|Played January 1, 1949.
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA. Attendance: 93,000.
Northwestern's 1948 regular season record: 7-2 overall, 5-1 conference. NU
second in the Big Ten (Big Nine). However, the conference's
rule (since scrapped) for the Rose Bowl kept Michigan home.
Coach: Bob Voigts. Captain: Alex Sarkisian.
NU/California series record (prior to bowl): first game played against California.
Aschenbrenner 73 yd run (Farrar
kick); Cal: Jensen 67 yd run (Cullom kick); NU: Murakowski 1 yd run
kick failed); Cal: Swaner run (Cullom kick); NU: Tunnicliff 43 yd run
RETURN OF THE '49ERS
Be sure to check out this 2008 Website feature from Northwestern Magazine,
featuring an outstanding article by William Weinbaum that revisits the
1948 Wildcat team on the 60th anniversary of its '49 Rose Bowl
win! The site includes great trivia, interviews, and rare film
footage of NU's victory in Pasadena.
Ed Tunnicliff races to the winning touchdown in the 1949 Rose Bowl.
Frank Aschenbrenner, who broke a Rose Bowl record with a 73-yard
touchdown run, finished the day with 119 yards rushing.
Tom Worthington snags one of two interceptions for NU.
Wildcats came into the 1949 Rose Bowl as underdogs. California
had taken a blow torch to its opponents in 1948. Its vicious
ground attack averaged 28 points per game, and its line was talented
and deep. Northwestern had little depth, but its starters (nearly
all of whom had been recruited by Cal coach Pappy Waldorf, when Waldorf
was NU's coach) were resourceful and experienced. The Pacific
Coast Conference wasn’t exactly impressed that its co-champ, likely on
its way to a national crown, was going to face the Big Ten
runner-up. Voigts made sure his players saw all of the newspaper
articles that dressed down Northwestern.
After the pre-game ceremonies and festivities over 92,000 fans watched
Wildcat George Maddock kick off to California under a gloomy, overcast
sky. Jack Swaner returned the ball from the Bears’ end zone out
to the 21-yard line. Cal and NU traded three down-and-out drives
and punts, and Cal returned Northwestern’s punt to the Bear 21, right
where it had started its previous drive.
On third down and five, Jackie Jensen took the ball, swept right, and
fired a pass. Junior Loran “Pee Wee” Day, the Wildcat halfback
and safety, intercepted Jensen’s throw at the Northwestern 25-yard
line, sending the Rose Bowl crowd to their feet. On the very next
play Northwestern’s rushing leader, Frank Aschenbrenner, ran 16 yards
and then fumbled, giving the ball right back to California, on the
Northwestern 41-yard line. However, the ‘Cat defense stepped up
and stymied the high-powered Bear attack. Cal ran for a two yard
loss, threw an incomplete pass, and was then dropped for another loss,
taking them out of field goal range.
The ensuing Cal punt gave Northwestern the ball on its own 27-yard
line. The Wildcats gave the ball again to Aschenbrenner.
This time he held onto it, and sprinted 73 yards for a touchdown.
Jim Farrar made the extra point, and Northwestern had stunned the
Bears, scoring first.
On the next play from scrimmage Jackie Jensen responded for Cal,
running 67 yards virtually untouched and tying the game less than a
minute after NU had scored. . . When the Bears’ first series in the
second quarter failed, Jackie Jensen punted to Johnny Miller.
Miller began to return Cal’s punt, then handed the ball to Worthington,
who raced to the Cal 22. Rushes by Murakowski and Miller advanced
the ball to the California one-yard line. On first and goal
Murakowski took the ball and lunged for the end zone. Just as he
crossed the goal, however Murakowski lost the ball, which fell into the
end zone and was recovered by Will Lotter for the Bears.
Murakowski was ruled to have successfully crossed the plane before
losing the ball, and Northwestern took a 13 to seven lead. . .
For the rest of the second quarter neither team had another clear
opportunity to score. . .
The third quarter started as a defensive battle between Northwestern
and California, but midway through the period NU quarterback Don Burson
fumbled. Cal recovered at midfield and began an eleven-play drive
that culminated with Jack Swaner punching in the touchdown. When
Jim Cullom’s PAT sailed through the uprights, California took the lead
for the first time.
With Cal leading by one point in the fourth quarter, the teams again
traded punts, and NU’s offense appeared to have stalled. The
Wildcats faced second down and long from their own 12-yard line, and
less than five minutes left in the game. Aschenbrenner took the
snap and swept right, then fired off Northwestern’s only completed pass
of the game, a 17-yarder to Don Stonestifer. Aschenbrenner and
Gasper Perricone took turns running the ball, bringing the ‘Cats to the
Cal 43-yard line.
On second down center Alex Sarkisian, rather than snapping the ball to
quarterback Don Burson, snapped it directly to halfback Ed
Tunnicliff. Burson faked a pass to Aschenbrenner, and Tunnicliff
slashed his way though the perplexed Bear defense and streaked to the
endzone, aided near the goal with some key blocking by sophomore
Richard Anderson. The trick play sent the Wildcat fans into a
frenzy. Jim Farrar made the extra point, and the Wildcats went on
to upset California, 20 to 13. . .
Most fans and alumni at the time considered the Rose Bowl win to be the
greatest moment ever in Northwestern sports. It eventually
provided the climax to a period in the program’s history that, while
lacking conference championships, gave the school its greatest stars, a
string of All-Americans, consistent top-ten rankings, and national