Clash of Titans
Games featuring a future Hall of Fame coach on each sideline.
November 20, 1965: UCLA vs Southern California
Tommy Prothro vs John McKay
Tommy Prothro has been described as "a born football coach," "a natural" who learned from his father, who was a major league baseball player and manager, and then Red San­ders when Prothro was an assistant at UCLA from 1949-54.
Prothro played quarterback for the Duke Blue Devils from 1938-41. The coach was Wallace Wade, a future member of the College Football Hall of Fame. When Tommy gradu­ated, he decided his future was in football, not baseball.
After serving serving three years in the Navy in World War II, Prothro became an assist­ant football coach at Vanderbilt under Red Sanders (1946-48). When Sanders became head coach at UCLA, he took Prothro with him as his offensive assistant. Prothro's single win helped UCLA complete an undefeated sea­son in 1954 that earned them the #1 spot in the final Associated Press football poll.
His success as an assistant at UCLA earned Prothro the head coaching job at Oregon State in 1955. It took him only two years to lead the Beavers to the Pacific Coast Confe­rence co-championship and a berth in the 1957 Rose Bowl against Iowa.
When UCLA jettisoned Walter Barnes in 1964 after a lackluster 31-34-3 record over six seasons, Prothro returned to UCLA as head coach. He struck gold in his first sea­son despite prognosticators predicing the Bruins would finish at the bottom of the eight-team Athletic Association of Western Universities Conference.
Prothro prided himself on identifying the weaknesses of his opponents and exploiting them. He moved players from position to position like pieces on a chessboard until he found the fit that would maximize their talents.
After losing the opener at Michigan State 13-3, the Bruins went seven games without a defeat, the only blemish being a 14-14 tie at Missouri. UCLA rose to #7 in the AP poll as they prepared for the crosstown clash with #6 USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

L-R: Tommy Prothro, John McKay, Mike Garrett
Prothro (UCLA Bruin Life Southern Campus Yearbook Class of 1967)
McKay (University of Southern California El Rodeo Yearbook Class of 1968)
Garrett (University of Southern California El Rodeo Yearbook Class of 1964)
John McKay's sixth USC team also had a tie, with Minnesota in the season opener 20-20. Their only loss came at #7 Notre Dame 28-7. Like UCLA, the Trojans were 6-1-1 overall but 3-0 in conference play. So the winner of the annual clash would gain the PCC title and the Rose Bowl berth that went with it.
As the home team, USC honored its football heroes of past Bruin classics at its annual Homecoming picnic on campus. The Trojan stars from 1929 through 1964 were presented at halftime at the Coliseum.
When a team selects an opponent for its homecoming game, they expect to win that game. The rival takes that presumption as inspiration to spoil the celebration. The Bruins were itching to end their three-game losing streak to the Trojans.
Though Bill Barnes had struggled in his time as UCLA's coach, he left a gift for his suc­cessor in the person of QB Gary Beban, who would be eligible for varsity play as a sopho­more in 1965. Other stars that Prothro inherited were RB Mel Farr, SE Kurt Altenberg, T Russ Banducci, DB Bob Stiles, LB Dallas Grider, and three fine defensive ends—John Richardson, Edwin Dutcher, and Jim Colter, each of whom joined Beban on the All-Con­ference team at the end of the season.

Early UCLA (light jerseys)-USC (dark jerseys) action
(UCLA Bruin Life Southern Campus Yearbook Class of 1966)
Bruins Strike First
94,085 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum watched a slugfest between the Bruins and Tro­jans as light rain fell off and on and smoke from wildfires settled into the valley.
The game couldn't have started better for the Bruins. They kicked off and forced a three-and-out. The UCLA offense started from their 17 and drove to the USC 49 in eight plays. From there, Farr took a pitchout on a counter play, started to the right, cut back, and tore through a massive hole on the left side, and ran over the safetyman into the end zone. The Trojans blocked the PAT. UCLA 6 USC 0
Trojans Take Lead
After that, the Trojans settled down and dominated the Bruins into the fourth quarter. Led by RB Mike Garrett, who gained 210y for the afternoon, USC marched up and down the field, frittering away at least three touchdown opportunities with fumbles, an end zone inter­ception, and poor clock management at the end of the first half.
Following the UCLA touchdown, the Trojans drove from their 23 to the Bruin seven only to have Garrett fumble on the one, where Dallas Grider recovered for UCLA. After stuffing the Bruins, USC was back in business on the UCLA 47 after the punt.
This time, the Trojans wouldn't be denied. Six plays took the ball to the 10. From there, QB Troy Winslow rolled out and threw to HB Mickey Upton at the goal line, where he slid between two defenders into the end zone. Tim Rossovich kicked the point to put the USC ahead 7-6.

