• U.S.

Sport: Roses All Around

8 minute read

For 364 days a year, Pasadena. Calif., is a gentle, cultivated city populated by little old ladies who sit behind lace curtains and, according to legend, knit Volkswagens. But on New Year’s Day. Pasadena is no place for the timid. Bass drums defile the dawn, and the aroma of American Beauty mingles with the perfume of nervous palomino. The Tournament of Roses parade is all about girls and beauty; the afternoon’s football game is supposed to separate the men from the boys.

There have been times when the fans wished that they had gone home after the parade. But not this year. Matched in the Rose Bowl were the nation’s two top teams, Southern California and Wisconsin, and in 3½ hours of matchless play, they restored to college football all the grace and aggressiveness, the fun and glory that it had presumably lost to the pros.

A Score to Settle. In the regular season, Southern Cal had ripped off ten straight victories, outscored its opponents 219 to 55, wound up No. 1 in the nation. It had a highly touted quarterback in Pete Beathard, 20, a 200-lb. junior, and an All-America end in Hal Bedsole, who had broken every U.S.C. pass-catching record (29 catches, 726 yds., 9 TDs).

Wisconsin, champion of the arrogant Big Ten, had won eight games, lost one (to Ohio State, 14-7), was ranked No. 2 in the country. Its passer was Ron VanderKelen, 23, a bean-tall senior from football-crazy Green Bay, who played only 90 seconds in his first two varsity years but was voted the Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player this season. Its end was Pat Richter, 21, who caught 38 passes, made ten All-America teams. Wisconsin also felt it had a little score to settle. Six times this season, schools from the Big

Ten had been beaten by teams from the West’s Big Six; twice in the last three years, the Big Ten had been humiliated in the Rose Bowl—and the worst licking of all was Wisconsin’s own 44-8 shellacking by Washington in 1960.

Lazy Little Toss. “The kids are a little bored knocking each other around,” said Wisconsin’s Coach Milt Bruhn. “They know there’s a job to be done, and they’re anxious to get to it.” At the kickoff, Wisconsin was a three-point favorite. But U.S.C. swiftly made the point spread seem ridiculous.

After only 5½ minutes, with a fourth down on the Wisconsin 13, U.S.C. Coach John McKay sprang a clever trap on the Badgers, who were playing a man-to-man pass defense. Trojan Tackle Ron Butcher came scurrying on field with a rarely used play. “IG84-weak tackle look,” Quarterback Beathard muttered in the huddle. The Trojans lined up over the ball—and, way out on the right wing, a U.S.C. back casually stepped up into the line. At the same instant. Left End Bedsole took a step backward, thereby making Tackle Butcher a legal pass receiver—for that one play. The notion of a tackle catching a pass never occurred to the befuddled Badgers. All alone in the Wisconsin secondary. Butcher gathered in Beathard’s lazy little toss and jumped high with joy —right into the end zone. Score: U.S.C. 7, Wisconsin o.

It took Wisconsin eleven plays to get the touchdown back. In the 81-yd. march, Quarterback VanderKelen completed four bull’s-eye passes, sent his fullback cracking over tackle for the last yard and the score. But U.S.C. had more surprises to show. Beathard began experimenting with U.S.C.’s complex man-in-motion ground attack. “All season long,” says Coach McKay, “we sent our man-in-motion in the direction the play was going. Now we began sending the man-in-motion one way and the ball the other.” Trojan Fullback Ben Wilson ripped through the center of Wisconsin’s line for one TD. Minutes later, behind a phalanx of three blockers. Halfback Ron Heller cut off right tackle and sprinted 25 yds. for another touchdown that gave U.S.C. a 21-7 lead.

“We Knew.” By half time, the California fans were settling comfortably back to enjoy the slaughter. Yet in the Wisconsin dressing room a curious calm prevailed. “We were surprised that they hit us so hard in the beginning,” recalls VanderKelen. “But nobody was desperate. We knew we could come back.” Hardly anyone else agreed. On the very first play from scrimmage in the second half, U.S.C.’s Beathard fired a little “lookin” pass to Left End Bedsole, who took two quick steps forward and cut diagonally across the field. Once again Wisconsin was asleep. Two vicious blocks cut down the only defenders with a shot at Bedsole, and he rambled and strutted 57 yds. for a touchdown.

