Played January 1, 1996.
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA. Attendance: 100,102 (capacity).
Northwestern's 1995 regular season record (like you don't know): 10-1 overall, 8-0
Big Ten Champion.
Coach: Gary Barnett. Tri-Captains: Steve
Schnur, Sam Valenzisi, Rob Johnson.
Opponent: Southern California.
series record (prior to bowl): U.S.C. led series 4-0.
Scoring: USC: Woods 1yd
run (Abrams kick);
NU: D.Autry 3 yd run (Gowins kick); USC: Barnum 21 yd pass from Otton
kick); USC: Abrams 30 yd FG; USC: McCutcheon 53 yd fumble return
kick); NU: Gowins 29 yd FG; NU: Gowins 28 yd FG; NU: D.Autry 9 yd run
failed); USC: K.Johnson 56 yd pass from Otton (Abrams kick); NU: Schnur
1 yd run (Gowins kick); NU: D.Autry 2 yd run (run failed); USC: Abrams
46 yd FG; USC: Washington 2 yd run (Abrams kick).
USC head coach John Robinson and Wildcat coach Gary Barnett
chat before kickoff. AP Photo.
Darnell Autry slashes past a defender in the Rose Bowl. AP Photo.
Despite its #3 national ranking, Northwestern found itself an underdog in the
Rose Bowl to Keyshawn Johnson and USC. A sellout crowd of 100,102
packed the Rose Bowl for one of the most anticipated games in college
football history. Estimates on the number of Northwestern fans in
the stands ranged from 50,000 to 65,000; either way, the game brought
together the largest number of Wildcat fans that has ever been
assembled. When they entered the hallowed stadium and saw
“NORTHWESTERN” painted in purple and white on the Rose Bowl grass, many
fans became very emotional. Among those NU fans were 30 members
of the 1948 Wildcat team-- who had won the ’49 Rose Bowl-- and former
coach Bob Voigts.
. . . . The Trojans kicked off the scoring when quarterback Brad Otton
passed for a pair of first downs and drove into NU territory.
Otton then completed a 31-yard pass to Keyshawn Johnson and put USC in
the Wildcats’ red zone. Ironically, USC was trying to tire out NU
by using a no-huddle with Otton firing from shotgun, strategies
Northwestern would use masterfully in a few years under its next
coach. Eventually LaVale Woods drove into the end zone, and USC
led 7-0. The ‘Cats responded later in the first quarter, when
Schnur began connecting with Bates. The duo completed three
passes, setting up a short Autry run for the touchdown. In the
second quarter Southern California went on a tear, scoring on a 21-yard
pass play and kicking a 30-yard field goal. On third down Brian
Musso raced to midfield and was tripped up. As Musso’s knee
touched down, the ball came loose. The refs did not blow a
whistle, and USC picked up the ball and streaked in for a touchdown and
a 17-point lead. One play, one questionable call, resulted in a
14-point swing against NU. The ‘Cats managed to recover some of
the ground lost in the last seconds of the half. Tim Scharf and
Ismaeli forced and recovered a USC fumble, setting up a Brian Gowins
field goal to make the score 24-10.
. . . . Early in the third quarter the ‘Cats drove and set up Gowins’
second field goal. On the ensuing kickoff Gowins executed a
completely unexpected onsides kick, recovered by Josh Barnes at the NU
48. The possession ended in a Darnell Autry touchdown, and NU was
on the rebound, down only 24-19. But Otton and Johnson paired
again for an explosion play, a 56-yard touchdown pass that put USC up
by 12. The Wildcats were unfazed. Schnur, on first down,
rifled a pass to Bates 46 yards. After a few rushing plays,
Schnur lurched into the end zone for a touchdown. The Wildcat
defense, now completely fired up, stoned Otton, and USC punted.
Early in the fourth quarter, down 31-26, Autry powered his way to
another touchdown, and Northwestern took a 32-31 lead. The
Wildcat fans in the stands and across the country went crazy.
Northwestern’s fourth quarter lead in the Rose Bowl lasted three
minutes and 52 seconds. A long Trojan drive resulted in a field
goal, and USC scored again with three minutes left in the game to take
a 41-32 lead. With 41 seconds left, NU’s last gasp went silent
when a 49-yard field goal try slammed into the left upright.
Johnson and USC Coach John Robinson were graceless in victory, but they
couldn’t take away from what Northwestern had accomplished in going so
far, and coming so close.