The mission had been clear.
Todd Marinovich and the USC offense had to go 77 yards to counter the latest blow delivered by UCLA--a one-yard touchdown plunge by fullback Kevin Smith that had given the Bruins a 42-38 lead with 1:19 left in 1990, in the highest-scoring game in the cross-town rivalry.
USC now was on UCLA's 23-yard line with 26 seconds left.
Marinovich and wide receiver Johnnie Morton had one big play left.
The game was 10 years ago, but for Marinovich, the memories are crystal clear:
"The USC-UCLA series is always a great game to play well in because of its significance. Great players rise in those games; it's what they play for. I knew they would score on their last drive [to go ahead, 42-38]. I just hoped they would leave us enough time.
"The whole second half, Johnnie Morton kept saying, 'Throw me the ball.' He'd made a great play to catch a touchdown in the fourth quarter [to put USC ahead, 38-35]. But on this play--called a choice route down the middle--it was designed to go to Gary Wellman because I had already hit him twice on that final drive for big gainers.