Score by Quarters
The Pac-10 Conference had dominated the last six Rose Bowl Games and 16 of the last 18. The Big Ten hadn’t won since 1981, when Michigan beat Washington, 23-6. But the Michigan State Spartans had other ideas in 1988.
It was déjà vu for the USC Trojans as they watched Michigan State claim the victory. Only this Rose Bowl Game loss hurt more than their regular season defeat in East Lansing. Like the meeting in East Lansing on Sept. 7, 1987, the Trojans were their own worst enemy, committing five turnovers and dropping countless passes.
However, as in the first game, it was the most routine play that hurt the Trojans – the center snap to the quarterback – that sealed their fate. The Trojans had muffed two snaps in their first game against the Spartans, and with 1:37 left in the game and what would have been the winning drive, the ball bounced off quarterback Rodney Peete’s shin, rolled downfield and was recovered by Michigan State free safety Todd Krumm.
“I’ve never had this kind of attention before,” center John Katnick said. “I feel like I’m a quarterback right now. I feel horrible, disappointed in myself.”
Peete wouldn’t let Katnick carry all the blame on this day.
“You can’t blame just one person,” Peete said. “The snap was low, but I really didn’t get my hands down either. That’s too bad it had to come down to that one play.”
After USC kicked a 34-yard field goal, Michigan State came back with rushing touchdown scores in the first and second quarters that completed drives of 76 and 80 yards to take a 14-3 halftime lead.
With All-American tailback Lorenzo White having rushed for 89 yards in the first half, the USC defense stepped up and held White to 24 in the second half. Michigan State countered with some “fresh legs” in running back Blake Ezor and big plays from quarterback Bobby McAllister, who only completed 4 of 7 passes, but covered 128 yards in the run-oriented offense.
“Our plan was for Lorenzo White to do the heavy running for most of the game,” said Michigan State Head Coach George Perles. “Then bring in a fresh Blake Ezor for his slashing ability and quickness. It didn’t work quite as well today as it has in other games.”
McAllister picked up the running game in the second half by making plays with his arm. USC tied the game at 17 midway through the fourth quarter on two Peete passing touchdowns. Minutes later McAllister made the play of the game. Under heavy pressure, McAllister scrambled to his left and then swung back to the right side of the field, heading for the sideline. He sighted receiver Andre Rison and threw the ball where Rison could split the USC safeties to make the catch for a 55-yard play.
“I waved him (Rison) downfield,” McAllister said. “I jumped in the air to give him more time. I knew he could beat anyone one-on-one.”
Six plays later kicker John Langeloh kicked a 36-yard field goal for a 20-17 lead.
After turning the ball over on the muffed snap, the Trojans regained control of the ball with 31 seconds left in the game and no timeouts for one last chance. Peete attempted desperation passes, but his last one was intercepted by strong-safety John Miller.
“In my opinion, the Rose Bowl is the epitome of great football, just like I’ve always remembered it from my youth,” Perles added post-game. “UCLA may play home games here and the pros may use it once in a while for the Super Bowl, but the Rose Bowl is still really about the Big Ten against the Pac-10.”
Mostly Sunny; 65 degrees
USC – Rodriguez, 34-yard field goal
MSU – White, 5-yard run (Langeloh kick good)
MSU – White, 3-yard run (Langeloh kick good)
USC – Henry, 33-yard pass from Peete (Rodriguez kick good)
MSU – Langeloh, 40-yard field goal
USC – Henry, 22-yard pass from Peete (Rodriguez kick good)
MSU – Langeloh, 36-yard field goal
USC: Larry Smith
Michigan State: George Perles
1988 was the first “live” network broadcast of the Rose Bowl Game in Spanish.
USC: Peete 11-54; Holt 10-44; Tanner 2-10; Ervins 4-4; Lockwood 6-41; McLean 1-8
MSU: White 35-113; Pugh 1-2; J. Moore 1-9; Ezor 11-25
USC: Peete 22-41-249
MSU: McAllister 4-7-128
USC: Ervins 1-7; Henry 3-66; Green 7-58; Jackson 3-50; Holt 3-17; Lockwood 2-19; Tanner 1-15; Affholter 2-17
MSU: Rison 2-91; Bouyer 1-29; Sargent 1-8
USC: Sperle 4-180
MSU: G. Montgomery 8-377