened: UCLA forced five turnovers, taking USC out of its plan to utilize a ball-control running game. The Bruins’ John Lee kicked four of his five field goals in the first two quarters to help UCLA take a 19-3 halftime lead. Bruins freshman tailback Gaston Green, taking over the rushing duties after Danny Andrews suffered an Achilles’ injury in the second quarter, finished with 134 yards rushing. Forced into catch-up mode, USC’s Green completed only 18 of 39 passes with three interceptions. Asked about his bravado, Tim Green said a UCLA player told him afterward, “That’s the best whipping we’ve ever taken.”

The aftermath: It was the first time since 1953-55 that UCLA won three consecutive games in the series. USC lost to Notre Dame, 19-7, the following week at the Coliseum before rebounding to defeat Ohio State, 20-17, in the Rose Bowl. UCLA beat Miami, 39-37, in the Fiesta Bowl. Both the Bruins and Trojans finished 9-3.

Memories: “I think the Trojans took us lightly,” said Bruins receiver Mike Sherrard, who scored a touchdown. “Besides Tim Green mouthing off, [USC linebacker] Duane Bickett told his team not to celebrate the Pac-10 championship until after they beat UCLA. Both those guys inspired us.”

Bruins quarterback Matt Stevens said Tim Green’s prediction stirred UCLA’s defensive players: “Our strong safety, Craig Rutledge, had no problem shoving [Green’s] helmet into the turf and lifting himself to his feet after every time he tackled the Trojans quarterback. Watching Rutledge manhandle [Green] was my favorite memory because we were roommates.”

Stevens, now a game analyst on UCLA radio broadcasts, compared Lee to current Bruins kicker Kai Forbath, calling him “Mr. Automatic.” Stevens also said, “The way our defense was playing we knew those field goals were just as good as touchdowns.”

Lee said his favorite memory was “looking at our fans behind our sideline as every one of them is on his feet to shout ‘UCLA -- Fight! Fight! Fight!’ as the game clock approached zero. You just don’t get to experience that in the NFL.”


-- Ben Bolch