4th-ranked Iowa came into the game as the Big Ten champions with a record of 7–1–1 (5–1 Big Ten).
Cal Golden Bears
Cal entered the game as the Pacific Coast Conference champions with a record of 7–3 (6–1 PCC).
The #2 Iowa Hawkeyes (7–1–1, 5–1 Big Ten) and the #16 California Golden Bears (7–3, 6–1 Pacific Coast) met in the forty-fifth Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 1959, in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Hawkeyes were favored by 18½ points. Randy Duncan helped Iowa take a 14–0 lead with a touchdown run in the first quarter and a touchdown pass to Jeff Langston in the second quarter. The Hawkeye backfield carried Iowa the rest of the way, as Willie Fleming ran for two touchdowns and Bob Jeter, the Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player, and Don Horn each ran for one touchdown. Iowa attempted a Rose Bowl record three two-point conversions and failed on all three, while Bob Prescott made one of two extra points. End Jack Hart scored all of California's twelve points, running for a touchdown in the third quarter and catching a touchdown in the fourth quarter, both of which were followed by failed two-point conversion attempts. Iowa broke four Rose Bowl records: longest run (Jeter 81), team rushing yards (429), team total yards (516) and individual rushing yards (Jeter 194); and tied another Rose Bowl record set by Georgia in 1943: first downs (24). The attendance was 98,297.
Four Rose Bowl game records were set: Jeter's 81-yard run, his 194 yards of rushing offense, the 429 yards gained on the ground and the 516 yards of total offense.
Iowa - Randy Duncan 2 run (Prescott kick) (7–0, Iowa)
Iowa - Jeff Langston 7 pass from Duncan (Prescott kick) (14–0, Iowa)
Iowa - Horn 4 run (kick failed) (20–0, Iowa)
California - Hart 1 run (pass failed) (20–6, Iowa)
Iowa - Willie Fleming 37 run (pass failed) (26–6, Iowa)
Iowa - Bob Jeter 81 run* (pass failed) (32–6, Iowa)
Iowa - Fleming 7 run (pass failed) (38–6, Iowa)
California - Hart 17 pass from Joe Kapp (run failed) (38–12, Iowa)