L: Gary Beban carries for UCLA. R: USC offensive line fires out.
(UCLA Bruin Life Southern Campus Yearbook Class of 1966)
Trojans Dominate Through Third Quarter
In almost no time, the Trojans were back in Bruin territory. But the first assault died on the 25 when Upton fumbled the ball away.
With time running out in the first half, USC took over at the UCLA 39. Two short passes from Winslow to Dave Moton and Upton, with a Garrett run mixed in, gained a first down on the 13 with just 57 seconds left.
Winslow swung around end to the seven, then lost 2y on the next two tries when he couldn't find an open receivers. With just 15 seconds left, the Trojans were penalized 5y when a loose football rolled onto the field from their sideline. Before they could line up again, the half ended. USC 7 UCLA 6
The second half started as a comedy of errors as the ball changed hands five times in a dozen plays. First Beban lost a fumble on his 30. Then Garrett bobbled the ball back on the 18. But Beban threw another interception, this time a long pass that Mike Hunter snagged on his 42. But Rod Sherman gave the ball right back with a fumble on the UCLA 40. But four plays later, Beban threw an interception to Adrian Young, who raced 28y down the sideline to the Bruin 37.
It seemed certain the Trojans would not be denied this time after Garrett knifed over right tackle, cut to the sideline, and raced 29y before being forced out of bounds on the eight. Mike picked up five on first down before Winslow added another yard to the two. From there, Troy flipped a short pass into the end zone that Stiles plucked for a touchback to end the threat.
Again the Bruins had to punt, and this time USC marched 51y in 10 plays to its second touchdown. Winslow connected with Sherman for the final 8y on the first play of the fourth quarter. Rossovich's kick sailed wide. USC 13 UCLA 6
Seven minutes later, Gary Fite's 39y dash to the 11 set up another Rossovich field goal. USC 16 UCLA 6

Second half action
(UCLA Bruin Life Southern Campus Yearbook Class of 1966)
Bruins Rally in Last Minutes
The Bruins' chances looked even more dim when they gambled on fourth down at midfield but didn't make it. USC took over with only five minutes remaining.
Two 15y penalties pushed the Trojans back to their 23 and forced a punt, but there still seemed to be no way UCLA could pull victory out of the fire. Fans on both sides started exiting the stadium to beat the traffic jam, and even more followed them when UCLA went three-and-out again.
But Winslow fumbled—USC's fifth of the day—when hit by Grider, and Erwin Dutcher recovered for UCLA on the 29 with just four minutes left.
On the first play, Beban, shackled all day by a fierce Trojan rush, rolled out to his right, spotted Dick Witcher behind defender Mike Hunter, and unloaded a perfect throw that the Bruin flanker took in stride on the one into the end zone. With all the confidence in the world, Beban threw a pass to Byron Nelson for the two-point conversion. USC 16 UCLA 14
UCLA momentum continued when Grider recovered Kurt Zimmerman's diagonal line-drive onside kick on the first bounce at the USC 49. The Bruins quickly gained a first down on the 38 but were then driven back to their 48. What do you call on third and 24? The play came in—X Post H. Beban rolled right and saw the intended receiver, Mel Farr, was covered. But decoy WR Kurt Altenberg was running long behind defenders Hunter and Nate Shaw. Beban let fly, and the big end caught the ball in stride at the five and continued into the end zone. This time Beban's two-point try went awry. UCLA 20 USC 16.
The Trojans had 2:39 left to come back but couldn't make even one first down. So the Bruins took over an ran out the clock.
Naturally, Coach Prothro was elated. "It couldn't have been sweeter. He did what we have been doing all year, depending on the big play. And we sure got two of 'em there at the finish. The Trojans are a mighty good football team, and that Mike Garrett is easily the best all-around runner I've ever seen in college ball.
"USC ran all over us, and we couldn't run on them. We had good field position only four times all afternoon, but we scored on three of those timess. I think all those fumbles came because both teams were so high, driving so hard, hitting so hard on defense."
The victory earned the Bruins a spot in the Rose Bowl, where they would meet Michigan State for the second time in the season. But that's a story for another installment of this series.
UCLA Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of UCLA Football, Spencer Stueve (2018)