Our Pac-12 Friday weekly column resumes after a one-week break, and this time we take on a fun season in the middle of the 1960s. The Rose Bowl was at the center of the postseason scrum for the mythical national title, so the Conference of Champions and the B1G were atop the sport in 1965.
Nothing left to say, so here we go again!
1965 AAWU MVP: Gary Beban, UCLA
Uneven scheduling left three teams atop the conference standings: UCLA (4-0), USC (4-1), and Washington State (2-1). The Bruins beat the Trojans by 4 points on the road, so they claimed the title and the Rose Bowl berth. None of these three teams had a ratings-qualified quarterback, so we must look to the other positions for an MVP.
Once there, it’s easy to spot the league’s star: USC running back Mike Garrett, who topped the conference in rushing yards (1,440), total yards from scrimmage (1,534), and total touchdowns (14) on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. Yes, the Bruins beat USC, but Garrett owned the league in general.
Yet what about Bruins QB Gary Beban, who did not throw the ball enough to qualify for a QB rating? He did run for 590 yards himself in addition to throwing for 1,483 yards. He tied Garrett for the lead in total TDs from scrimmage, while topping conference in total yards (2,073) and TDs (23).
Why did Garrett win the Heisman over Beban? We’re not sure. Beban was just a sophomore, while Garrett was a senior, and it was a rarity at the time for even a junior to win the award, let alone a sophomore. Heck, the voters didn’t even put Beban in the Top 10 for the Heisman, which is ridiculous.
This seemed to be some “pay your dues” process for the voters, and that’s why Garrett won the award. But Beban tossed 9 TDs and only 6 interceptions while piling up yardage and TDs for the conference champs. He gets our nod here, in a surprising upending of historical perception.
1965 B1G MVP: Clinton Jones, Michigan State
The Michigan State Spartans plowed through the conference with a perfect record (7-0), with only the Ohio State Buckeyes within shouting distance (6-1). With MSU winning the head-to-head matchup by 25 points, we should look to the Spartans first for a league MVP.
RB Clinton Jones looks like the answer: He finished second in rushing yards (900), second in total yards from scrimmage (1,214), and first in TDs from scrimmage (12). The Spartans had two other players finish in the Top 7 for yards from scrimmage, but Jones was the best of the bunch by far.
With MSU’s QB throwing more INTs than TDs (yet still finishing 6th in the Heisman vote somehow?), the offense clearly relied on Jones to lead the way, and all though he had help from teammates, again, he was the top dog on the food chain in this case.
1966 Rose Bowl MVP: Bob Stiles, UCLA (original), Beban (revised)
As we detailed elsewhere, the Rose Bowl was a rematch between MSU and UCLA, and it cost the Spartans the national championship. The Bruins jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held on as MSU scored 12 points in the final quarter but could not get any closer. UCLA defensive back Bob Stiles was voted the game’s MVP.
Beban scored twice for the Bruins to get the lead, while Stiles literally made one notable play: stopping the Spartans from scoring the potential game-tying, two-point conversion with 31 seconds left in the game. Stiles actually was knocked unconscious from the contact, so it seems like the vote was sentimental more than logical.
We’re giving the MVP nod to Beban instead, for orchestrating the early scoring drives and not throwing any INTS, unlike his counterpart who committed 4 turnovers total. He was simply amazing for a team that was a 14-point underdog in the Granddaddy of Them All.