The 1962 Rose Bowl was a rather odd affair, and was perhaps more notable for who wasn't participating than for the game itself. It was also the first nationwide broadcast of an entire college football game in color. No doubt this was the beginning of many a move to Southern California based on the sunny and warm weather viewed in color on a TV set in the Midwest or Northeast.
As for the game itself, the 7-2 Minnesota Golden Gophers faced the 7-3 UCLA Bruins.
It was Minnesota's second straight Rose Bowl. The Golden Gophers had been named consensus "national champions" at the end of the previous regular season (1960-61), but then had lost 17-7 to Washington in the Rose Bowl. This did not affect their status as national champions in the main two polls (AP and UPI), however, because at the time those two polls issued their final rankings and named their "national champion" at the end of the regular season and before the bowl games.
Minnesota actually finished second to Ohio State in the Big Ten in 1961, with a 6-1 conference record to the Buckeyes' 6-0. However, in the 1960-61 and 1961-62 seasons, there was no formal arrangement for the Big Ten champion to appear in the Rose Bowl, due to the dissolution of the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) in 1959 after several years of internal bickering.
The PCC (the predecessor to what became the Pac-8/10/12) began to fragment in 1957 in the wake of public revelations of "slush funds" at UCLA, USC, California and Washington. Oregon was the first accused of having committed such violations (in 1951), but then levied accusations at UCLA and its coach Red Sanders. The Bruins would share the "national title" in 1954 as No. 1 in the final UPI poll (Ohio State was No. 1 in the final AP poll).
So, as there was no Pacific Coast Conference to affiliate with, the Rose Bowl technically did not have to feature a former PCC team—or a Big Ten team, for that matter, as the agreement was made between the two conferences themselves to send their champions to the Rose Bowl.
Nevertheless, the Rose Bowl committee had tried to maintain the tradition, and so Washington and Minnesota had been invited the previous year. Once it became clear that Ohio State would win the Big Ten, the Rose Bowl prepared its invitation to the 8-0-1 Buckeyes (the tie was to TCU; the 3-5-2 Horned Frogs played giant-killer that season).
In a very unusual move, the Ohio faculty council voted not to accept the invitation to the Rose Bowl. They felt that athletics were being "overemphasized" at the university at the expense of academics. Students were not happy; riots in Columbus ensued for two days and nights following the decision.
Needless to say, the very next year Big Ten formalized a new arrangement with the Rose Bowl and the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU), as it was then known. And no Big Ten champion has turned down an invitation from the Rose Bowl since then (of course, if the Big Ten champion is in the BCS "championship game", it does not receive the invite in the first place).
Minnesota's two losses were to Missouri, 6-0, in the season opener; and to Wisconsin, 23-21, in the season finale. Its two quality wins were against Michigan State and Purdue. Both the Spartans and the Boilermakers had finished ranked in the Top 20 in both major polls, but neither went to a bowl game. Today's students are no doubt very puzzled by that; however, between the 1947-48 and 1974-75 seasons, neither the Big Ten nor the PCC/AAWU/Pac-8 sent its teams to any other bowl games.
The "exclusive agreement" thus ran both ways. With the exception of the two years mentioned above, the Rose Bowl was obligated by contract to take Big Ten and PCC/AAWU/Pac-8 teams; likewise, Big Ten and PCC/AAWU/Pac-8 teams could not appear in any bowl game other than the Rose Bowl. Along with the simple fact that it is the oldest bowl game by far, this was the biggest factor in giving the Rose Bowl a specific and recognizable "brand," or public identity; it still holds on to this identity, even while making concessions to the BCS format.
UCLA finished first in the five-team AAWU in 1961 (the four California schools and Washington; the two Oregon schools and Washington State would only re-join them after a few more years). The Bruins' three losses came to Michigan, Ohio State and Washington. The 10-7 victory over unranked Southern California that allowed the Bruins to clinch the conference title was the closest they came to a quality win; with only four conference games, the six-game non-conference schedule was rather weak (save for the two aforementioned Big Ten powers).
Minnesota coach Murray Warmath was in his eighth year; however, the 1961 and 1962 Rose Bowls would be the only bowl games for the Gophers during his term. Minnesota prided itself on its rushing defense, which allowed an average of 84.3 yards per game (sixth-best in the nation).
Senior quarterback Sandy Stephens, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, led a potent passing attack from the "T" formation and was also the team's leading rusher. Stephens was the first African-American quarterback at a major college to be named a consensus All-American; he was also the Big Ten MVP for the 1961-62 season.
UCLA's Bill Barnes, in the fourth year of a seven-year career as Bruin head coach, had the team running the "single-wing" offense, which had been created by Pop Warner and also used by Knute Rockne, but which had become quite outdated by 1961. The "single wing" offense was distinctive in that the ball was typically long-snapped to a running back, not the quarterback. A modern mutation of this is the "Wild Cat" formation popular with some college and pro teams today; the "quick punt" is another popular legacy.
The "single-wing" had been replaced at most colleges and in the NFL by the new (at the time) "T" formation offense by the end of the 1950s. The increasing importance of the passing game made the "single-wing" almost obsolete and particularly ineffective against good rushing defenses.
This was the case with UCLA's opponent in the Rose Bowl. The Bruins were in for a long afternoon. They managed a field goal in the first few minutes to go up 3-0, but failed to score after that. Following a UCLA fumble deep in its own territory, Stephens ran for a one-yard score. The Gophers then used ball-control offense to wear down the Bruins' defense and scored again near the end of the first half on a three-yard run by Bill Munsey.
Stephens ran the ball in from the two-yard line in the fourth quarter to close out the game, 21-3. Minnesota finished with 297 total yards (222 rushing and 75 passing) and held UCLA to an embarrassing 107 total yards. The win proved to be a showcase for Stephens, and he would be drafted in 1962 by the NFL's Cleveland Browns and the AFL's New York Titans (later the Jets). However, neither team wanted him to play quarterback, and so he ended up playing in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for several years.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, this was the end of their golden days; they would not make it back to a bowl game until 1977 and have not been back to the Rose Bowl since then. This is the longest Rose Bowl drought of the 12 current members of the Big Ten conference; even Indiana has been to the game more recently (1968).
This was UCLA's fifth Rose Bowl and its fifth Rose Bowl loss; however, the Bruins would win their next five Rose Bowl games, including three in the span of four seasons in the 1980s.