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January 1, 1949 • Rose Bowl • Pasadena, CA • no TV •
7 Northwestern Wildcats 35th Rose Bowl 4 California Golden Bears
Team 1 2 3 4 Totals
Wildcats 7 6 0 7 20
Golden Bears 7 0 7 0 14

Attendance: 93,000

First quarter
  • NWTN - Aschenbrenner 73 yard run (Farrar kick)
Second quarter
  • CAL - Jensen 67 yard run (Cullom kick)
Third quarter
  • NWTN - Murakowski 1 yard run (kick failed)
  • CAL - Swaner 1 yard run (Cullom kick)
Fourth quarter
  • NWTN - Tunnicliff 43 yard run (Farrar kick)

The 1949 Rose Bowl was a college football bowl game. It was the 35th Rose Bowl Game, and the third since the Big Nine Conference and Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) agreed to an exclusive agreement to match their conference champions. The Northwestern Wildcats defeated the California Golden Bears 20-14. Northwestern halfback Frank Aschenbrenner was named the Rose Bowl Player Of The Game when the award was created in 1953 and selections were made retroactively.[1] The Wildcats were underdogs going into the game but pulled off an upset. Until the 2013 Gator Bowl, this was the only bowl game win in the history of Northwestern Wildcats football program.


Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern had finished 8-2 in the Big 9 Conference, losing only to perennial powerhouses Michigan (0–28) and Notre Dame (7–12).[2] Northwestern blanked UCLA 19–0, Purdue 21–0, and Syracuse 48–0. Northwestern rallied from three turnovers and a 16-point deficit to defeat Minnesota 19–16 as well as defeating Ohio State 21–7, Wisconsin 16–7, and Illinois 20–7.[2] Big 9 conference "no repeat" rule prevented two-time champion Michigan from making a second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl, so second-place Northwestern received the invitation to the game.[3]

California Golden Bears

California had a perfect record going into the game and had averaged 28 points per game over the course of the season.[3] Although neither team had faced each other before,[3] Coach Waldorf had previously been the Wildcats coach from 1935 to 1946 before leaving for the Golden Bears. Northwestern head coach Bob Voigts was only 33 years old and had been named an All-American in 1938 playing for Waldorf.[2]

California and Oregon both had perfect records in the Pacific Coast Conference.[4] California was undefeated overall, and Oregon's only loss was at undefeated Michigan,[5][6] that year's national champions, and the Ducks had seven victories in the PCC to Cal's six. Oregon, led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and halfback John McKay,[7] opted for a playoff game, but California declined.[8] The tiebreaker format the PCC elected to use was that the championship team be elected by the schools. The PCC had ten members in 1948, six in the Northwest and four in California, so it was assumed that Oregon would be the team playing in the Rose Bowl, as even a 5-5 tie vote would be in their favor.[9] Instead California was voted champion of the PCC,[8][10] because the University of Washington had persuaded the University of Montana, then a member of the PCC, to vote for California, something that has not been forgotten by Oregon fans.[6][11] (The PCC allowed a second bowl team that season and Oregon went to the Cotton Bowl,[12] but lost 21–13 to hometown SMU in Dallas.)[13]

Game summary

Frank Aschenbrenner ran 73 yards, the longest touchdown return in Rose Bowl history.[14] In the second quarter, the Wildcats were awarded a touchdown in a controversial call when Art Murakowski fumbled the ball entering the endzone, but miss the point-after.[15] Although Jensen is injured early in the third quarter, Cal mounted a 56-yard drive for a touchdown and point-after giving them a one-point lead. In the fourth quarter, with less than 3 minutes and 88 yards to go, the Wildcats launched a historic drive: Aschenbrenner made the only complete pass of the game to Stonesifer for 18 yards, followed by a 14-yard run by Perricone, a 5-yard penalty against Cal, and then a Statue of Liberty play and 45-yard run by Ed Tunnicliff for a touchdown. The Bears attempted a passing drive in the last minute, but PeeWee Day intercepted a pass to end Cal's hopes of a title.[2]

Both Aschenbrenner's and Jensen's runs were from scrimmage, not returns. Final touchdown was not a "statue of liberty" play but involved a direct snap from center to a running back (Tunnicliff) from a T-formation set.


  1. Bowl Championship Series - Rose Bowl Info & History. ESPN. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved on 2008-07-17.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 A History of Football at Northwestern: Bob Voights: 1947-1954. Northwestern University Archives. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved on 2008-07-17.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 1949 Rose Bowl. Hail to Purple. Retrieved on 2008-07-17.
  4. "Final Coast Conference standings", November 21, 1948, p. 1. 
  5. "Oregon suffers 14-0 loss, but shows real class", October 3, 1948, p. 1. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bellamy, Ron. "Ducks have been shut out of success against the Wolverines", September 19, 2003, p. B1. 
  7. Clark, Bob. "Top Ducks", September 3, 1998, p. 3D. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "California Bears get Rose Bowl Bid", November 22, 1948, p. 1. 
  9. "Unofficially, its Northwestern in the Rose Bowl; Oregon would like bid", November 22, 1948, p. 11. 
  10. "Northwestern, California get nominations to Rose Bowl", November 23, 1948, p. 4, part 2. 
  11. Smith, Shelley (April 20, 2001). Oregon-Washington: "We know they hate us". ESPN Classic. Retrieved on October 20, 2009.
  12. "Oregon to play in Cotton Bowl", November 27, 1948, p. 1. 
  13. Strite, Dick. "Oregon, Cal both drop bowl games", January 2, 1949, p. 1. 
  14. Northwestern University Player Bio: Frank X. Aschenbrenner. Retrieved on 2008-07-19.
  15. Tournament of Roses - Rose Bowl Game Photo Timeline. Pasadena Tournament of Roses. Retrieved on 2008-07-16.
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