History of the Rose Bowl

The 2024 Rose Bowl will be the site of the first of two semi-final CFB playoff games – pitting top seeded Michigan vs. Alabama. In anticipation of another exciting match-up, CollegeWeekends.com looks back at the history of the Rose Bowl and some of the most memorable games.

The Birth of Tradition: Origins of the Rose Bowl Game

The Rose Bowl Game had its genesis in 1902 when the Tournament of Roses Association sought to enhance the appeal of the annual Rose Parade.

The inaugural game took place on January 1, 1902, pitting Stanford against Michigan in a contest that ended in a 49-0 victory for Michigan. However, due to the lopsided nature of the game, the event was put on hiatus until 1916. Since its resurrection in 1916, the Rose Bowl Game has been a New Year’s Day tradition, drawing millions of viewers and creating a stage for some of college football’s most memorable moments.

1929 Rose Bowl: The “Wrong Way” Run

One of the most iconic moments in Rose Bowl history occurred in 1929 when Roy Riegels, a California Golden Bears center, made a legendary mistake. In a moment of confusion, Riegels picked up a fumble and ran towards his own goal line. Despite pleas from teammates and coaches, he continued his run, eventually being tackled at the one-yard line. Although California lost the game to Georgia Tech, Riegels’ “wrong way” run remains etched in Rose Bowl folklore.

1963 Rose Bowl: The “Biggest Upset”

The 1963 Rose Bowl witnessed one of the most significant upsets in college football history. The Wisconsin Badgers, led by coach Barry Alvarez, defeated the top-ranked and heavily favored USC Trojans. The Badgers’ victory showcased the unpredictable nature of college football and solidified the Rose Bowl’s reputation for delivering thrilling underdog triumphs.

1975 Rose Bowl: The “Hail Mary” Pass

The 1975 Rose Bowl between USC and Ohio State featured a dramatic finish that has become legendary. With less than two minutes remaining, USC quarterback Pat Haden threw a desperate “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone. The pass was caught by J.K. McKay, securing a 18-17 victory for the Trojans. This game showcased the sheer excitement and unpredictability that has become synonymous with the Rose Bowl.

2006 Rose Bowl: The “Game of the Century”

The 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC is often regarded as one of the greatest college football games ever played. The clash between two Heisman-winning quarterbacks, Vince Young and Matt Leinart, culminated in a thrilling 41-38 victory for Texas. Vince Young’s late-game heroics, including a game-winning touchdown run with 19 seconds remaining, elevated this Rose Bowl to legendary status.

2018 Rose Bowl: The “Georgia vs. Oklahoma Showdown”

The 2018 Rose Bowl featured an exhilarating matchup between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Oklahoma Sooners. In a game that went into double overtime, Sony Michel’s touchdown run secured a 54-48 victory for Georgia. The back-and-forth battle showcased the resilience and skill of both teams, leaving an indelible mark on the Rose Bowl’s storied history.

As we reflect on the rich history of the Rose Bowl Game, it is evident that this iconic event has not only been a showcase for college football but also a canvas for unforgettable moments that define the sport. From wrong-way runs to Hail Mary passes, the Rose Bowl has witnessed it all. As we anticipate this year’s match-up, we can only wonder what new chapters and memorable moments will be added to the storied history of the Rose Bowl Game.

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