1956 Rose Bowl
42nd Rose Bowl Game
1 2 3 4 Total
University of California, Los Angeles 7 0 0 7 14
Michigan State University 0 7 0 10 17
Date January 2, 1956
Season 1955
Stadium Rose Bowl
Location Pasadena, California
MVP Walt Kowalczyk (Michigan State halfback)
National anthem UCLA Band and Michigan State Marching Band combined
Halftime show UCLA Band, Michigan State Marching Band
Attendance 100,809
United States TV coverage
Network NBC
Announcers: Mel Allen, Sam Balter
Rose Bowl
 < 1955  1957

The 1956 Rose Bowl game, played on January 2, 1956 was the 42nd Rose Bowl game. The Michigan State Spartans defeated the UCLA Bruins, 17–14. Michigan State halfback Walt Kowalczyk was named the Rose Bowl Player Of The Game.[1] The game was played on January 2, because New Year's Day was a Sunday. It featured two of the most racially integrated college football teams of the day with six African American players for the Bruins and seven for the Spartans.[2][3] This stood in stark contrast to the 1956 Sugar Bowl, where there was controversy over whether Bobby Grier from Pitt should be allowed to play and whether Georgia Tech should even play at all due to Georgia governor Marvin Griffin's opposition to integration.[4][5][6] Only one month previous, Rosa Parks made her famous protest in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The 1956 Rose Bowl has the highest TV rating of all college bowl games, watched by 41.1% of all people in the US with TV sets.[7]


Michigan State College SpartansEdit

The Ohio State Buckeyes were the undefeated Big Ten conference champions. However, Ohio State would not be invited to the Rose Bowl because of the no-repeat rule in the Big Ten conference. This left Michigan State to be accepted. Ohio State was ranked #4 with a 7–2 record, and Michigan State was ranked #2 with a 9–1 record.[8] The teams did not play each other during the regular season. Michigan State opened with a 20–13 win at Indiana. Then they lost to in State rival Michigan 7–14. This was their only loss. They won 38–14 over Stanford. They defeated rival Notre Dame 21–7. The Spartans did not play Northwestern, Iowa, or Ohio State. Ohio State had lost at Duke, and also 0–6 to Stanford.

UCLA BruinsEdit

UCLA was the defending National Champion and had an undefeated season in 1954. The Bruins began the 1955 season ranked number one. In a showdown at #5 Maryland, the Bruins lost 0–7 to the Terrapins. A 38–0 win over Oregon State ultimately proved to be the game for the conference championship. The Bruins would win the rest of their regular season games, including a 21–13 win over Stanford. With the Pacific Coast conference championship already won, the Bruins won their third straight game in the UCLA-USC rivalry 17–7.

Game summaryEdit

This was the second meeting between the two schools, the first being a 28–20 victory for the Spartans over the Bruins in the 1954 Rose Bowl. In a Sports Illustrated article preceding the 1956 Rose Bowl, UCLA coach Red Sanders was quoted as saying "Sure, winning isn't every thing, It's the only thing."[9]

The Spartans wore their green home jerseys and the Bruins wore their white road jerseys.

Jim Decker of UCLA intercepted a pass from Michigan State quarterback Earl Morrall on the first play from scrimmage. Decker returned 4 yards to the MSU 16 yard line. Four plays later, Bob Davenport scored on a 2-yard run over left guard to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead.

Midway through the second quarter, Michigan State put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive to pull even at 7. Walt Kowalczyk's 30-yard run to the UCLA 17 set up Morrall's 13-yard touchdown toss to Clarence Peaks. On the second play of the fourth quarter, the Spartans took their first lead at 14–7 on Peaks’ 67-yard TD pass to John Lewis, who caught the ball on the 50 and took it the distance. Five minutes later, The UCLA Bruin passing game produced a big play as UCLA quarterback Ronnie Knox connected with Jim Decker with a 47-yard pass play to the Spartan 7-yard line. Three plays later, Doug Peters scored on a 1-yard plunge at center. Morrall directed an 11-play, 59-yard drive to the UCLA 24, but Gerald Planutis missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt.

