1954 Rose Bowl

The 1954 Rose Bowl was the 40th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Friday, January 1. The third-ranked Michigan State Spartans of the Big Ten Conference defeated the #5 UCLA Bruins of the Pacific Coast Conference, 28–20.[2][3][4] Michigan State halfback Billy Wells scored two touchdowns and was named the Player of the Game.[5]

1954 Rose Bowl
40th Rose Bowl Game
1234 Total
Michigan State 07147 28
UCLA 7706 20
DateJanuary 1, 1954
StadiumRose Bowl
LocationPasadena, California
MVPBilly Wells (Michigan State HB)
FavoriteMichigan State by 7 points[1]
National anthemUCLA Band and Michigan State Marching Band combined
Halftime showUCLA Band, Michigan State Marching Band
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersMel Allen, Tom Harmon
Rose Bowl
 < 1953  1955

This was the first year that Michigan State was counted in the Big Ten football standings, having been a member since 1950. This Rose Bowl had the first color television "colorcast," viewable on 200 sets across the United States.[6]


Michigan State College SpartansEdit

The Michigan State Spartans had joined the Big Ten in 1950, but did not play a full schedule until 1953. They only lost one game, 0–6 at Purdue, which broke a 28-game winning streak, with two national championships. The Spartans were co-champions with Illinois, and the two did not meet this season. However, Illinois had last appeared in the 1952 Rose Bowl. Head coach Clarence "Biggie" Munn announced his retirement before the game.

UCLA BruinsEdit

In the 1952 season, the Bruins lost only once, to rival USC 12–14. Both teams had been undefeated and the Trojans took the Rose Bowl berth. In 1953, the Bruins again lost only one regular season game, 20–21 at Stanford on October 17; Stanford was later defeated by USC on November 7. With the Rose Bowl again on the line for both teams, UCLA defeated USC 13–0 to win the Pacific Coast Conference outright and gain the New Year's Day berth in Pasadena.

Game summaryEdit

This was the first meeting between the two schools. It was the first Rose Bowl appearance for the Spartans; they had previously only played in the 1938 Orange Bowl. It was the third bowl appearance for the Bruins, all in the Rose (1943, 1947). The weather was sunny; the Spartans wore their green home jerseys and the Bruins wore their white road jerseys.

Michigan State fumbled twice in the first half, which allowed the Bruins the first two scores. The Spartans had only one completed pass and 56 yards in the first half; they scored a touchdown with 4:45 remaining in the first half.

Victor Postula knocked down four Bruin passes; head coach Biggie Munn instituted a "split-line offense" against the Bruins.[7]

The Spartans assembled two long drives in the third quarter to pull ahead 21–14. The Bruins recovered another Spartan fumble and scored to pull within a point at 21–20, but the extra point kick failed. Billy Wells of Michigan State returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown with 4:51 left in the game.[2][3]


First quarterEdit

  • UCLA — Bill Stits 13-yard pass from Paul Cameron. John Hermann converts.

Second quarterEdit

  • UCLA — Cameron, two-yard run. Hermann converts.
  • MSU — Ellis Duckett, six-yard blocked punt return. Evan Slonac converts.

Third quarterEdit

Fourth quarterEdit

  • UCLA — Rommie Loudd, 28-yard pass from Cameron. Kick failed.
  • MSU — Wells, 62-yard punt return. Slonac converts.


Team Stats Mich. St. UCLA
First Downs 14 16
Net Yards Rushing 195 90
Net Yards Passing 11 152
Total Yards 206 242
PC–PA–Int. 2–10–1 9–24–2
Punts–Avg. 5–35.4 6–38.6
Fumbles–Lost 4–4 4–3
Penalties–Yards 2–15 4–30


  • In the next season, UCLA went undefeated and shared the national championship. It was the first "split" championship in college football, when the writers (AP) selected Ohio State and the coaches (UP) chose UCLA. The Bruins didn't play in the Rose Bowl because of the PCC's no-repeat rule.
  • Billy Wells died in December 2001.[8]

Game factsEdit

In their first official season in the Big Ten, the Spartans led the league in the number of black players. Michigan State's eight black athletes represented nearly a quarter of all African Americans in the entire conference.[9]

UCLA rosterEdit




  1. ^ "Bolden leads Spartans against UCLA in Rose". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. January 1, 1954. p. 30.
  2. ^ a b "MSC's power tops UCLA in Rose Bowl tilt, 28-20". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. January 2, 1954. p. 10.
  3. ^ a b Knack, Joe (January 2, 1954). "MSC throws away script". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). p. 8.
  4. ^ "MSC, Oklahoma win bowl battles". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). United Press. January 2, 1954. p. 6.
  5. ^ 2008 Rose Bowl Program Archived March 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, 2008 Rose Bowl. Accessed January 26, 2008.
  6. ^ Gould, Jack - Television in Review: NBC Color Tournament of Roses Parade is Sent Over 22-City Network. Archived October 13, 1999, at the Wayback Machine New York Times, Monday, January 4, 1954
  7. ^ Richmond, Jim - Postula family traveled long road to America Archived 2012-07-22 at archive.today. Battle Creek Enquirer, September 5, 2005
  8. ^ Wells remembered for 1954 Rose Bowl. Associated Press. Tuesday, January 1, 2002
  9. ^ Robinson, Will - "Nine of the Big Ten Schools Are Using Negro Football Players," Pittsburgh Courier, October 3, 1953. The Big Ten as a whole carried thirty-three black players in 1953. The team breakdown was: Michigan State-eight, Illinois-seven, Iowa-six, Michigan-four, Indiana-three, Ohio State-two, Minnesota-one, Wisconsin-one, Northwestern-one, and Purdue-zero.