by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

Little Bruins.”
The term would resonate for more than a generation though it hardly applied for more than a few years in Westwood. Indeed, UCLA’s football team would forever become the “Big Bruins” by early in the ‘70s. But nothing about “Big Bruins” is very endearing; Now, “Gutty Little Bruins”...there is something to remember, and comment upon for decades to come.

This writer certainly recalls the 1965 Bruins team that would cause the “GLB” (to save space, an acronym we’ll use on occasion for the rest of this presentation) to become forever etched in Pacific Coast football lore. The re-emergence of UCLA as a football force more than a half century ago remains one of the most compelling gridiron tales from our six-plus decades of publishing TGS. And for a certain grade-schooler in nearby Inglewood, California, a first-ever favorite team that provided something magical to be recalled forever more. At that stage of the life of any youngster, to become hopelessly addicted to any team that continued to defy the odds provided a promising context for the rest of their lives. Indeed, anything might be possible after seeing it transpire on the gridiron through such hopeful and wide-open eyes.

Simply put, the 1965 UCLA football Bruins were magic. How lucky to have a front-row seat and be able to call upon that sort of inspiration for the rest of my life!

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Things were certainly changing in the mid ‘60s, though by the middle of the decade, in football terms at least, not much had changed at UCLA for a long while, or since the glory days of the program in the ‘50s under HC Henry “Red” Sanders, hired away from Vanderbilt in 1949 to build a new powerhouse in Westwood to be able to once and for all overcome those hated rivals from across town, USC, after the Trojans had spent much of their existence to that point dominating the Bruins and West Coast football in particular. UCLA had some successes prior, and even a couple of Rose Bowl visits, but did not beat the Trojans until 1942. Indeed, in the first two installments of the crosstown rivalry, Howard Jones’ SC powerhouses had won by 76-0 and 52-0 scores, respectively, in 1929 & ‘30. So one-sided were the proceedings that the local clash was put on hiatus until the Bruins felt they could compete.

When hostilities resumed in 1936, UCLA, under HC Babe Horrell, was good enough to forge a 7-7 tie vs. the mighty Trojans, but would have to wait six years until scoring its first-ever win over SC, thanks to star QB Bob Waterfield, who would also lead the Bruins to thir first Rose Bowl that season, losing 9-0 to Frankie Sinkwich-led Georgia. After the war, the Bruins experienced success under HC Bert LaBrucherie, including the 1946 team that finished 10-0 before getting wiped out by Buddy Young-led Illinois, 45-14, in the first PCC-Big Ten Rose Bowl.

By the time Sanders was hired in 1949, however, UCLA had faded, finishing the 1948 season at 3-7. LaBrucherie would leave for Cal Tech and was replaced by the man called “Red” who would turn out to be a pied piper of sorts from Vandy to Westwood. When UCLA opened its Law School shortly thereafter, much of the faculty was recruited from none other than Vanderbilt.

Sanders’ successes were considerable in a remarkable 8-year run in which the Bruins would win three PCC titles, reach the Rose Bowl twice (denied a third visit by the PCC’s arcane “no repeat” rule of the ‘50s) and win the UPI version of the national title in 1954, splitting the honor with Ohio State. But Sanders passed away ignominiously in the company of a “lady of the evening” at an LA hotel prior to the beginning of the 1958 season, which turned into a real scramble in Westwood. Interim successor George Dickerson lasted only three games before being admitted to UCLA Medical Center due to nervous exhaustion. Assistant Bill Barnes took over at that point and remained on the job thru 1964.

Though the Bruins hit a couple of crescendos under Barnes, including a Rose Bowl visit by the 1961 team, his last three editions were all sub-.500. The ‘64 team had actually began the season with some promise, winning three straight out of the gate and generating votes in the national polls before being ruthlessly dismembered at Syracuse, 39-0, limited to just 41 yards in the process. Several more beatings took place before the end of the season as the Bruins lost 6 of their last 7 games, allowing 169 points in the defeats.

Summoned by AD J.D. Morgan to replace Barnes in 1965 was Tommy Prothro, who had built Oregon State into a contender the previous decade and had just finished taking the 1964 Beavers to the Rose Bowl (which still remains OSU’s last Rose Bowl visit). Prothro was familiar with Westwood, having served on the staff of Sanders during the glory years in the ’50s, but his new task was daunting. One LA area sportswriter might have summed up expectations for ‘65 best. "Tommy Prothro did not come to UCLA to lose, but he'll learn," said the scribe. The AAWU (as the conference was known in those days) skywriters agreed and tabbed the Bruins at the bottom of the loop with their preseason poll.

