Wisconsin Badgers: Their Bowl History with the USC Trojans

Ron Vander Kelen

When the 9-3 Wisconsin Badgers take on the 8-5 USC Trojans in the 2015 Holiday Bowl, it will be the seventh time the two teams have met overall and the third time the squads have met in a bowl game.

The  last time the Badgers played the Trojans was in 1966. The Badgers have yet to win any of the six games they have played against the storied football school out of Southern California.

That would include the only two times the teams have met in bowl games. Those games were the 1953 Rose Bowl and the legendary 1963 Rose Bowl.

The 1953 Rose Bowl was the first bowl game that the Badgers ever played in. All told, the Badgers have now played 27 bowl games in their history.

The Badgers were 6-3-1 during the 1952 season and were 4-1-1 in the Big Ten conference. That mark gave the Badgers the Big Ten title.

The Badgers were coached by Ivy Williamson in 1952. In seven years as head coach of the Badgers, Williamson had a sparkling 41-19-4 record.

When the Badgers took on the Trojans in the 1953 Rose Bowl, they would be facing the No. 1 defense in the country.

The Badgers knew a little bit about playing defense back then, as their 1951 team had the “Hard Rocks” defense, which was also ranked No. 1 in the country.

On offense, the Badgers had a sophomore running back by the name of Alan Ameche, who led the Big Ten in rushing that year with 721 yards. No. 35 would later go on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1954.

As a whole, the Badgers offense was very good. The Badgers led the Big Ten conference in total offense (415.5 yards per game), rushing offense (256.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (26.3 points per game).

In the actual Rose Bowl, with 101,500 fans in attendance, the Badgers had 353 total yards, including 133 rushing yards by Ameche.

The Badgers were dominant on the ground during the game, as Wisconsin had 211 yards rushing compared to just 48 for USC.

Alan Ameche

But the Badgers were never able to score versus the Trojans, as they were shut out 7-0. The Badgers had two terrific opportunities to score, but a turnover ended one drive inside the red zone, while another was stopped on fake field goal attempt at the two-yard line of the Trojans.

Rose Bowl MVP Rudy Bukich of USC threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to future Green Bay Packer Al Carmichael for the winning score in the third quarter.

The 1963 Rose Bowl between the Badgers and Trojans is one of the most famous bowl games ever played.

In the 1962 regular season, the Badgers were 8-1, which included being 6-1 in the Big Ten. Besides winning the Big Ten title that year, the Badgers also beat Notre Dame 17-8 that year at Camp Randall Stadium.

Wisconsin was coached by Milt Bruhn in 1962. Bruhn had a rocky start and finish in his tenure as head coach of the Badgers, but overall his teams were a respectable 52-45-6, which included two Rose Bowl appearances.

The Badgers had a prolific offense in 1962, which was led by quarterback Ron Vander Kelen and tight end Pat Richter.

Vander Kelen led the Big Ten in passing and total offense that season. Richter led the Big Ten in receiving yardage for the second straight season in 1962.

Going into the 1963 Rose Bowl, the Badgers were ranked No. 2 in the country, while the Trojans were ranked No. 1. There were 98,696 fans there to witness this classic contest.

USC got off to quick start led by quarterback Pete Beathard and the Trojans were up 21-7 at halftime. USC increased that lead by 42-14 early in the fourth quarter.

That’s when things got real interesting.

Vander Kelen led a stirring comeback for the Badgers. Wisconsin scored 23 straight points to pull within 42-37, but time ran out for Bucky in a thrilling fourth quarter.

Pat Richter

Vander Kelen completed 17-of-21 passes in just the fourth quarter alone. For the game, Vander Kelen ended up completing 33 of 48 throws for 401 yards, while Pat Richter finished with 11 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.

Vander Kelen was co-MVP for the game, along with Beathard.

Time will tell how the 2015 Badgers will do against the 2015 Trojans, but it sure would be nice if Wisconsin can finally topple Southern Cal in a football game.

Especially in a bowl game, even if it isn’t the Rose Bowl.

3 thoughts on “Wisconsin Badgers: Their Bowl History with the USC Trojans

  1. Pingback: Reflections on the First Ever Holiday Bowl | Bob Fox

  2. Pingback: Wisconsin Football: The Bowl History of the Badgers | Bob Fox

  3. Pingback: Green Bay Packers: Why Cecil Isbell Deserves Consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame | Bob Fox

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