American Football Database
1973 Rose Bowl
59th Rose Bowl Game
1 2 3 4 Total
Ohio State University 0 7 3 7 17
USC 7 0 21 14 42
Date January 1, 1973
Season 1972
Stadium Rose Bowl
Location Pasadena, California
MVP Sam Cunningham (USC RB)
National anthem The Ohio State University Marching Band
Halftime show Spirit of Troy, The Ohio State University Marching Band
Attendance 106,869 (Bowl game and stadium record)
United States TV coverage
Network NBC
Announcers: Curt Gowdy, Al DeRogatis
Rose Bowl
 < 1972  1974

The 1973 Rose Bowl was a college football bowl game played on January 1, 1973. It was the 59th Rose Bowl Game. The USC Trojans defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-17. USC running back Sam "Bam" Cunningham scored four touchdowns and was named the Rose Bowl Player Of The Game.[1] The Trojans were voted unanimously the number one team in college football, the first time in college football history.[2] The attendance of 106,869 set the Rose Bowl Stadium record, as well as the NCAA bowl game record.[3][4]


The National championship was on the line for #1 USC, and likely #3 Ohio State. A #2 Oklahoma already had defeated Penn State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve. A convincing win in the Rose Bowl for the Buckeyes could sway the voters to put Ohio State at #1.[5]

USC Trojans

The 1972 USC Trojans football team was undefeated and untied. Their first win against #4 Arkansas propelled them to the top of the polls, where they remained throughout the season. They had help from new coach Pepper Rodgers' UCLA Bruins, who had defeated #1 ranked Nebraska to start the season. The Trojans' closest contest was a 30-21 defeat of number 15 Stanford. In the UCLA-USC rivalry game with the Rose Bowl on the line for both teams, the Bruins were outmatched by the Trojans 24-7. USC would then soundly defeat Notre Dame 45-23 behind the six touchdowns of Anthony Davis.[6] Quarterbacking duties were shared by Mike Rae and Pat Haden.

Ohio State Buckeyes

This was the first year that freshmen could play football due to the NCAA rescinding an earlier rule, and so began the first of four Rose Bowl appearances for Archie Griffin. Ohio State had one loss at Michigan State, 12-19 on November 11. USC had demolished the Spartans 51-6 only 5 weeks earlier in a night game at the Coliseum. In the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, with the Rose Bowl on the line for both teams, the Buckeyes used a defensive goal line stand in the first half and another in the second half to beat number 3 ranked Michigan, 14-11. The Buckeyes and Wolverines shared the Big Ten title. The Wolverines were not invited to any other Bowl game due to the exclusive Big Ten conference agreement to only send teams to the Rose Bowl.

Game summary

At the half, the score was tied. Sam "Bam" Cunningham exploded for four touchdowns in the second half.


First quarter

  • USC - Lynn Swann 10 yard pass from Mike Rae (Rae kick), 1:30

Second quarter

  • OSU - Keith 1 yard run (Blair Conway kick), 13:37

Third quarter

  • USC - Sam Cunningham 2 yard run (Rae kick), 12:18
  • OSU - Blair Conway 21 yard field goal, 8:11
  • USC - Davis 20 yard run (Rae kick), 5:51
  • USC - Cunningham 1 yard run (Rae kick), 1:25

Fourth quarter

  • USC - Cunningham 1 yard run (Rae kick), 9:10
  • USC - Cunningham 1 yard run (Rae kick), 5:13
  • OSU - John Bledsoe 5 run (Blair Conway kick), 0:34


Rose Bowl records

Sam Cunningham set three modern Rose Bowl records with 4 touchdowns in his final college football game. As of the 2008 Rose Bowl, the records for touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and points scored have been matched by Eric Ball (1986 Rose Bowl), Ron Dayne (1999 Rose Bowl), and Vince Young (2006 Rose Bowl).

A team record for Most points in one half at 45 was set in the second half (Southern California 35, Ohio State 10). This was later tied in the 1999 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 24, UCLA 21. It was surpassed by USC and Texas with 53 points in the second half of the 2006 Rose Bowl.

The record attendance would come close, but never be matched again in the Rose Bowl. In 1998, the Rose Bowl stadium had its seating capacity reduced, and was no longer the largest football stadium in the United States. As of the 2008 Rose Bowl game, the Rose Bowl game still draws the largest crowds of any post-season college football contest.

Ohio State-USC

This was the first of three Ohio State-USC matchups in the Rose Bowl in the 1970s. It was the first of four consecutive Rose Bowl appearances for the Buckeyes under Woody Hayes and two-time Heisman trophy winner Archie Griffin. Prior to the game contest, Woody Hayes pushed a camera into the face of a news photographer, screaming, "That'll take care of you, you son of a bitch." Hayes was ejected and left California with a subpoena.[7][8]

NFL players

The 1972 Trojans had 33 players who would eventually be drafted by NFL teams, including five first-round selections: Charle Young, Sam Cunningham, Pete Adams, Lynn Swann, and Steve Riley. The 1972 Trojan team was named one of the best teams of the Twentieth century. The Buckeyes had eight eventual NFL first round selections: Tim Fox, Archie Griffin, Kurt Schumacher, Doug France, Neal Colzie, John Hicks, Rick Middleton, and Randy Gradishar


Sports announcer Keith Jackson would call the 1972 USC Trojans the greatest team he ever saw. Sportswriter Beano Cook placed them at third of his all time teams on the basis of that assertion.[9] The Sporting News ranked the 1972 Trojans in their top 25 greatest teams.


"I never saw any team that could beat them," USC Coach John McKay said.[2]

Washington State Coach Jim Sweeney disagreed. "USC's not the No. 1 team in the country," said Sweeney, whose Cougars endured a 44-3 loss against the Trojans. "The [1972] Miami Dolphins are better."[2]


  1. 2008 Rose Bowl Program, 2008 Rose Bowl. Accessed January 26, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Christine Daniels - The 1972 Trojans. Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2008
  3. UCLA Football - 2007 UCLA Football (Media Guide). UCLA Athletic Department (2007), page 165 (PDF copy available at
  4. 2002 NCAA Records book - Attendance Records page 494 (PDF)
  5. Jeff Pugh - ROSE BOWL COACHES AGREE: Trojans, Buckeyes Battle for No.1. Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1973. quote:Well, the college football world can stop arguing about who will be No. 1 after today's Rose Bowl game.
  6. Oates, Bob - Anthony Scores Six TDs; Trojans Rout Irish, 45-23. Los Angeles Times. December 3, 1972
  7. Violent World Of Woody Hayes. Time Magazine, January 15, 1979
  8. Steve Greenberg and Laura Lanese - Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of Buckeye Football, 2006 Sports Publishing LLC, ISBN 1-58261-821-6
  9. Beano Cook, All-time top 25: '47 Irish were greatest,, August 1, 2007.


External links