Top College Football Moments in UCLA History

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterMarch 21, 2013

Top College Football Moments in UCLA History

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    UCLA athletics are second to none. 

    The school has produced an astounding 250 Olympic medal winners—only 22 countries have produced more medal winners than UCLA. But UCLA's true mark of athletic achievement cannot be more evident than in the sheer number of NCAA national championships the school's teams have won.

    108 national championships.

    No school has produced more team championships, and that's probably why UCLA is synonymous with academic and athletic excellence. That excellence isn't just in basketball, baseball and track and field—football is also included.

    It's been awhile since UCLA has won a national championship* in football—the Bruins were crowned the 1954 National Champions by the UPI—but a lot of great football has been produced by that picturesque school in Westwood, California.  

    There are many great moments in UCLA football history, but these, in no particular order, stand out among the best and deserve an eight-clap. 


    *The NCAA does not officially sanction a national championship in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

1976: Rose Bowl Game, UCLA 23 Ohio State 10

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    The consensus No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-0) traveled to Pasadena, Calif. to play the No. 11 (AP) UCLA Bruins (8-2-1) in the Rose Bowl game on January 1, 1976.

    Ohio State was heavily favored by 15.5 points, in part because the two teams had met earlier in the season with the Buckeyes winning, 41-20.

    Ohio State also had two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin in its backfield. 

    Both the Bruins and the Buckeyes' first-half performances were dominated by defense, but UCLA scored a game-tying field goal in the third quarter to make the score 3-3. After 13 unanswered points by UCLA, the Buckeyes finally managed to cut the Bruins' lead to six points, but late in the fourth quarter, UCLA running back Wendall Tyler scored a touchdown on a 54-yard run to seal the Buckeyes' fate, 23-10.

    Only one opponent had scored more than 14 points on the Buckeyes all season—UCLA.

1967: Heisman Trophy Winner Quarterback Gary Beban

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    The Bruins got their first (and only) taste of the Heisman when quarterback Gary Beban was named the 1967 Heisman Trophy winner.

    ABC football broadcaster Keith Jackson reportedly called the 1967 USC-UCLA game the greatest game he ever saw. This game, featuring the No. 1 UCLA Bruins and the No. 2 USC Trojans, was coined The Game of the Century.

    Two Heisman candidates were playing in this annual cross-town rivalry: Beban and Trojan running back O.J. Simpson. Although Beban was playing with a serious rib injury, he still passed for over 300 yards in the game. 

    USC won the game 21-20, but Beban won the 1967 Heisman Trophy as well as the Maxwell Award. 

1966: Rose Bowl Game, UCLA 14 Michigan State 12

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    The Michigan State Spartans (10-0) came into the 1966 Rose Bowl game with an undefeated record and a consensus No. 1 ranking. 

    UCLA (7-2-1) had played Michigan State earlier in the season with the Spartans winning 13-3, and thus the Spartans were 14-point favorites to win the game. 

    UCLA, however, was ready for the Spartans.

    With the new nickname "Gutty Little Bruins" and a quiet confidence, UCLA held Michigan State scoreless for three quarters. The Bruins scored two touchdowns in the first half, both by quarterback Gary Beban.

    With the Bruins leading 14-6, Michigan State scored a touchdown with less than a minute left in the game—a two-point conversion would tie the game. Bruising 212-pound fullback Bob Apisa rumbled toward the end zone on a pitch right but was greeted at the 1-yard line by three Bruins, including defensive back Bob Stiles, who was all of 5'8'', 175 pounds.

    The Bruins stopped the Spartan's conversion attempt, and Bob Stiles was named the bowl's MVP.

    Nearly 20 years later, Apisa walked into Stiles' restaurant in Brentwood, California, and the two became friends.   

2006: UCLA 13 USC 9

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    The No. 2 USC Trojans were poised to go to the BCS Championship game—only a 6-5 UCLA stood in its way. With just under six minutes left to play in regulation and down 13-9, quarterback John David Booty marched his team down to UCLA's 19-yard line on a 15-play, 52-yard drive. 

    The tension at the Rose Bowl was palpable. No one could believe the Trojans would lose to the Bruins—there was too much on the line for a loss. 

    On 3rd-and-4, Booty cocked his arm and threw the ball—Bruin defensive back Eric McNeal deflected the ball and then dove for the interception.  It was simply incredible. 

    Game over.

    BCS Championship game berth over.

    NCAA 63-game record of scoring 20 or more points over.

    Seven-game futility streak against USC, over. 

    USC's King of LA monopoly...over.