Five penalties were called in the closing minutes and field position shifted in Michigan State's favor when UCLA was whistled for three-straight penalties. UCLA was called for an intentional grounding infraction which pushed the ball back to its own one-yard line. The Bruins' punt gave the Spartans the ball at the UCLA 40-yard line. The Bruins were cited for interference with the kick returner on the punt play and the Spartans received the ball at the Bruin 19-yard line. Replacing Gerald Planutis, Dave Kaiser of Michigan State converted his first career field-goal attempt, a 41-yard kick, with seven seconds remaining in the game to give the Spartans a 17–14 win.


First quarterEdit

  • UCLA – Bob Davenport 2 run (Jim Decker kick), 11:48 left. Drive: 4 plays, 16 yards.

Second quarterEdit

  • MSU – Clarence Peaks 13 pass from Earl Morrall (Gerald Planutis kick), 5:52 left. Drive: 11 plays, 80 yards.

Third quarterEdit

  • no score

Fourth quarterEdit

  • MSU – John Lewis 67 pass from Clarence Peaks (Gerald Planutis kick), 14:11 left. Drive: 3 plays, 80 yards.
  • UCLA – Doug Peters 1 run (Jim Decker kick), 6:07 left. Drive: 5 plays, 56 yards.
  • MSU – FG Dave Kaiser 41, 0:07 left. Drive: 3 plays, -5 yards


Although it was UCLA penalties in the final minutes that gave field position to Michigan State, the Spartans' 98 yards given up on 10 penalties are a Rose Bowl game record as of 2008. The Spartans were named National Champions by the Boand System.[10][11] Oklahoma would be named National champion by all the other organizations. In the 1956 Orange Bowl, the #1 Oklahoma Sooners defeated the #3 Maryland Terrapins 20-6 in a battle of undefeated teams. The Sugar Bowl was the last bowl game to be integrated. The Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl were not integrated until 1948, 1955, and 1956 respectively.[12]


  1. 2008 Rose Bowl Program, 2008 Rose Bowl. Accessed January 26, 2008.
  2. MICHIGAN STATE VS. UCLA JET'S ROSE BOWL PREVIEW * * *. Jet Magazine, December 1955, Quote:"A record number of Negro football players-13-are eligible for the 42nd annual Rose Bowl game to be played by Michigan State and UCLA on January 2."
  3. Smith, John Matthew - "Breaking the Plane": Integration and Black Protest in Michigan State University Football during the 1960s. The Michigan Historical Review Vol. 33, Issue 2.
  4. Mulé, Marty - A Time For Change: Bobby Grier And The 1956 Sugar Bowl. Black Athlete Sports Network, December 28, 2005
  5. *Zeise, Paul - Bobby Grier broke bowl's color line. The Panthers' Bobby Grier was the first African-American to play in Sugar Bowl Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 07, 2005
  6. Thamel, Pete - Grier Integrated a Game and Earned the World's Respect. New York Times, Published: January 1, 2006.
  7. Harvey, Randy - Bucking Tradition: Rose Bowl, Planted in the Past, No Longer the Flower of Football. Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1988 Of the 10 highest-rated college bowl games of all time, 9 are Rose Bowls. At the top of the list is the 1956 game between UCLA and Michigan State, which was watched by 41.1% of all people in the United States who had television sets at the time.
  8. AP Poll archive 21 November 1955
  9. Sayre, Joe - He Flies On One Wing. Sports Illustrated, December 26, 1955
  10. Past Division I-A Football National Champions. NCAA, January 11, 2006
  11. Boand, William F. "Azzi Ratem." 1930. Booklet. "Azzi Ratem - Boand Football Ranking System."
  12. football, gridiron. (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 28, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: Football in the United States - The racial transformation of American football. Encyclopædia Britannica



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