By this point, nobody had coined the “Gutty Little” label. Perhaps the “little” portion, as UCLA was very undersized, even for the era, on both lines, with only DT John Richardson (a future Miami Dolphin and in the 230-lb. range) qualifying as anything remotely resembling a heavyweight. Most of the linemen were in the 190-200 pound range, very small even for that era; one of those was a scrappy DT named Terry Donahue, whose name mght ring a bell.

Though the ‘65 season did not begin auspiciously in a 13-3 loss in humid condiitons at Michigan State (more on those Spartans in a bit), rather quickly it became apparent that Prothro was in the midst of a quick and rather amazing turnaround with his "GLBs" in Westwood. The Bruins put up a better-than-expected fight at East Lansing vs. a big and veteran Spartan team that was bound for greatness. After a week off, UCLA was underdog again at Penn State but surprised the Nittany Lions, 24-22. Then, hosting the same Syracuse that had battered the last Barnes-coached Bruins team the year before and featuring a future Pro Football HOF RB tandem of Floyd Little and Larry Csonka, UCLA won handily in its ‘65 Coliseum debut, 24-14, a few hours after the Dodgers would beat the Twins 4-0 that afternoon in Game Three behind Claude Osteen and climb back into the World Series a few miles up the Harbor Freeway at Chavez Ravine.

Emerging rather quickly as a star was soph QB Gary Beban, who ran for a couple of scores at Penn State and would stun the Orangemen with TDs on the Bruins’ first two plays from scrimmage, one on a 27-yard sweep on the first play after UCLA recovered a fumble on the Cuse’s first snap, then a 79-yard TD bomb to WR Kurt Altenberg the next time the Bruins got possession.

(Beban had also been the subject of mild controversy in the Penn State win, when a traffic cop working outside of Beaver Stadium claimed his walkie-talkie overheard Prothro delivering plays to Beban through what would have had to been an elaborate microphone system built into Beban’s helmet. After Prothro was asked from where the policeman had picked up the supposed correspondence, the coach drawled, “Maybe from Mars.”)

By the end of October, it was apparent that something special was happening at UCLA. A 14-14 tie at another favored side, Sugar Bowl-bound Missouri, should have been a Bruin win, with Beban throwing a pair of TD passes before the Tigers would level the score in the 4th Q with a pair of kick-return TDs, the last a 65-yard punt return by A-A RB Johnny Roland, who for good measure then tossed an option pass to TE Earl Denny to level the score with a 2-point conversion. But the momentum could not be denied in the subsequent 56-3 romp at the Coliseum past a capable Cal side. Beban passed for another TD and ran for two more, while the other emerging star of ‘65, RB Mel Farr, blasted for 156 YR and another pair of scores. When the dust settled, UCLA had amassed a whopping 619 yards of offense and scored its largest-ever win vs. “big brother” from Berkeley. Another win at Air Force moved the Bruins up to the 8th spot in the rankings entering November. Suddenly, the possibility of an eventual Rose Bowl showdown vs. crosstown USC, then ranked sixth in the polls, was looming on the horizon.

Before then, however, would come a pair of challenging AAWU tests vs. Washington and Stanford. The former rolled into the Coliseum on November 6 and, perhaps catching the Bruins a bit full of themselves after reading their various press clippings the preceding weeks, proceeded to be on the verge of a TKO win by halftime. The Huskies jumped to 14-0 and 21-7 leads in the first half thanks to three TD passes of 50, 56, and 11 yards from QB Todd Hullin to WR Dave Williams. Called upon to get the Bruins back into the game, Beban first hit wingback (and future San Francisco 49er) Dick Witcher on a 58-yard TD pass to get the Bruins on the board, then barely beat the clock to intermission with an 81-yard drive culminated in a QB sneak to further cut into the lead. Down 24-14 at half, Beban got UCLA a bit closer on the first play of the second half, a dazzling 60-yard TD run, helped by downfield blocks from G Barry Leventhal and E Byron Nelson. Later in the quarter, Beban would be involved in another TD that would resonate for years in Seattle and perhaps become the co-most-important play of the unfolding, magical UCLA season.

