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Today's Tidbit... The First Game In The Rose Bowl, 101 Years Ago Today
Colorado visits UCLA tonight in a game played in Rose Bowl Stadium and five-and-one-half hours drive north, USC and Cal clashed at California Memorial Stadium this afternoon. It was a different situation a century ago. Colorado played in the Rocky Mountain Conference, while UCLA was still known as the Southern Branch of the University of California, and their athletic teams were the Cubs. The Southern Branch boys played in the six-team Southern California Conference against teams like Redlands, Occidental, and Whittier, finishing the season tied for fourth with a 1-3-1 conference record.
So, when it came time in 1922 to kick the tires on the newly-built Tournament of Roses Stadium in Pasadena, the city fathers invited USC and Cal to play the first game on the hallowed ground we now call the Rose Bowl, a game that occurred 101 years ago today.
Both teams entered the game undefeated, but few viewed USC as being in the same class as Cal. Cal's Wonder Boys were a wonder. Undefeated in 1920 and 1921, they beat the Trojans 38-7 the previous year, so while USC was a potential challenge, few thought they had much potential until they heard the weather forecast, which called for rain.
Cal ran their innovative offense from the short punt formation, the shotgun formation of its day, and passed more often than most. However, wet conditions hampered the offense, and coach Andy Smith would revert to punting early and often, as they did when they tied Washington & Jefferson on New Year's Day 1922 in Pasadena's old Tournament Park.
Gloomy Gus Henderson helmed the Trojans, and while he was getting there with his team, they were not yet what they would become. Still, USC had a strong defense, and it showed against the Bruins. The game's first points came in the first quarter when a troubled Trojan punt snap resulted in a safety.
Otherwise, the Trojan defense held repeatedly until the middle of the fourth quarter when their bend but don't break defense broke during a goal line stand, giving up a touchdown and conversion. Cal later dropkicked a field goal from 20 yards out to make it 12-0 Bruins.
The new stadium, which was not enclosed for another five or six years, had seen a great football game in the first one held there. USC also played and beat two Pacific Coast Conference foes in Pasadena later in the season, and the Olympic Athletic Club also hosted a game there.
In the lead-up to the 1923 Tournament East-West football game, a local writer adapted the Yale Bowl moniker and referred to the Tournament of Roses Stadium as the Rose Bowl. The name stuck. It became the name used for the stadium and later on for the game itself.
As it turned out, Cal finished the season 9-0 and were considered national champions. However, they had indicated in early November that they were not interested in playing in Pasadena over the holidays. USC earned the invitation instead and beat Penn State 14-3 to earn the first Rose Bowl victory in Rose Bowl Stadium.
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