VanderKelen got that one back personally. In seven plays, he moved from kickoff to the U.S.C. 17, coolly mixing passes with line bucks to keep the defense guessing. Then, trying to pass, he looked for his receivers. All were covered. In came the thundering U.S.C. line, murder in every step. At the last instant, VanderKelen wriggled loose from a tackier, saw daylight and raced all the way to a touchdown. It seemed like a dying gasp. U.S.C.’s Beathard threw 23 yds. to Bedsole for one touchdown, 13 yds. to End Fred Hill for another—and with just 14 min. left in the game, Southern Cal led, 42-14. The Badger band bravely tooted On Wisconsin, but it sounded forlorn. “We’re No. 1! You’re No. 2!” chanted Trojan fans. ”We want the Packers!” they screamed. “Bring on Green Bay!”

“Go! Go! Go!” Green Bay they got—in Ron VanderKelen. No professional quarterback ever displayed more poise or rallied more gallantly. In one of those stunning moments of sport when a good player becomes great and does everything right and nothing wrong, he filled the air with footballs, lobbing long passes to Richter on the sidelines, shooting short flare passes to his halfbacks. A beautifully timed running play sent Halfback Lou Holland scampering 13 yds. around right end, and that made the score 42-21. Now U.S.C. began to feel the pressure. Wisconsin recovered a Trojan fumble on the U.S.C. 29. Another deadeye pass from VanderKelen to Halfback Gary Kroner meant another touchdown, and U.S.C.’s lead was cut to 14 points.

Suddenly, 98,000 spectators awoke to the fact that they were witnessing an uncommon game. In homes all across the U.S., children were shushed into silence and telephones went unanswered as TV held the eyes. The U.S.C. offense, so potent minutes before, sputtered to a halt. The U.S.C. punter dropped back to kick from his 12-yd. line — the pass from center sailed over his head and into the end zone. Almost another Wisconsin touchdown, but U.S.C. recovered just in time for just a two-point Wisconsin safety.

Once again Wisconsin and VanderKelen got the ball. “Throw it!” screamed the crowd. ”Go! Go! Go!” Dancing, faking, sidestepping tacklers, VanderKelen threw —on the dead run, off balance, any way at all. A Trojan lineman trapped him on the U.S.C. 37. Arm cocked, falling sideways, VanderKelen let fly. Incredibly, he hit Richter on the Trojan 17. Another pass to Richter, another Wisconsin TD. Up stepped Wisconsin’s place kicker Gary Kroner, and as the kickers for both teams had all afternoon, he clipped it professionally through the uprights for the extra point. Up shot the referee’s arms, and the score was 42-37.

The clock read 1 min. 19 sec. left in the game, and desperate U.S.C. backs began to run backward to eat up the time. At last, Southern Cal had to punt. The two lines collided viciously, and three Wisconsin players smashed through, trying to block the kick. It soared over their outstretched fingers. On the Wisconsin 44, Lou Holland fielded the ball. Wham! a Trojan tackler hit him. Bang! the game was over.

Every Kid’s Dream. U.S.C. was still No. 1. Wisconsin was still No. 2. But there were roses enough to go all around. Together, U.S.C. and Wisconsin tallied 79 points, a Rose Bowl record. Trojan Quarterback Beathard’s four touchdown passes set another record. And Ron VanderKelen, completing 33 of 48 passes for 401 yds., put on the greatest one-man show in the Rose Bowl’s 49-game history.

That night the offers from the pros started pouring in for the youngster who was all but passed up in last month’s player draft. Coach Vince Lombardi of VanderKelen’s home-town Packers called person-to-person from Green Bay. VanderKelen was still unsure about a pro career. But there was no question about the team he would like to play for. “Every kid who grows up in Green Bay,” he said, “dreams of being on field with the Packers.”

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