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A look back at the 1963 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin Vs. USC
The January 1st, 1963 Rose Bowl game between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the University of Southern California Trojans is considered by many to be one of the greatest college football games ever played. Here's a look back at this memorable game.
USC was the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, with a record of 9-0 in the 1962 season. Wisconsin (8-1) was ranked No. 2, with the Badgers loss coming at Ohio State by a score of 14-7. Wisconsin's high powered offense scored 30 or more points in six of their nine games, and the Badgers were a two point favorite over the Trojans.
USC takes the lead
On their first possession of the game, the Trojans executed a 57 yard, 10 play drive that ended in a 13 yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Pete Beathard to lineman Ron Butcher on a tackle eligible play. USC took a 7-0 lead. Wisconsin answered with an 82 yard touchdown drive capped off with a Ralph Kurek 1 yard touchdown run that tied the score 7-7.
The Trojans regained the lead in the second quarter. Linebacker Damon Bame intercepted a Ron Vander Kelen pass and returned it to the Badger 30 yard line. USC then drove down to the Wisconsin one yard line, and fullback Ben Wilson scored on a one yard run. USC closed out the first half scoring on a 25 yard touchdown run by Ron Heller, and it was 21-7 USC at the intermission.
USC starts to pull away
USC's Willie Brown returned the second half kickoff 36 yards to the Trojan 43 yard line. Beathard threw a swing pass to Hal Bedsole, who took it 57 yards for the score and gave USC a three touchdown lead. Wisconsin answered by scoring a touchdown on Ron Vander Kelen's 17 yard touchdown run. A 23 yard Beathard to Bedsole touchdown pass gave USC a 35-14 lead after three quarters.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Beathard threw a 13 yard touchdown pass to Fred Hill and USC took a seemingly insurmountable 42-14 lead over Wisconsin. In their last Rose Bowl appearance three years earlier, Wisconsin had been blown out by Washington 44-8, and this game looked like another rout in the making.
But Wisconsin wasn't through yet. On their next possession, the Badgers drove 80 yards on 11 plays, scoring on Lou Holland's 13 yard run that made it 42-21. On the first play after the kickoff, Ben Wilson fumbled and Wisconsin recovered on the USC 28 yard line. Four plays later, Vander Kelen fired a four yard touchdown pass to Gary Kroner. It was 42-28 with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the game.
With less than three minutes to go, USC prepared to punt from deep in its own territory. The snap went over the head of punter Ernie Jones and into the end zone. Jones was able to recover the ball and prevent a touchdown, but he was downed in the end zone for a safety, making it 42-30.
Ron Smith received the kick after the safety and raced from the Wisconsin 35 yard line to the USC 43. Vander Kelen needed just three plays to get the Badgers in the end zone again, this time on a 19 yard touchdown pass to Pat Richter. With the extra point, the Badgers had scored 23 unanswered points. It was 42-37.
Richter had scored with 1:19 left on the clock. With all the scoring and a lot of penalties—19 penalties were called for 170 yards —the game had lasted over three hours. The Rose Bowl did not have overhead stadium floodlights in those days, only some field level lights, and the field was becoming increasingly dark. Wisconsin tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by USC. The Trojans tried to run out the clock, taking 10 yards of losses in three plays. On fourth down, USC punted with time running out. The Wisconsin punt returner was stopped on the Badger 40 yard line and it was over.
Ron Vander Kelen had 33 completions in 48 attempts passing for 401 yards. Pete Beathard was eight out of 12 for 190 yards and four touchdowns. The two quarterbacks were named co- winners of the game's Most Valuable Player award.
Badgers win Cheers, Trojans Roses. Chicago Daily Tribune, January 2, 1963.
Game Day: Wisconsin Football. Rob Doster, Editor. Chicago, Illinois: Triumph Books, 2007.
Southern Cal Outlasts Wisconsin in Wild Rose Bowl Battle 42-37. Wisconsin State Journal, January 2, 1963.
The Most Memorable Rose Bowl. Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1992.
Unbeaten, Top Ranked Trojans Withstand Badgers' Rally. New York Times, January 2, 1963.
Whew! Trojans Win Wild One 42-37. Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1963.
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