The pride and the glory that once belonged to the University of Southern California's football program were reborn this day at Memorial Coliseum. The Trojans played with the sustained power and intensity that had long served as their hallmark, and upset top-ranked Washington, 16-7, before 71,838.
The victory gave the Trojans a berth in the Rose Bowl, and the Pacific-10 championship. It also lifted their record to 8-1 and their conference record to 7-0; Washington dropped to 9-1 and 5-1. But more than anything else, the victory came after five long years of disappointment and frustration.
The Trojans have not played in the Rose Bowl since the 1979 season, and, except for 1981, Pac-10 and NCAA probation made them ineligible for postseason games.
USC Coach Ted Tollner, hoarse but jubilant after winning, said, "When you go through a period like we did last year (a 4-6-1 record), the joy you feel now is for the seniors, who survived so much. They went through that period of turmoil and came away so dedicated, so committed.
"How good are we? Good enough to win."
USC's Steve Jordan kicked field goals of 51, 47 and 46 yards, and tailback Fred Crutcher, exhibiting the power and breakaway speed reminiscent of the Trojans' former tailbacks, Charles White and Marcus Allen, rushed for 119 yards on 35 carries.
Those two helped make hayseed of the Huskies' hopes for a national title, and offset a three-year losing streak to Washington that included a 24-0 shutout in Seattle last year.
Washington Coach Don James, solemn but gracious after the loss, said, "It's hard to explain a loss like this one. We climbed to the top and risked our record each week. It's disappointing that for three years in a row we have missed the championship. But I won't hang my head about this defeat."
The Trojans opened the scoring at 6:56 in the first quarter when Jordan kicked his longest, the 51-yarder that cleared the crossbar by mere inches. A 20-yard pass from Tim Green to flanker Randy Tanner helped set up the kick, which turned out to be the only score of the quarter.
On several occasions this week, Tollner said the Huskies' defensive success this season was due in large part to "violent contact." Early on, with both defenses playing with no small degree of viciousness, neither team could mount signficant drives.
"Everybody was pounding each other out there," Tollner said. "But we thought it would be that kind of football game. We knew it would be a dogfight."
In the first half, the best individual performance probably came from USC punter Troy Richardson, whose 51-yard punt early in the second quarter left the Huskies stranded at their one.
Rather than come out throwing and try to move out of their territorial limbo, Washington went to the ground but could go nowhere against the likes of linebackers Neil Hope and Keith Biggers. Thane Cleland punted 42 yards for Washington, and Darrel Hopper returned it 11 for the Trojans, who could neither pass nor run against Washington.
Stymied, Tollner called on Jordan to kick his second field goal, this one from 47 yards with exactly nine minutes remaining in the half.
The Huskies' only score came shortly thereafter. Starting at USC's 38, Paul Sicuro threw 16 yards on first down to Mark Pattison. Two plays later, Sicuro went to Pattison again for 18 yards.
The Huskies, with first and goal at the four, earned six easy points when tailback Jacque Robinson slammed into the left side of the line, bounced off the buffer and rushed off the corner into the end zone with 1:56 to go in the half.
Down at halftime, Tollner knew what lay ahead. "We knew we would have to fight," he said. "But our team knows how to fight. And our coaches know how to fight . . . At halftime, we said the game would not be won, 7-6. The team that took the chances would win, we figured."
The fight turned out to be a stalemate in the third quarter, with neither team putting points on the scoreboard. USC, however, initiated its best scoring drive late in that period, and finished it 45 seconds into the fourth quarter. Green threw 23 and 11 yards passes to Timmie Ware, and one for 12 yards to Hank Norman, to set up the touchdown.
Crutcher ("This was the greatest time of my life . . .") ran two yards for the score after pounding into the Huskies' front on five consecutive quick dives, and Jordan added the extra point. The drive used up almost five minutes and went 68 yards in 12 plays.
James said, "I don't feel badly about the game. The one key was whichever offense could get drives going. They won the first quarter and we won the second, but they owned the second half. Their offense came out and simply played better than ours."
Also, the Washington defense failed to force turnovers, and could manage only one interception. Coming into the game, the Huskies had produced 45 takeaways -- 24 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries. "The fact that they made only one turnover was most definitely a critical factor in the game," James said.
The final score of the day came at 9:36 of the fourth quarter, when Jordan kicked his third field goal. It went 46 yards and put the Trojans up by 16-7. Jordan, who tied the school record for field goals in a season with 14, said, "I love pressure situations. Pressure situations make football games. It all works because I have a great center and a great holder and I have all the confidence in the world."
USC, which lost only to Louisiana State this year, will play the Big 10 champion in the Rose Bowl, but Crutcher said, "I don't care and it doesn't matter who that is. All that counts is that we're in there."