A few years ago, we met up with Beban in Chicago, where he described to us the genesis of “Z-Streak” vs. U-Dub. “It was all due to Pepper Rodgers,” said Beban about the Bruins’ top offensive assistant who, after an upcoming successful run at Kansas, would become Prothro’s successor at Westwood in 1971. “When studying films of the Huskies, Pepper noticed they could be exploited with such a play.  It could probably work only once, so if used we would have only once chance to get it right. ” That “play” in question would begin while the Bruins were still in their huddle, and the Huskies in their defensive huddle. Rodgers would send end Witcher out of the huddle early, sauntering to the sideline as if he were leaving the field. Rodgers believed the formulaic U-Dub defense, which stayed in the huddle a bit longer than most, would be not notice in time that Witcher was still on the field, much less an eligible receiver when Beban called a quick snap. Streaking downfield, Witcher was wide open when Beban lofted what would become a go-ahead, 60-yard TD pass in a play not too dissimilar from those used by Army and its “Lonesome End” Bill Carpenter a few years earlier. The bit of trickery gave UCLA a 28-24 lead!

Washington threatened in the second half, three times reaching Bruin territory, but coughing up the ball on each occasion on a pair of interceptions and a fumble. UCLA’s 28-24 lead held until the final gun, withstanding 479 yards of Huskies offense, and 354 YP by UW QB Hullin, a stat-line that looked more appropriate for the age of Air Raids and Pistols decades down the road. The Seattle contingent cried “foul” on Witcher’s game-winning TD, though Husky HC Jim Owens disagreed...outwardly after the game, at least. “Our (defensive) halfback just didn’t pick him (Witcher) up,” said Owens, though internally he would seethe, vowing to avenge the loss against Prothro in coming years. (Indeed, UCLA and Washington would have some other memorable Owens vs. Prothro encounters in upcoming seasons, to be recounted on the pages of TGS later this season.)

Having dodged that bullet, the Bruins were hardly off-guard the following week at Stanford, and in front of a regional TV audience on NBC would easily dance away from the then-called Indians, 30-13, with Beban running for two scores and passing for another. An unexpected Rose Bowl showdown vs. another powerful USC team, with Heisman-to-be-RB Mike Garrett, was now on deck.  Los Angeles was abuzz with prospect of a classic "boxer vs. slugger" scenario on the gridiron.

It was vs. the Trojans that the “Gutty Little Bruins” label would really stick. As Beban related in our chat a few years ago, UCLA had little business competing vs. John McKay’s squad. “They were a lot bigger, a lot stronger, and a lot faster than we were,” said Beban. “Physically, we were significantly outmanned. But we had Tommy Prothro on our side.”

The sixth-ranked Trojans, a solid TD favorite over the 7th-ranked Bruins, entered with an identical 6–1-1 record, the blemishes courtesy of a frustrating opening-week tie vs. Minnesota and a midseason loss at revenge-minded Notre Dame (another classic likely to be recounted on the pages of TGS this fall). Except for the loss at Notre Dame, however, RB Garrett was proving unstoppable and was the heavy favorite for the Heisman Trophy, which he would eventually win by a near-landslide vote a few weeks later.

For most of the first 55 minutes of the Rose Bowl showdown at the Coliseum, it looked as if the oddsmakers had underestimated the Trojan superiority. On a dreary, gray day, the 94,085 fans had watched SC effectively run up and down the field for almost the entirety of the game. After Farr had burst 49 yards for a score on the Bruins’ first possession, UCLA had done next to nothing offensively; for the next 40 minutes the Bruins barely registered a peep, held as they were to one more first down entering the 4th Q. They ran exactly seven offensive plays in the second quarter and, backs to the wall, punted three times on third down. In the 3rd Q they ran only 11 plays, and Beban had two passes intercepted. UCLA was fortunate that it trailed only by only ten points as the game moved into its final five minutes. At that point, SC had possession and what would seem a good chance to exhaust the clock, especially with Garrett running roughshod.

Mistakes, however, had prevented the Trojans from having a more significant cushion. Inexorably, USC drove 76 yards in 14 plays in the first quarter after the Farr TD before Garrett fumbled the ball away at the UCLA one-yard line. A fumble at the 26 killed another drive in the second quarter, and some mismanagement of their time-outs caught the Trojans short of a touchdown at half time after they had reached the UCLA seven, hoping to pad a 7-6 SC lead.

