Got a box full of letters,
Think you might like to read
Some things that you might like to see,
But they’re all addressed to me

Wish I had a lotta answers,
‘Cause that’s the way it should be
For all these questions,
Being directed at me

I just can’t find the time
To write my mind
The way I want to read

    Box Full of Letters

     – Wilco (1995)


Rankman: UCLA’s chances?

Norman Dow, John Barnes, Patrick Cowan. Any chance Mike Fafual adds his name to the list of Bruin backup quarterbacks to knock off the Trojans in the only game that matters?

Kurt Kemper

Professor, my answer is the same as it was before the 2006 game:  No chance gutty little UCLA, a 4-6 team with all sorts of issues, is going to stop this juggernaut USC team as it races up the charts and into the hearts and minds of excited Fox and ESPN broadcast executives eager to reestablish a ratings foothold at the University of Only School Out West We Care About.

Of course, UCLA won that game, 13-9. I will never forget because I was at the Rose Bowl and my typing fingers still can’t believe it.

I only vaguely remember Norman Dow’s feet feat in the 1966 game because I was in Canada trying to get out of fighting in Vietnam. Wait, that’s not right, I was only 7. Maybe I was trying to get out of doing dishes. Anyway, I know the story. Dow replaced injured Gary Beban and led UCLA to a huge upset. “It’s a good thing that turned out to be the last game,” Dow joked, years later, to the L.A. Times’ Chris Foster, “or people might have found out that I wasn’t as good as they thought.”

John Barnes in 1992, now, that was amazing. It was like “Rudy” except way more authentic. A year before the game, Barnes literally watched the USC-UCLA game as a fan, in the stands. He was a nobody who was told by Western Oregon he wasn’t a quarterback. So Barnes transferred to UC Santa Barbara, which was about 10 minutes from dropping football. So Barnes  put on a suit-and-tie and interviewed with UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, who probably thought Barnes wanted to be the ball boy. Yet, due to a series of injuries, Barnes ended up leading UCLA to a 38-37 win over USC. Wow.

The 2006 game, though, may have been the most improbable of them all. UCLA was no more than a flea-bite nuisance in advance of No. 2 USC, which needed that win to clinch a berth in the BCS title game.

Cowan was a tough SOB at quarterback, who led with his heart and his head.

I remember sitting in the Rose Bowl press box after 13-9 wondering, now what? The upset allowed Florida to sneak past Michigan for the No.2 spot in the BCS standings, a dance of decimal points that led to Urban Meyer’s first national title.

UCLA defense end Bruce Davis’ reaction after knocking USC out was “Ha. Ha.”

I wrote for Sunday’s paper: “If you thought Dewey vs. Truman was a race, stay tuned to today’s final BCS standings release.”

The stakes were huge. A USC win would have sent the Trojans to Arizona for the title game. The Rose Bowl was going to replace USC with LSU. The bowl had already pre-sold 42,000 tickets for the Tigers’ impending arrival. But UCLA ruined everything. Ha. Ha.

The next day, Florida beat Michigan out for No. 2 in the BCS by a margin of 0.9445 to 0.9344, whatever that meant. Florida went on to defeat Ohio State to win the national title. USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. UCLA lost the Emerald Bowl to Florida State.

So, to repeat: No way UCLA upsets USC at the Rose Bowl this year. Unless you believe in gremlins…or Norman Dows. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.