Note: In the days before the BCS,
the days before the Big 10-PAC 10 automatic Rose Bowl match-up, the West
Coast champion would decide who there opponent was to be in the New
Year’s Day game. In 1960, the Big Five (the forerunner to today's Pac-10
conference) decided to offer its 1961 Rose Bowl bid to the number-one
team in the nation instead of the Big Ten champion. Fortunately for the
Big 10, the 8-1 Minnesota Gophers were the number one team in the nation
following the regular season. It would be the first Rose Bowl appearance
in history for Minnesota. On New Year’s Day, the Gophers came out flat
and lost to Washington, 17-7. The West Coast press was merciless in its
criticism of the Minnesota program, implying that the Gophers had been
In the off season, Coach Murray Warmath’s Gophers regrouped, determined
to avenge the loss. The team returned quarterback Sandy Stephens and
All-American Bobby Bell. Stephens was the first African-American
quarterback chosen as All-American. He had taken Minnesota from last
place in the Big 10 in 1959 to the National Championship in 1960.
But, in that era, the final polls were conducted before the bowls were
Because of the Rose Bowl loss, Stephens had detractors
who said that he, or any black quarterback, couldn’t win the big game.
Minnesota played well in 1961, but finished second in the Big 10
at 7-2 to Ohio State. However, at OSU the Faculty Council voted to
decline the Rose Bowl invitation which set off student demonstrations in
Columbus for two nights. Several thousand marched four miles downtown to
the state capitol and finally university, city, and state police had to
restore order. But, for the University of Minnesota football team, it
was a miracle and a return to Pasadena.
UCLA (7-3) was coached by Bill Barnes. They utilized the old single wing
offense which was rapidly becoming obsolete in the early 60’s. The
Bruins plan was to stop the outside rollouts of Stephens. Minnesota
hoped to use its experience the previous year to take it to the Bruins
from the start. The game is remembered also for being the first
coast-to-coast color telecast of a college football game. It was
televised nationwide by NBC.
Cal. (UPI)- All America quarterback Sandy Stephens ran, passed and
kicked the UCLA Bruins dizzy Monday as powerful Minnesota ground out a
21-3 victory in the 48th renewal of the Rose Bowl classic.
Stephens, unanimous choice for player of the game, scored two
touchdowns, was flawless with his passing in the first half, called the
signals, gained 47 yards rushing from his T-formation slot and punted
the Gophers 0ut of trouble on several occasions.
While Stephens was pulling on his All-America performance, the big
Minnesota line, anchored by the great tackle Bobby Bell, sifted through
a porous UCLA wall seemingly at will to halt any offensive threat the
Exuberant Minnesota rooters, frustrated last year in losing the 1961
Rose Bowl game 17-7 to Washington, poured on to the field before the
game was over and leveled the goal posts at both ends of the field with
the clock showing six seconds to play.
Playing before 98,214 fans under a "summery" sun that sent temperatures
soaring up around the 85-degree mark on the playing field, the Gophers
completely dominated the nationally televised game after the first six
minutes of play. It was during those
first few minutes that the Bruins got their only score- a 28 yard field
goal by tailback Bobby Smith.
Any other UCLA threats were bottled up as Minnesota practiced ball
control in a game that had only fleeting seconds of excitement.
Minnesota got its first, break when Bruin fullback Almose Thompson
fumbled and Gopher fullback Judge Dickson recovered on the UCLA 6. Three
plays later Stephens dived over from the 1 for the score and the pattern
set for victory.
Minnesota had the ball for only 10 plays in the first quarter, but
thereafter it was the other way around as the Gophers possessed the ball
for three-fourths of the plays in amassing 20 first downs to UCLA's 8.
The Gophers made it 14-3 shortly before the first half ended with the
second touchdown coming on a 75-yard, 17-play march that paid off with
Bill Munsey diving over from the 3. On the drive, the longest Minnesota
ground gain was five yards, but Stephens tossed three completes, one for
12 yards and two for 9 each.
a scoreless third quarter, the Gophers took 19 plays to march 84 yards
for the last counter- with Stephens moving the team into scoring
position with his aerials, then going over for the touchdown from the 2.
Substitute tackle Tom Loechler unerringly booted three conversions.
The game, which had been billed as a defensive battle- with Minnesota an
eight-point favorite, lived up to that unexciting billing, providing the
large crowd with one of the dullest Rose Bowl games in recent years.
Minnesota linemen sped through holes in the UCLA offensive line to halt
drives started by Bruin tailback's Bobby Smith and Mike Hallner, and
fullback Thompson's two fumbles- both in critical situations- further
blunted the Bruin offense. His second bobble came early in the fourth
period when UCLA had driven to the Minnesota 13. He recovered this one,
but it was a fourth down situation and UCLA was forced to give up the
Stephens completed 7 of 11 passes for 75 yards and he averaged 40.6
yards on three punts in addition to his rushing total.
Minnesota got a chance to redeem itself after last year's loss when Ohio
Stale's Big Ten champion team was not permitted to accept a Rose Bowl
bid by order of its faculty committee. The loss was the fifth straight
for UCLA in the Rose Bowl. The Bruins have not won a Rose Bowl game.