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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

30 years ago: USC 49, UCLA 14

A look back at the 1979 crosstown rivalry game between the Bruins and the Trojans.

November 23, 2009
  • Charles White not only led USC to a rout of UCLA in 1979, but he was the Heisman Trophy winner as well.
Charles White not only led USC to a rout of UCLA in 1979, but he was the Heisman… (NBC )

USC 49, UCLA 14

Nov. 24, 1979, at the Coliseum

Setup: Fourth-ranked USC (9-0-1) thought it had clinched a Rose Bowl berth two weeks earlier by beating Washington, but Pacific 10 Conference officials subsequently awarded the Huskies a forfeit victory over Arizona State because the Sun Devils had used ineligible players. Thus the Trojans needed to defeat or tie the Bruins (5-5) to go to Pasadena to play Ohio State on New Year's Day. Although USC was a 15-point favorite, UCLA was on a bit of a roll following the emergence of freshman Tom Ramsey, a fourth-string quarterback who had come off the bench to lead the Bruins to a comeback victory over Arizona State. UCLA then trounced favored Oregon, 35-0, in Eugene.

What happened: In a performance that helped propel him to the Heisman Trophy, USC tailback Charles White rushed for 194 yards and four touchdowns. White scored all his points in the first two quarters to help the Trojans take a 35-0 halftime lead, still the biggest in the history of the series. USC strong safety Ronnie Lott intercepted two of Ramsey's passes in the first half, including one that he returned 30 yards for a touchdown. The late Jim Murray wrote in The Times, "If it was a game, so is a firing squad. . . . I have seen bullfights less one-sided."

The aftermath: The defeat marked the first time UCLA had lost four consecutive games against USC since the series started in 1929 and clinched Bruins Coach Terry Donahue's first losing season in his four years at the school. USC went on to defeat Ohio State, 17-16, in the Rose Bowl.

USC quarterback Paul McDonald on the rout: "Honestly, it was really easy," said McDonald, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 199 yards with one touchdown and an interception. "I was seeing everything clearly, we had open receivers, I was getting it to them and the offensive line played great. It can be easy when you have all those things going for you. It was maybe the most fun I've had playing." McDonald called White "unstoppable. I just remember Charles White going student body left, student body right and [UCLA safety] Kenny Easley would show up and make the tackle, but after eight or nine yards." After watching a replay of the broadcast, McDonald recalled Ted Dawson asking fellow announcer Mark Harmon, "Is Terry Donahue in trouble? Are they going to fire Terry Donahue?" Donahue went on to become the winningest coach at UCLA with 151 victories and in the Pac-10 with 98 victories. McDonald, 51, has provided color commentary for USC radio broadcasts for the last 12 years.

-- Ben Bolch

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