It seems only fitting that USC was the first West Coast team to play at the present site of the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, considering that it has been a second home for the Trojans through the years.
That first appearence by USC was in the 1923 game against Penn State. Previous games had been played at nearby Tournament Park in Pasadena on what is now the campus of Caltech.
And for the trivia-minded, the first game ever played in the then-new Rose Bowl was an October meeting in 1922 between USC and California.
Cal won, 12-0, and later declined an invitation to play Penn State in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl game.
USC was the second choice of the Tournament of Roses Committee, but that began a Rose Bowl run that has now reached 25 appearances with Friday’s game against Michigan State.
No other college team in the country has played in one bowl more times than USC has in the Rose Bowl. Moreover, only Alabama has more total bowl victories than USC, 22 to 21.
USC’s rise to prominence in college football, however, has been linked to the Rose Bowl, where it has an 18-6 record, tripling the number of victories by any other team.
There have been some memorable games and moments, such as the shocking routs of Pittsburgh in 1930 and 1933; the 7-3 victory over previously unbeaten, untied and unscored-upon Duke in 1939; outlasting Ron VanderKelen and Wisconsin, 42-37, in 1963, and late comeback victories over Ohio State in 1975 and 1980.
A look at USC’s Rose Bowl heritage:
USC 14, Penn State 3
A traffic jam was the excuse Penn State Coach Hugo Bezdek had for his team’s arriving 45 minutes later than the scheduled kickoff at 2:30 p.m.
USC’s Coach, Gloomy Gus Henderson, confronted Bezdek and accused him of deliberately delaying his team’s arrival to unsettle the Trojans.
The coaches nearly came to blows and had to be separated.
Henderson said later, though, that he wasn’t about to fight Bezdek, who had helped pay his way through the University of Chicago by fighting under an assumed name.
“I told (Bezdek) that we would let our teams settle the issue,” Henderson said. “I never saw Bezdek to speak to in all my life, not even after the game.”
The game itself was tame in comparison. USC led at halftime, 7-3, with little Harold Galloway having made a diving, sliding catch of a pass at the Penn State two-yard line to set up the touchdown. He was knocked out in the process.
The Trojans, with running backs Gordon Campbell and Roy (Bullet) Baker and the blocking of Hobo Kincaid, were dominant in the second half.
The late starting game concluded in moonlight.
USC 47, Pittsburgh 14
This game was significant as the first of USC Coach Howard Jones’ five winning Rose Bowl appearances. His Thundering Herd surprisingly beat Pitt by passing.
Racehorse Russ Saunders, USC’s tailback, completed his first three passes for touchdowns. Saunders alternated with Marshall Duffield for 279 yards passing and 4 touchdowns when running, not passing, was the style.
“I’ve never seen a game so dominated by the forward pass,” Stanford Coach Pop Warner said.
USC 21, Tulane 12
Another edition of Jones’ Thundering Herd built a 21-0 lead at halftime and then held off the Green Wave. Erny Pinckert, renowned as a USC All-American blocking back, scored on runs of 30 and 23 yards.
USC 35, Pittsburgh 0
This was arguably Jones’ best team and recognized as one of the best of that era. The unbeaten Trojans allowed only 13 points the entire season while scoring 201 on their way to the national championship.
Cotton Warburton, a 145-pound sophomore tailback, scored two touchdowns as USC broke the game open with 21 points in the fourth quarter over the previously unbeaten Panthers.
USC 7, Duke 3
It seemed that Duke’s unblemished record would remain intact until Doyle Nave, a fourth-string quarterback, who had played only 28 1/2 minutes during the season, came off the bench late in the game and provided one of the most dramatic finishes in Rose Bowl history.
Nave threw four straight passes to a sophomore end, (Antelope) Al Krueger, the last for 19 yards and a touchdown as Krueger out-maneuvered Eric Tipton, Duke’s All-American running back, in the end zone.
Phil Gaspar kicked the extra point with a minute left and Duke’s perfect season was ruined.
A few years later, when Nave was in the Navy, serving in the South Pacific, he met Dan Hill, the captain and center of Duke’s Rose Bowl team.
“When I came into the game did you have any idea I was going to pass?” Nave asked Hill.
“Hell, no,” Hill replied. “We didn’t even know who you were.”
USC 14, Tennessee 0
Tennessee went into the game with five All-Americans and a 23-game winning streak, and hadn’t been scored upon in 15 games.
But the Trojans simply overpowered the Volunteers behind the running of tailback Ambrose Schindler, noted for his churning, high-knee running style. Schindler scored a touchdown and threw a pass to Krueger for another.
Jones died in the summer of 1941, a watershed in USC football history.
USC 29, Washington 0
Wartime travel restrictions took the intersectional flair away from the Rose Bowl for the first and only time.
The Huskies were favored but Jim Hardy, who later became general manager of Coliseum, picked Washington apart with three touchdown passes.
USC 25, Tennessee 0
The popular song of the time was “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.” Tennessee was decidedly too young, starting seven freshmen and three sophomores.
Once again Hardy was the star of the game, throwing two touchdown passes. The game also produced the quickest touchdown in Rose Bowl history when Jim Callanan scored on a punt blocked by John Ferraro 1 minute and 50 seconds after the opening kickoff.
Alabama 34, USC 14
USC’s eight-game winning streak in the Rose Bowl came to an end in decisive fashion.
Alabama’s Harry Gilmer, more noted as a passer, ran for 113 yards. USC could gain just 6 yards rushing and only 41 total yards.
Michigan 49, USC 0
Earlier, USC had lost to Notre Dame, 38-7. Michigan was vying with the Irish for the national championship, so the Wolverines used USC as a score card.
