Score by Quarters
The Hoosier Nation came to Pasadena in full force, 15,000 strong to cheer on Indiana in its first-ever bowl game. It was a dream season for No. 4 ranked Indiana, whose only loss coming into the game was against Minnesota.
An estimated 15,000 fans made their way west to support coach John Pont’s Cinderella squad but left disappointed as the Trojans’ O. J. Simpson ran for two touchdowns and gained 128 yards in USC’s 14-3 victory.
Indiana finished in a three-way tie for the Big Ten championship with Minnesota and Purdue but was chosen as the conference’s representative in the Rose Bowl Game because it had never been to Pasadena.
The Hoosiers had rebounded from a 1-8-1 record the season before.
“I think what most of our fans remember is not that we got beat, but that we got there,” Pont told The Evansville Courier & Press in 2002. Pont became an instant hero in Indiana and was named the major college coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association of America for his team’s play in 1967.
The game still holds huge significance to the school in Bloomington. Indiana has not since been back to the Rose Bowl Game since.
USC coach John McKay enjoyed a pretty fair year himself thanks to the heroics of Simpson. The 1968 game was McKay’s second of four straight trips to Pasadena.
Indiana was down just 7-3 at the half, its only score on the day coming on a 17-yard field goal by Dave Kornowa. The 35-yard drive in eight plays was begun by sophomore Harry Gonso, who had a nice 26-yard punt return and then led the charge shouting out instructions from behind center.
USC scored on its first possession of the game, driving 84 yards on 13 plays in which Simpson carried the ball eight times for 48 yards, including the final two.
Simpson shared Player of the Game honors with quarterback Steve Sogge. The second USC touchdown consumed 45 yards in six plays, with Simpson contributing gains of 15, 5 and the final 3 yards.
Indiana tried gallantly to come back with a drive in the fourth quarter. On a crucial series, Gonso injured his right ankle and had to sit for two plays coming back on fourth and one. But he threw incomplete giving USC the ball back on its own 37-yard line to all but seal the game.
Said Gonso after the game: “I compare USC’s defensive line with Minnesota and the Trojan linebackers with Green Bay.”
Looking back on the game years later, Gonso said: “We had several functions and events before the game with USC. We didn’t see them as athletes because they were in their dress clothes. But when we walked on the field with them for the first time, and it was Indiana and SC, I went, ‘Oh my God. What have we gotten ourselves into?’ We probably had four or five real studs, and they had 30.”
USC – Simpson, 2-yard run (Aldridge kick good)
Ind – Kornowa, 17-yard field goal
USC – Simpson, 3-yard run (Aldridge kick good)
USC: John McKay
Indiana: John Pont
The game was the first “live” satellite beaming of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game to other parts of the world.
Ind: Cole 10-21; Gonso 15-11; Isenbarger 12-38l Krivoshia 4-9
USC: Dale 2-10; Page 5-14; Scott 18-85; Simpson 25-128; Sogge 6-17; McCullough 1-(-6)
Ind: Gonso 9-25-110
USC: Sogge 4-7-57; Page 1-1-12
Ind: Butcher 3-43; Gage 6-67
USC: Drake 3-46; McCullough 2-23
Ind: Isenbarger 4-164
USC: Aldridge 4-165