More miscues in the 3rd Q, as Garrett fumbled away again at the UCLA 17, and later, on third and goal at the Bruin three, QB Troy Winslow's pass was grabbed away from end Mickey Upton by brash UCLA DB Bob Stiles in the Bruin end zone. Thus, in three quarters of painstaking offense, USC had six chances to score—and wasted all but one.

At the outset of the final stanza, however, it looked like the clock had struck midnight for Cinderella UCLA. On the first play of the 4th Q, Trojan QB Winslow hit end Rod Sherman with an eight-yard TD pass. The conversion went awry, but after another subsequent drive set up a short 20-yard FG by DE/PK and future NFL star Tim Rossovich, USC had what looked like a solid 16-6 lead. Since UCLA had done so little since the Farr TD run, the outcome seemed decided.

Before the Trojans would run out the clock, however, they were guilty of back-to-back 15-yard penalties. Pushed back to their 23, Winslow would scramble on 2nd down before fumbling on a hit by UCLA DE Dallas Grider, which was recovered on the Trojan 34 by LB Erwin Dutcher.

At that point, a few discerning SC fans might have heeded a comment by their coach McKay leading up to the game. “It takes us ten minutes to go 60 yards,” said the Irishman. “UCLA goes 60 yards in one clip.”

Given a reprieve, Beban went to work. UCLA had not tried to beat USC's deep defenders on a pass since the second quarter, and it seemed folly to try now, since McKay's deep men, instructed to give Beban the intermediate stuff but guard with their lives against the long throws, had done just that. But Trojan DB Nate Shaw went for UCLA end Altenberg, who had delayed and then slanted toward the sideline, and this exposed the left side to the wingback Witcher, who ran right past Shaw, curved left and caught Beban's perfect spiral just behind the frantic dive of safety Mike Hunter, trying too late to cover on the play.

After a two-point conversion pass, it was 16-14, and the way things were going this unbelievably delightful season for UCLA it seemed as if an onside kick recovery was inevitable. That is exactly what big-play defender Grider, who forced the key Winslow fumble, did on the USC 49. After a first down, however, Beban got trapped on a pass attempt and the Bruin situation was again critical: third down, 24 yards to go at the UCLA 48 and everybody in the Coliseum knew Beban had to throw long.
Everybody except the unfortunate Shaw, who happened to be SC's best defensive halfback.

Beban rolled to his right, then set up to throw back to the left to Farr, who was running a swing pattern behind split end Altenberg, who was supposed to run straight down the field to lure Shaw out of Farr's area. But Shaw moved in to pick up Farr—and, too late, realized that Altenberg was winging toward the goal. Beban naturally abandoned plans to throw to Farr—"I admired his individuality," said Prothro afterward—and went deep for the open Altenberg, who caught the ball at the 5 and romped in for the go-ahead TD to amazingly put the Bruins in front, 20-16!

With 2:39 to play and Garrett’s runs no longer part of the equation, further dramatics were not necessary. Winslow was not adept at throwing a good long pass and SC quickly turned the ball over on downs, and the game would end with UCLA on the Trojan 7. There was pandemonium from Bruin supporters, despair from those of SC. Garrett, mostly marvelous in defeat with 210 YR but guilty of two of SC’s five fumbles, was still in his uniform when he came into the Bruin locker room to congratulate UCLA on its comeback. “It takes a great effort to do what you did," he said, and left with tears in his eyes, but not before Prothro told him he thought he was the finest college back he had ever seen.

Now Rose Bowl-bound for the first time in a decade, the Bruins, freshly minted as the nation’s No. 4 team behind Michigan State, Arkansas, and Nebraska, had one more test two weeks hence at the Memphis Liberty Bowl against 9th-ranked and Bluebonnet Bowl-bound  Tennessee. Again, UCLA had the rally thing down pat, coming back from a 20-7 halftime deficit with three straight TDs in the 3rd Q. In the end, however, some of the most blatant hometown officiating in college football annals would deny the Bruins a win, which instead went to the Vols when they scored the winning TD (or did they?) on QB Dewey Warren’s 1-yard run on 4th down with 39 seconds to play. After the 37-34 defeat, Prothro, a native Tennesseean himself, was still irked. “For the first time in my life,” Prothro drawled, “I am ashamed to be a Southerner.” All after watching a travesty manufactured by the SEC refs, who not only prematurely awarded Warren the winning TD on a play that decades later would have likely been overturned by a review, but also several other dubious calls against UCLA, including a couple of more on the final UT drive, that tainted the outcome. UCLA’s players were enraged as well, so much that they tried to take out their frustrations on Vol DB Bob Petrella after he was run out of bounds on a last-second, game-saving interception, piled upon by angry Bruins.

