Score by Quarters
After the 1956 Rose Bowl Game, Red was blue.
“Missing were the bon mots, the adroit ripostes, the dry wisecracks that generally spice a postgame session with Red,” wrote Frank Finch in the Los Angeles Times. “After huddling in a closed session for 10 minutes with his vanquished gladiators, Sanders subjected himself to a barrage of questions. Never once did he dodge the issue, but it was patent that he was an extremely disappointed man.”
The UCLA Bruins lost the 1956 Rose Bowl Game, 17-14, to the Michigan State Spartans, who kicked a 41-yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining to win.
That field goal, however, was set up by a Bruin offense that was given a late-game chance to win, and balked.
Tied 14-14, Spartan Jerry Planutis had just missed what would have been a tie-breaking field goal and turned the ball over to UCLA. The Bruin offense, which gained 197 total yards and 14 points on the day, lost it.
“Under the terrific pressure of the moment an unidentified Bruin broke from the huddle and looked toward the Bruin bench for, shall we say, advice,” Finch wrote.
Line coach Jim Myers took it upon himself – without consulting Sanders – to cock his right arm in an obvious “pass” motion. Out came the flag, and back went the Bruins: 15 yards, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for coaching from the bench.
Then, on second down, quarterback Ronnie Knox couldn’t find anyone open and was called for hitting an ineligible receiver.
Now, at second and 29 from the 1-yard line, the Bruins, oddly, elected to punt.
“That second-down punt was not called from the bench,” Sanders said afterward. “In fact, we sent in a sub to tell Knox to stall for time and try to run out the clock.”
Well, Knox punted, and his coverage team interefered with the receiver, yet another Bruin penalty. Three downs later, Dave Kaiser kicked the game-winner.
In what was often the journalistic style of the time, Ed Cronin of the Los Angeles Times summed up the day: “The tears shed by crestfallen Westwood partisans threatened to wash out the Colorado Street Bridge when Dave Kaiser kicked a 41-yard field goal with but 7 seconds remaining to be played.”
Early on, UCLA’s chances looked good to the throngs of Bruins who made the short trip from Westwood to Pasadena that Jan. 2. On the first play from scrimmage, Michigan State’s Earl Morrall threw an interception to Jim Decker, who took it back to the Spartan 16-yard line. The Bruins punched it in from there to take a 7-0 lead.
Michigan State struck back in the second quarter on a 13-yard pass from Morrall to Clarence Peak and again early in the fourth quarter on a 67-yard touchdown pass to John Lewis.
“The Bruins appeared to be dead pigeons,” Cronin wrote, but UCLA answered two drives later with a five-play, 56-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. However, that would be all the Bruins could muster, as their next drive was the disaster that led to the loss.
Clear and warm
UCLA – Davenport, 2-yard run (Decker kick good)
MSU – Peaks, 13-yard pass from Morrall (Planutis kick good)
MSU – Lewis, 67-yard pass from Peaks (Planutis kick good)
UCLA – Peters, 1-yard run (Decker kick good)
MSU – Kaiser, 41-yard field goal
UCLA: Henry Russell Sanders
Michigan State: Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty
In 1956, the game was played on Jan. 2, because New Year’s Day was a Sunday. It featured two of the most racially integrated college football teams of the day with six African-American players for the Bruins and seven for the Spartans.
MSU: Kowalcyzk 13-88; Planutis 12-66; Peaks 11-56; Morrall 10-28
UCLA: Brown 14-63; Davenport 10-26; Peters 6-20; Knox 6-12
MSU: Morrall 4-15-38; Peaks 1-2-67; Kowalcyzk 1-1-25
UCLA: Knox 2-8-61
MSU: Peaks 3-40; J. Lewis 1-67; Hiensly 1-13
UCLA: Loudo 1-14; Decker 1-47