Michigan, a novel two-platoon team at the time, matched its 49-0 victory over Stanford in the 1902 Rose Bowl, the first ever played. Halfback Bob Chappius was the Michigan star, running for 91 yards and passing for 188.
USC 7, Wisconsin 0
In case anyone has forgotten, the Big Ten won the first six games from the Pacific 10 in a Rose Bowl pact between the conferences that began in 1947.
USC gained a measure of respect for the West, though, as substitute quarterback Rudy Bukich threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to halfback Al Carmichael for the only scoring in the game. Bukich had replaced All-American Jim Sears, who suffered a broken leg on the ninth play of the game.
Ohio State 20, USC 7
Woody Hayes made his first visit the Rose Bowl as a coach and complained about the USC band chewing up a rain-drenched field with its halftime show.
He also downgraded his opponent by saying after the game that at least four Big Ten teams could have beaten USC.
UCLA had been the conference champion and top ranked by United Press International. Ohio State had that distinction in the Associated Press poll. But the Bruins couldn’t play in the Rose Bowl because of the conference’s no-repeat rule from a previous season.
The only USC highlight was Aramis Dandoy’s criss-crossing, 86-yard touchdown run on a punt return.
USC 42, Wisconsin 37
This game will be remembered for Wisconsin’s amazing comeback in the fourth quarter after trailing, 42-14.
The victory, though, provided Coach John McKay with his first national championship.
Purdue 14, USC 13
McKay disdained a tie and called for a two-point conversion after USC had closed to 14-13 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
Purdue’s George Catavlos, who had been burned by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Troy Win-slow to Rod Sherman a few seconds earlier, redeemed himself by intercepting Winslow’s two-point conversion pass.
USC 14, Indiana 3
O.J. Simpson gained 128 yards and scored USC’s touchdowns on short runs as the Trojans wrapped up the national championship.
Ohio State 27, USC 16
Simpson, USC’s Heisman Trophy winner, stunned Ohio State early with an 80-yard touchdown run.
But Ohio State, behind quarterback Rex Kern and helped by five USC turnovers, took charge in the second half. The Buckeyes won the national championship that season, the last Big Ten team to wind up as No. 1.
USC 10, Michigan 3
USC played in the Rose Bowl for a record fourth straight time. In a defensive struggle dominated by USC’s Wild Bunch, the only touchdown was scored in the third quarter on a 13-yard pass from Jimmy Jones to Bob Chandler.
Larry Smith, USC’s present coach, made his Rose Bowl debut as an offensive line coach for Michigan.
USC 42, Ohio State 17
This was McKay’s best team and, perhaps, one of the best college teams of all time. A 7-7 halftime tie turned into a USC rout as fullback Sam Cunningham scored four touchdowns--tying a modern Rose Bowl record--with his high diving act at the goal line.
By winning, USC climaxed a perfect season, validating its national championship.
Hayes created a furor again when he shoved a camera into the face of Times’ photographer Art Rogers while the teams were warming up before the game.
When asked about the incident later, Hayes stormed out of a press tent, cursing at a reporter.
Ohio State 42, USC 21
The Buckeyes avenged their defeat of the previous year by breaking a 14-14 halftime tie with a 28-point assault in the second half.
Although fullback Pete Johnson scored three touchdowns and Archie Griffin, a two-time Heisman Trophy winner, ran for 149 yards, quarterback Cornelius Greene was the star of the game.
The Trojans couldn’t contain the scrambling Greene, who completed 6 of 8 passes for 129 yards.
USC 18, Ohio State 17
Ohio State took a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter and it seemed that it would hold up as the Trojans were penned in at their own 17-yard line.
Instead of relying on passes to catch up, McKay kept the Trojans on the ground until they advanced to the Buckeyes’ 38-yard line.
Quarterback Pat Haden threw the first pass of the drive, an arching bomb to wide receiver John McKay, the coach’s son, who caught the ball deep in the end zone.
Three previous times in his coaching career McKay had tried for a two-point conversion, instead of going for a tie, and had failed.
McKay rolled the dice again. Haden rolled out and threw a low pass to flanker Shelton Diggs in the end zone with two minutes remaining.
McKay’s gamble not only earned USC a Rose Bowl victory, but also a share of the national championship.
USC 14, Michigan 6
John Robinson became only the second coach in conference history to get a Rose Bowl win in his first season as a coach.
It was accomplished with freshman tailback Charles White filling in for injured Ricky Bell. White gained 114 yards in 32 carries and scored the clinching touchdown on a 7-yard run in the last three minutes.
USC 17, Michigan 10
This game will be remembered for White’s sky dive into the end zone without the ball in the second quarter.
Television replays clearly showed that White left the ball on the ground before he scored from the three-yard line. Even so, an official signaled a touchdown.
USC 17, Ohio State 16
Once again USC came from behind to frustrate Ohio State on a classic, late 83-yard touchdown drive. White, a Heisman Trophy winner, accounted for 71 yards, getting the touchdown on a one-yard dive with 1:32 remaining.
Remarkably, USC didn’t throw a pass during the winning drive as Robinson’s offensive linemen simply leveled everything in their path.
White rushed for a Rose Bowl-record 247 yards and was named player of the game for the second straight year.
USC 20, Ohio State 17
Coach Ted Tollner’s defensive unit contained Ohio State’s battering tailback, Keith Byars, while quarterback Tim Green threw touchdown passes to Joe Cormier and Timmie Ware.
Ohio State’s Chris Spangler tied a Rose Bowl record with three field goals, one on a record 52-yard kick. USC kicker Steve Jordan also was accurate from long range with two 51-yard field goals.