Score by Quarters
A controversial touchdown call in a defense-dominated game allowed USC to defeat Michigan in the 65th Rose Bowl Game, 17-10, and brought back memories of the 1949 Rose Bowl Game when Northwestern’s Art Murakowski scored a disputed touchdown against Cal, leaving the same sour taste of defeat in Michigan’s mouth that Cal had tasted 30 years prior.
USC’s Charles White’s game-winning 3-yard dive into the end zone in the second quarter proved to be the only lead that the Trojans needed for the rest of the day. However, there was some controversy to the touchdown with the line judge raising his hands and declaring touchdown and the umpire signaling a fumble had occurred, and it was Michigan’s ball.
While diving toward the end zone, White was stripped of the ball by Michigan linebacker Ron Simpkins, who recovered and gained possession for the Michigan offense at its 1-yard line. Even White was surprised by the touchdown call, having thumped his fist into the turf for fumbling at such a key point in the game.
After conferencing with fellow officials, the head linesman ruled and reaffirmed with the line judge that the play did result in a touchdown.
“The line judge made the call on the touchdown,” said Jack Spenger, Pac-10 supervisor of officials. “He was lined up on the goal line and ruled on the forward progress of the ball. If any portion of the ball breaks the plane of the goal, it’s a touchdown. He ruled a touchdown immediately. The umpire was back 4 or 5 yards deep. He just saw the loose ball.”
Multiple camera views from NBC could not adequately show whether the ball broke the plane. The Goodyear blimp was able to provide a replay which showed that neither White nor the football had broken the plane of the goal line.
“I didn’t see the controversial call,” said Michigan Head Coach Bo Schembechler. “I don’t want to talk about the officiating. It will just get me in trouble, but it’s a shame that something like that has to take away from the effort of our kids.”
The game itself was a defensive showdown with USC only gaining 157 yards of total offense to Michigan’s 236. Both schools had entered the game averaging more than 400 yards a game.
“You’ve got to give credit to our defense,” USC Head Coach John Robinson said. “It played exceptionally and did so against one of the great players in college football.”
That great player was Michigan quarterback Rick Leach, who threw two costly interceptions in the first half, setting up 10 of USC’s 17 points and giving the Trojans a halftime lead of 17-3.
Leach threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to tailback Roosevelt Smith in the third quarter, cutting the USC lead to seven. But this was as close as Michigan would get.
“Our offense was like pulling teeth,” Robinson said. “We never had a rhythm, but a lot of that was due to the Michigan defense. It kept us off balance and it showed great coaching, the best coaching job done against a USC team since I’ve been here.”
Sunny; 68 degrees
USC – Brenner, 9-yard pass from McDonald (Jordan kick)
Mich – Willner, 36-yard field goal
USC – White, 3-yard run (Jordan kick)
USC – Jordan, 35-yard field goal
Mich – R. Smith, 44-yard pass from Leach (Willner kick)
Michigan: Bo Schembechler
USC: John Robinson
USC beat Michigan 17-10 in the 1979 Rose Bowl Game, thanks to a controversial ruling on Charles White’s 3-yard TD run in the second quarter. Just as he is entering the end zone, White was hit hard and loses the ball. Wolverine linebacker Jerry Meter came up with an apparent fumble recovery on the 1-yard line. However, the line judge determined that White had crossed the goal line before losing control of the ball and signaled for the touchdown – the score proved to be the difference for the Trojans.
Rushing — (M): Huckleby 9-28; Davis 8-28; Leach 12-22; R. Smith 10-22;
Woolfolk 1-(-1); (USC): C. White 32-99; Cain 14-90; McDonald 8-(-55).
Passing — (M): Leach 10-21-137; Jackson 0-1-0; (USC): McDonald 4-9-23.
Receiving — (M): R. Smith 4-58; Clayton 2-40; G. Johnson 2-23; Huckleby 1-7;
(USC): C. White 2-2; Garcia 1-12; Brenner 1-9.