    One of the biggest upsets in college football? Oh, it's in there. 

1946: Kenny "Kingfish" Washington Is First African American to Sign NFL Contract

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    Halfback Kenny "Kingfish" Washington was UCLA football's first consensus All-American—but he was named to the second team, not the first.

    West Coast media outlets accused other media members of racial discrimination for omitting his name from the first team as well as his omission in the East-West Shrine game in 1939.

    UCLA had four African Americans on its football team in 1939 including Jackie Robinson, who would go on to break the color barrier a year later in Major League Baseball.

    UCLA was light years ahead of the rest of the country in terms of integration. It would take 31 more years before the University of Alabama signed its first African-American football recruit. 

    On March 21, 1946, Washington became the first African American to sign a contract to play football in the NFL. 

    To this day, Kenny Washington is a source of inspiration for African-American athletes in college football. 

2004: UCLA vs Washington

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    In the 2004 season, UCLA delivered a punishing running game to the Washington Huskies, when the Bruins rushed for a ridiculous 424 yards. 

    It was a cold and rainy day in Seattle, Washington, but running back Maurice Jones-Drew* was warmed up—rushing for 322 yards on only 26 carries and scoring five touchdowns.

    At the half, Jones-Drew had 235 yards on 13 touches. 

    Jones-Drew broke UCLA's single-game rushing record set by DeShaun Foster (301) in 2001, who also set that mark against Washington.

    The Bruins won 27-21 in Seattle—that's no easy feat for any road team.


    *Maurice's legal surname is Jones-Drew, but for most of his early life, he preferred the simple last name Drew. 

2009: UCLA 19 Tennessee 15

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    The SEC was unknowingly in the midst of a future seven-year BCS Championship title run in 2009, while the UCLA Bruins were coming off of a 4-8 2008 season.

    The Tennessee Volunteers hosted the Bruins at Neyland Stadium and were looking to avenge their 27-24 (OT) loss to UCLA in 2008.

    That had to have been a fluke, right?

    Tennessee was favored by 10 points, and UCLA was playing in one of the most hostile college football venues in the country—not many analysts thought the Bruins would beat the Vols in two consecutive years. 

    Final score: UCLA 19 Tennessee 15.

    UCLA was the only Pac-10* team that beat an SEC team in the 2009 regular season—Arizona State lost to Georgia 20-17 and Washington lost to LSU 31-23.

    Bonus: Lane Kiffin, the future Trojan football head coach, was the head coach at Tennessee in 2009.  


    *In 2009, the Pac-12 was called the Pac-10.

1954: National Champions

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    1954 was a very good year for UCLA football. 

    On October 16, UCLA beat Stanford 72-0.

    The following week it beat Oregon State 61-0.

    November saw similar routs with UCLA beating Oregon 41-0 and its crosstown rival USC 34-0. 

    Only Ohio State (9-0), Oklahoma (10-0) and UCLA (9-0) finished the 1954 season undefeated—Ohio State would be crowned the AP National Champions, while UCLA was crowned the UP National Champions.

    At the time, the Rose Bowl game did not allow teams to make consecutive appearances in its bowl, so conference runner-up USC went to the Rose Bowl instead.   

1992: J.J Stokes' Memorable Day Against USC

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    UCLA receiver J.J. Stokes torched USC's defense in November of 1992 catching six passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns.

    The Bruins were trailing USC 31-17 in the fourth quarter when quarterback John Barnes and Stokes put together an aerial show for the fans. Stokes caught four passes for 192 yards in the fourth quarter alone, with the go-ahead touchdown pass a 90-yard footrace to the end zone.

    Oh, it was an exciting game all right—Nkosi Littleton broke up a Trojan two-point conversion pass attempt that would have given USC the lead.

    UCLA won 38-37, and J.J. Stokes still holds UCLA's single-game receiving yards record.

    When a record is set against your cross-town rival, it's a top moment for any fan.  

1975: UCLA 25 USC 22

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    In 1975 USC and UCLA's rivalry game was played on the Friday after Thanksgiving, a departure from their annual date on November Saturdays.

    This game also had another unique twist—it would be the last game for Trojan head coach John McKay, who accepted an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be their head coach in 1976.

    McKay's teams had won four national championships from 1960-75 with the most recent championship one-year prior in 1974.

    To say Bruin fans would be sorry he left USC would be an understatement. UCLA sent legendary head coach John McKay out with a bang.

    Despite fumbling the ball 11 times—and only recovering the ball three times—the Bruins would hang on to win the game 25-22 and punch their ticket to the Rose Bowl to face Ohio State (again).