(UT, however, was due a bit of good fortune after three of its assistants, including Bill Majors of the famed Tennessee Majors clan, were tragically killed at midseason when their car was hit in a railway-crossing accident).

Still, the fiasco in Memphis only steeled the Bruins’ resolve for the upcoming Rose Bowl vs. top-ranked Michigan State, which had bulldozed through its regular season unbeaten after beating UCLA in the opener. The Spartans had improved markedly as the season progressed, and their overwhelming defense, led by DE Bubba Smith and LB George Webster, had literally strangulated the opposition. Foes managed just 62 points in ten games, culminated in a vicious season-ending game vs. 4th-ranked Notre Dame a few hours before UCLA would upset Southern Cal. In what might still rank as the most ferocious, physical battle in the 60 years that TGS has been publishing, the Spartans would hold a rugged Fighting Irish team to -12 YR, just 12 yards total offense, and a measly three first downs in a war-like 12-3 win at South Bend. The magical Beban or not on the UCLA side, Duffy Daugherty’s bruising Spartans were installed as 2-TD favorites over the "GLBs" for the Rose Bowl.

The Rose Bowl rematch seemed more like a mismatch, though considering how the Bruins had fared vs. arguably the nation’s toughest schedule that featured four foes in the top ten (Michigan State, plus USC, Missouri, and Tennessee) and another vote-getter (rugged Syracuse), a few shrewd insiders thought the Bruins might have a chance. While the Spartans had progressed to the point of being compared to all-time college juggernauts as they entered Pasadena, UCLA was a different team than in the opener, too. Especially Beban, who had progressed to the point where many believed he was the best QB in the nation–Purdue’s Bob Griese be darned. Still, barring a sensational performance by Beban, most experts predicted Michigan State to win by the two touchdowns the bookmakers foresaw.

Into the Rose Bowl, Beban was a big-play maestro, running for 576 yards and passing for 1,336 more (very good numbers for that era) and, by doing one or the other, he chased in touchdown plays over such distances as 79, 78, 60 and 58 yards. But the Spartans were virtually impossible to run against; aforementioned Notre Dame, plus Ohio State and Michigan, were all held to minus yardage on the ground by the likes of big Bubba (6'6 and 270 pounds), Middle Guard Harold Lucas (6'2 and 286 lbs.), as well as the rangy 6'4 rover Webster, who might have been the best of the bunch. The size disadvantage for the Bruins would be even more pronounced than against SC.

The MSU offense was not as spectacular as its defense, but had several weapons led by heady sr. QB Steve Juday, jr. HB Clinton Jones (at that time regarded as the possible second coming of Jim Brown), a bruising 230-lb. Hawaiian FB, Bob Apisa, who was bigger than almost all of the UCLA defenders, and fleet WR Gene Washington, a future 1st-round draftee of the Minnesota Vikings (as would be teammate Jones in the same draft).

In Juday, Daugherty had the equivalent of a coach on the field, often blistering teammates for missed blocks and any hint of nonsense in the huddle. In the overwhelming 32-7 romp past Ohio State, Juday called his plays in the huddle but did not signal the direction they would go until after the team had lined up and he could spot the Buckeyes' roving linebacker. Running away from the rover most of the time, Juday almost personally shattered the Ohio State defense. His sense of knowing when to run, rather than any fancy steps he had, made him a threat on the ground, where Juday continually picked up key first-down yardage for the Spartans. Most of the non-Bubba hype for MSU, however, went to the RB Jones, with excellent balance and a stunning change of pace.

The Spartans, however, had run into only one QB at the level to which Beban had ascended since the opener, Purdue’s Griese, who had the Boilermakers poised to score an upset in the 4th Q before MSU would rally for a 14-10 win. By the end of the season, Beban was perhaps a greater threat, throwing either from the pocket or rolling out, with the ability to sprint to the outside, stop, take a couple of steps back, set up and throw to the opposite side of the field. He could also run, with good scrambling moves, fakes and durability. Beban was quick without being fast, as he showed when he ran for three touchdowns against Tennessee. Still, the odds seemed legitimately stacked against the Bruins.

