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Rose Bowl Rewind: Badgers' furious rally falls just short in '63



Dec. 15, 2011

Game Photo

1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
 #2 Wisconsin
0 7 7 23 37
 #1 USC
7 14 14 7 42
 Statistical Leaders
 • Rushing: Lou Holland - 4 Car, 27 Yds
 • Passing: Ron Vander Kelen - 33-48, 401 Yds, 2 TD
 • Receiving: Pat Richter - 11 Rec, 163 Yds, TD
 Scoring Summary
 First Quarter
USC Butcher 13 TD pass from Beathard (Lupo kick)
WIS Kurek 1 TD run (Kroner kick)
 Second Quarter
USC Wilson 1 TD run (Lupo kick)
USC Heller 25 TD run (Lupo kick)
 Third Quarter
USC Bledsoe 57 TD pass from Beathard (Lupo kick)
WIS Vander Kelen 17 TD run (Kroner kick)
USC Bedsole 23 TD pass from Beathard (Lupo kick)
 Fourth Quarter
USC Hill 13 TD pass from Beathard (Lupo kick)
WIS Holland 13 TD run (Kroner kick)
WIS Kroner 4 TD pass from Vander Kelen (Kroner kick)
WIS Safety
WIS Richter 19 TD pass from Vander Kelen (Kroner kick)
 Team Statistics
 • First Downs 32 15
 • Rushing Yards 67 114
 • Passes 34-49-3 10-20-0
 • Passing Yards 419 253
 • Total Offense 486 367
 • Punts-Avg. 4-40 5-40
 • Fumbles-Lost 6-0 2-1
 • Penalties-Yards 7-77 12-93

As the Wisconsin football team prepares for the 2012 Rose Bowl Game, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas looks back on the Badgers' seven previous appearances in The Granddaddy of Them All. Today, we look at the 1963 Rose Bowl.



MADISON, Wis. -- There was the trip to Disneyland, where Steve Underwood wound up getting stranded at the top of the Matterhorn with Pat Richter and one of the Rose Bowl princesses. They were stuck for 10 minutes before the ride was repaired and operational again.

Underwood and Richter were the co-captains of the 1962 Badgers. They also had assumed those responsibilities while playing together as seniors for Butch Mueller at Madison East High School.

There was the luncheon at the historic Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. Underwood was dining with his parents, and they were joined by a distinguished looking gent who possessed a quiet confidence and said all the right things. Must be a politician, they thought. Or a very good actor.

They had dined with Ronald Reagan, who was just embarking on a political career that would lead him to the White House as the 40th President of the United States.

There was the 1963 Rose Bowl game, itself, one of the most memorable ever staged; punctuated by a furious fourth-quarter rally (23 unanswered points) by Wisconsin which fell agonizingly short (42-37) for the Badgers against Southern Cal.

"The '63 game,'' said Underwood, an undersized guard who played on offense and defense, "is the only one I ever played in -- or know of -- where the losers historically became the winners.''

(That was the perception until the Badgers finally returned to Pasadena and beat UCLA in 1994.)

The 1963 Rose Bowl was special from the start because it pitted the No. 1-ranked Trojans, who had won 10 straight games (outscoring their opponents 219-55); against the No. 2-ranked Badgers, whose only loss was to Ohio State and had already knocked off a No. 1 ranked team (Northwestern).

It marked the first time No. 1 and No. 2 had met in a bowl game.

It was no secret that UW coach Milt Bruhn wanted to make amends for the 1960 Rose Bowl, a humbling 44-8 loss to Washington. To this end, Bruhn wanted to make sure there were no distractions for the players, so he booked the team into the Order of Passionist Fathers' Monastery.

"That was Milt's response,'' Underwood said, "for receiving so much criticism, perceived or real, when the 1959 team went out and had too good of a time. He wasn't going to be criticized again. As far as I was concerned, it was a good move. It was a beautiful setting and we were there by ourselves.''

It didn't seem to make much of a difference in the first half against the Trojans, who took advantage of a trick play (a tackle eligible pass play) to get on the board first. The Badgers matched that score before USC took control of the game with a couple of touchdowns in the second quarter.

John McKay's offense revolved around quarterback Pete Beathard and All-America receiver Hal Bedsole. After scoring on the first possession of the third quarter, the Trojans led 28-7. The Badgers countered with a touchdown, but USC came back with two more scores, making it 42-14.

"They started substituting people for their first stringers,'' Underwood recalled, "and my guess is that they thought they had the game wrapped up. But we just seized control.''

The final 12 minutes of the game belonged to UW quarterback Ron Vander Kelen and Richter. Together, they put on a passing clinic unmatched in Rose Bowl history. Vander Kelen ended up completing 33 of 48 throws for a Rose Bowl record 401 yards while Richter finished with 11 receptions for 163 yards.

Mike Lucas
UWBadgers.com Insider

In the fourth quarter alone, Vander Kelen completed 17-of-21 passes. What an unlikely hero, too? Prior to his senior year, Vander Kelen had 90 seconds of playing experience for the Badgers, and all 90 came as a defensive back in a rout of Marquette in 1959. He was then a sophomore.

Vander Kelen injured his knee the following spring, had surgery and sat out the 1960 season. He had eligibility issues in 1961 and dropped out of school and worked in construction. But he stayed in touch with the football program and was committed to returning to the UW.

When he did come back, he received another year of eligibility because of the knee injury. The irony is that Bruhn was hoping to get an extra year for another quarterback, Ron Miller, whose petition to the NCAA was rejected. Miller had proven himself. Vander Kelen had not.

Going into the 1962 season, Vander Kelen was one of seven quarterbacks auditioning for the job. The others were John Fabry, Harold Brandt, Jim Hennig, Arnie Quaerna, Bob Allison, Greg Howey and Lew Fawbush. What Bruhn liked the most about Vander Kelen was his mobility. That gave him the edge.

Vander Kelen played himself on to everybody's radar by completing his first eight passes against Notre Dame at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers had gone winless in seven previous meetings with the Irish, dating to 1928, but Vander Kelen helped end the streak in a 17-8 victory.

Although Vander Kelen was intercepted three times, Bruhn told the Wisconsin State Journal, "Vandy's the boy I'm going with from now on. He and Richter are going to be my offense.''

Vander Kelen knew how to command a huddle.

"He showed so much leadership,'' Underwood remembered. "He was always cool and collected. He was always composed and had everything under control. That was the hallmark of his performance.''

After the Badgers knocked off No. 1-ranked Northwestern, Vander Kelen said, "Nobody figured Wisconsin was going to have a great year. They thought we'd be in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten or down in the lower level. But we played every game like it was the first game of the year.''

"We knew who we were,'' said Vander Kelen, "and we went out and played our game.''

It was almost good enough to upend USC. Almost -- though few remember the almost in a losing context. Instead they remember Vander Kelen and Richter and the storybook ending they almost wrote.

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