1962 has an interesting history, not the least of which was when the world almost tried to blow itself up during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Beverly Hillbillies was a big hit on television, gasoline was .28 cents, the first WalMart was built and Johnny Carson got his big start on the Tonight Show. Well, in the same town that Carson made it big, another John was about to break onto the scene.
John McKay was the head coach of the University of Southern California Trojans in 1962, having taken over originally in 1960. His first two seasons were losing ones and heading into '62, not much was expected of the Trojans - they went into the season unranked. USC hadn't won a national championship since the Thundering Herd back in '39. The Trojans may not have been very good but McKay was building a winner, due in part to his excellent recruiting abilities.
This was the day and age of the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU), which was also known as the Big Six and precursor of what eventually became the Pac-12. USC along with the two Washington schools and the other three California schools made up the Big Six.
The players included Willie Brown at running back (converted from flanker), Hal Bedsole at end (that's wide receiver for you young folk) and two quarterbacks: Pete Beathard and Bill Nelsen.
Allow only 16 points in first 4 games
They started the season playing the #8 Duke Blue Devils at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a small crowd of 26,000. The Trojans won 14-7 and then headed off to the Cotton Bowl where they would play the SMU Mustangs and handled them easily 33-3. Next up was a trip to Iowa where they won a tough one over the Hawkeyes 7-0. That was followed with their first win in league play, beating the Cal Bears soundly 32-6 before 38,500 fans in the Coliseum.
At 4-0, USC was now ranked #4 in the nation as they headed off to play the Big Ten's Illinois Illini in which they were victorious 28-16. The Trojans came back home to play undefeated and #9 Washington Huskies. In front of a Coliseum crowd of 46,456, USC shut down Washington 14-0. A trip to Stanford gave the Trojans a solid 39-14 win. Then USC hosted Navy and beat the Middies 13-6 before 51,701 people.
That was the win that put the Trojans over the top. Now they were #1 in the nation as they readied for their two rivalry games. First off was the UCLA Bruins and before 86,740 fans of both schools - they shared the Coliseum back then - USC won 14-3. Next up was Notre Dame in the Coliseum. The Fighting Irish had beaten the Trojans five straight but this time it would be different as USC shut out Notre Dame 25-0 with 81,676 looking on.
In Rose Bowl as champs
The Trojans were voted 1962 national champs as they headed into the '63 Rose Bowl against #2 Wisconsin. The game was the first #1 versus #2 in college bowl history and arguably this Badger team is considered the best in Wisconsin's history. And they played USC heads up for four quarters in one of the most exciting Rose Bowls ever. Down 42-14, Badger quarterback Ron Vander Kelen put on an exhibition in the fourth quarter and brought them within 42-37 before they ran out of time.
At 11-0, the '62 USC Trojans were undeniably the #1 team in the country and had brought the program back up to national prominence. USC would never have another losing record until 1983 under Ted Tollner.
Not always considered the best club in Trojan lore, '62 had a dominant defense and the offense established the power I formation for years to come with the toss play - student body left and student body right. McKay would go on to seven more Rose Bowls and win three more national championships: '67, '72 and '74. 'Tailback U' and national championships would become the norm at USC.
Sources - University of Southern California, Daily Trojan
Daryle lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC and the Pac-12, having closely followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!