Six weeks, however, would pass between the Spartans’ last regular-season game, at Notre Dame, and the Rose Bowl, and Big Ten onlookers wondered about potential rust. There was also the matter of having to get ready to play a team MSU had already beaten. Daugherty thought his troops needed complete focus to make sure they would not be distracted, so after the early festivities of Rose Bowl week would sequester his team in a monastery in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, a long way from the beaches of Santa Monica or the lights of the Sunset Strip.

In retrospect, Daugherty might have thought twice about the accommodations, which, no pun intended, were spartan, with one man to a room, with a narrow, rock-hard bed, a crucifix on the wall, and a bible on the nightstand. Some MSU players found it restful, but it gave others the willies, especially the several southern Baptists on the team. Daugherty, born an Orangeman (an Irish Protestant) but a converted Catholic, could not relate.

Meanwhile, Prothro was working the outweighed and outmanned Bruins into a frenzy, and for 14 straight days at practice, UCLA believed it had just beaten the heavily-favored Spartans. "I've just about mesmerized myself into thinking we can win," said Prothro, who had keyed his team for a desperate effort against near-impossible odds. "We're ready," he told an interviewer on the sideline just before the kickoff. "We gonna' try to swarm 'em."

What followed was almost exactly what Prothro promised. The Bruins hovered around Daugherty's rangy, talented Spartans like gnats. Indeed, UCLA played unconventional football throughout, employing such shenanigans as the onside kick (it worked), the tackle-eligible pass (it worked) and—the key to the Bruins' offense—a thing called "the shadow set" in which UCLA's two best receivers, split end Altenberg and flanker Witcher, were stationed on the same side of the field, one directly behind the other. "With this," said Prothro, "we could seep toward our strength. If they overshifted, we could run away from it. And if they closed up quickly we could throw long to Witcher or Altenberg." And the shadow set, designed by Pepper Rodgers, worked just fine. On UCLA's first offensive play Beban faked from the shadow and sprinted to the opposite side of the field for 28 yards. "That gave us confidence," said the sophomore, "and gave them the hint we could run on them."

On the other side, Daugherty felt that since this was the last game for his seniors, he should reward them with extra playing time and a chance to shine. One of those was DB Don Japinga, a reliable defender and team co-captain. He was not, however, the main punt returner as he had been in 1964, replaced in that role by Mitch Prueitt and future pros Jess Phillips and Drake Garrett. Yet Japinga was one of those “rewarded” with an extra assignment by Daugherty and was the designated punt returner for the day. Sure enough, a bad Japinga misplay of a punt deep in his own territory early in the 2nd Q resulted in a fumble recovered by the Bruins' John Erquiaga at the MSU 6. Two plays later, Beban scored on a short sneak to put UCLA ahead, 7-0. Something indeed seemed to be up on this sunny afternoon in Pasadena.

If Michigan State did not seem bothered too much by that first touchdown, it had a right to its confidence. The Spartans had trailed six opponents during the regular season and always had won. But this time things were different. The Bruins, unafraid of what State could do to them if they failed, promptly pulled their onside kick. They won the gamble with the onside kick hero of the SC game, Dallas Grider, once again pouncing upon the bouncing pigskin.  UCLA had the ball again and was in business at the Spartan 42.  It was time, they told themselves, for the new alignment again.

In the huddle Beban called "shadow set Michigan, spread left post." Out went Altenberg and Witcher, split wide. Both receivers sprinted deep and criss-crossed, with Witcher going all the way to the end zone, Altenberg inside him. Beban calmly spiraled the ball to Altenberg, running at the four-yard line between two defenders. Altenberg fell forward to the one, and Beban quickly stabbed through for another score and a shock 14-0 lead. "It was a perfect pattern, a perfect throw and a great catch," said Prothro of the key pass to Altenberg.

Meanwhile, keying an aroused effort from the Bruin stop unit was the irrepressible DB Bob Stiles, who was everywhere. He patrolled the secondary as if he were assigned to three different positions, and intercepted two passes. He flashed up to the scrimmage line again and again to help his eager friends wrestle the churning, green-jerseyed Spartan runners to the ground inches short of where they always needed to go.  Three times, MSU was repelled on 4rh-down plays. 

