In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl game, the WeAreSC staffers give their thoughts on memorable experiences of the “Granddaddy of Them All.”
Garry Paskwietz: 1980
My first Rose Bowl was the 1980 game between No. 3 USC and No. 1 Ohio State. Both teams were unbeaten, the only blemish on the Trojans’ schedule was a midseason tie against Stanford. It turned out to be a classic Rose Bowl game that was most memorable in large part because of the final drive.
The Trojans were down 16-10 late when they got the ball on their own 17. It wasn’t much of a secret how they were looking to finish things out: It was going to be a heavy dose of Heisman winner Charles White behind an offensive line that featured names such as Anthony Munoz and Brad Budde. It was Student Body Left and Student Body Right as White gained 71 of the 83 yards needed to get the ball in the end zone on a final plunge over the top to give USC the 17-16 victory. White set a Rose Bowl record that day with 247 rushing yards and the Trojans finished No. 2 in the final poll.
The game was a microcosm of what USC football was supposed to be in those days. Tailback U. A dominant offensive line. Defensive stars such as Ronnie Lott and Chip Banks. And a late drive where the Trojans imposed their will on the ground to come away with the win. To have it happen in a setting like the Rose Bowl, in my first time in attendance, made for a very memorable experience.
Greg Katz: 1975
Having seen many Rose Bowls over the years, there are three that stick out. The first is the 1963 game when Wisconsin came roaring back in the final quarter by scoring 23 points but lost to the Trojans 42-37. The second would be the 1973 Rose Bowl, which featured arguably the greatest college football team of all-time, the 1972 Trojans, who bludgeoned Woody Hayes’ Ohio State team on New Year’s Day, 42-17.
However, the Rose Bowl that truly sticks out for me for what was at stake and the dramatic ending would have to be the 1975 game, another USC/Ohio State battle that was won late in the fourth quarter when Trojans quarterback Pat Haden connected with receiver J.K. McKay on a 38-yard scoring pass. With the Men of Troy down 17-16, legendary USC coach John McKay elected to go for the win and a two-point conversion.
In one of the greatest and most dramatic plays in Rose Bowl history, on the two-point conversion attempt, Haden barely eluded the Buckeyes rush, threw an improvised jump pass, and connected with wide receiver Shelton Diggs, who dropped to his knees to make the historic catch. The Trojans then held on in the final minute to defeat the Buckeyes, 18-17, and capture their eighth national championship.
Steve Bisheff: 2006
Asking me to pick my favorite Rose Bowl is like asking me to pick my favorite child in the family. It is almost impossible.
I counted them up the other day and realized I have covered no less than 39 of these Granddaddies of them all. Each, in its own way, has contributed something special to the magic I’ve watched transpire on that historic patch of Pasadena lawn.
But if I had to pick one, one game that – ahem -- rose above the rest, it would have to be the pulsating, dramatic, Hollywood-like 2006 BCS title game between Texas and USC.
Frustrated Trojan diehards, still bemoaning that painful fourth-and-two, fourth-quarter call with Reggie Bush on the bench, probably would pick any other game except that one. But if you stand back and truly reflect on it, you can’t help but realize it was a Rose Bowl for the ages.
There was so much at stake, so much riding on every play and every minute, it took your breath away. Pete Carroll and USC were on the precipice of achieving the unachievable, having won 34 games in a row and two consecutive national championships coming in.
But Texas’ Vince Young, dispensing the finest all-around performance in Rose Bowl history, wouldn’t let it happen. The Trojans, with Bush, Matt Leinart and LenDale White, had more balance and a better all around offense, but the worst defense of the Carroll era had no answer for Young, who ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 267 more.
In the end, with fourth down and the national title on the line and 26 seconds and no heart palpitations left, Young scrambled 8 yards for the touchdown that won the game, 41-38, and sent confetti raining down on the field.
Johnny Curren: 2004
Twenty-five years after the Trojans’ last national title, Pete Carroll’s USC squad secured an AP national championship with a 28-14 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the 90th Rose Bowl. What I remember most about the contest was how thoroughly USC dominated Michigan in just about every facet, and coning one year after a similar showing against Iowa in the Orange Bowl, the resulting victory really helped cement USC’s status as the hottest program of its time.
With the Trojans possessing a roster filled with names such as Matt Leinart, Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, Kenechi Udeze, Shaun Cody and Lofa Tatupu, it was as fun a game to watch as you can imagine, as USC really put together a complete performance.
Leinart, who was the game MVP, stole the show with three touchdown passes, and he even added a scoring reception on a toss from Williams. Colbert put on quite an exhibition as well, making a couple of circus catches that had the crowd going crazy.
The thing that still stands out most, however, was the Trojans’ unrelenting pass-rush. Carroll threw everything but the kitchen sink at Michigan signal-caller John Navarre, and it paid off with nine sacks -- four of which were compiled by USC defensive backs.