While the Bruins missed on a couple of chances to further their lead, Daugherty, sympathetic to his seniors, had stuck with his starting QB Juday, who was having a miserable day, en route to completing only 6 of 18 passes with 3 picks. In the wings was a skittery playmaker, soph Jimmy Raye, who had sparked MSU on occasion during the regular season. At halftime, Daugherty told Raye to get ready for the third quarter, but when action commenced it was still Juday in the game. In for one series, then another, and another, Juday could still not ignite the team.

By the middle of the 4th Q, and the situation now desperate with the Bruins still holding their 14-0 lead, Daugherty finally relented and went to his backup after Juday had combined with Washington on a tipped pass for a 42-yard gain. On his first snap, on the sort of option play in which he excelled, Raye executed a perfect pitch to the punishing Apisa, who thundered 38 yards to finally get the Spartans on the board with 6:13 to play.  Eschewing common sense and instead going for a 2-point conversion after the first TD, rather than a subsequent score, Daugherty ordered a fake off of the traditional conversion try by barefoot PK Dick Kenney, but Juday, in as the holder, saw his pass batted away by Bruin DE Jerry Klein.

Yet the Spartans, now down only 14-6, had the ball back soon enough and with time to navigate for a TD and 2-point PAT that could tie the game. Raye was left in the lineup and went to work immediately, completing a couple of big passes worth 30 yards, and soon the Spartans were at the UCLA 1, from where Juday re-entered the game and scored a TD with just 31 seconds to play. With the score 14-12, and the shadows now covering the field in Pasadena, Daugherty re-inserted Raye for the 2-point conversion, and ordered the same option play that resulted in Apisa’s earlier 38-yard TD. Once again, Raye and Apisa appeared to execute the play perfectly, with Apisa receiving the pitch, and angling for the end zone flag.

For an instant the locomotive-like Apisa seemed to have the running room he needed. UCLA Co-captain DE Jim Colletto (a future Purdue HC) got him by the head, but Apisa kept plowing ahead. Bruin LB Dallas Grider got a hand on him but could not slow the runaway Hawaiian. Then, with the goal line within sight for Apisa, came the mercurial DB Stiles.

With a force that could be felt in Apisa’s hometown of Honolulu, the 175-pound Stiles shot into Apisa, more than 50 pounds heavier, like a jet on takeoff, burying his head and shoulders in the big Hawaiian’s side. It was the hardest blow of the game, and one of the most damaging ever inflicted on the Big Ten. Apisa crashed two feet shy of the end zone, and the Bruins had their 14-12 upset, avenging a couple of losses to MSU in Rose Bowls the previous decade. As for Stiles, he had knocked himself cold on the game-saving tackle before being helped (more like dragged) off the field and reviving in time to claim the Rose Bowl MVP trophy.

Almost everything about the day was perfect for UCLA, whose players had, as only collegians of the day could do, dedicated the game to their families, their school and West Coast football. "They kept us off balance from the start," said Daugherty, a gracious loser. "They forced us into mistakes." The 100,087 spectators in Pasadena and a national TV audience on NBC that had watched as Lindsey Nelson and former Notre Dame HC Terry Brennan described the pulsating action, were left limp after the breathless conclusion.

More than 50 years later, West Coast gridiron aficionados still marvel at the accomplishments of the ‘65 Bruins. Beban would go on to a marvelous career and win the Heisman Trophy two years later, but it would be forever hard to top the unexpected accomplishments of 1965. Prothro and his staff (of which the aformentioned Pepper Rodgers and future Arizona State and Ohio State HC John Cooper are the only two surviving members) did a masterful job without the sweeping personnel changes and massive redeployment of the kind Ara Parseghian had to make to bring Notre Dame back to power the previous year of 1964, Ara's first at South Bend. The UCLA staff simply made the most of what it had, and paid attention to the tenets of the somewhat unorthodox system of Prothro, who "fought like the dickens" not to be cataloged as a third-down-punt and fourth-down-gamble man as he believed instead in latching onto fundamentals and authority. "This is not going to be a democracy," he told the UCLA team the first day of practice. "When we swing into action, there won't be time for debate." At UCLA, where the attitude was make us as you please, just make us good, the players gladly, and thankfully, followed the script.

And from a wide-eyed second-grader who suddenly thought anything was possible in the world after watching those “Gutty Little Bruins” punch above their weight all throughout that Cinderella season, a lifetime worth of "thank yous" is in order. Dreams sometimes do come true!

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