Score by Quarters
It wasn’t a victory in the technical sense, but by this time and this moment in Rose Bowl Game history, the Pacific Coast Conference would take it, gulp, grit its collective teeth and push on.
Quoting several unnamed Midwestern coaches, one writer wrote that this was the Pacific Coast’s best team since before the war. Another wrote that the Golden Bears “made a great fight out of it – one hat pulled the Pacific Coast prestige in football back up to where it was before the war.”
Yet, it still wasn’t enough. Northwestern 20, California 14. After Illinois and Michigan (which won the Big Ten in 1948 but couldn’t return to the Rose Bowl Game because of the two-year succession rule) administered two Big Ten blowouts the previous two years, at least this one had some doubt and some suspense attached to it.
The suspense ended with 155-pound Ed Tunnicliff romping 43 yards down the right sideline for the game’s winning score. The play, coming in the game’s waning moments, was one the Wildcats used only once during the regular season. With right halfback Frank Achenbrenner in motion, left half Tunnicliff went to his right, took a direct pass from center, then took off down the sideline.
“It was the perfect play,” quarterback Don Burson said, to which one of his teammates said, “And a good thing it was.”
History and the Cal fans might beg to differ. Earlier on the drive, Tunnicliff was flattened so hard on a sweep, he flipped upside down and landed on his head. The ball popped out and Cal defensive end George Souza recovered, but referee Jim Cain’s quick whistle nullified the apparent fumble.
“Tunnicliff didn’t have the ball when he landed head first and how the play could stop until he hit the ground is beyond me,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Braven Dyer.
Earlier, Cain stretched the boundaries of controversy when he allowed Northwestern fullback Al Murakowski’s second-quarter touchdown to stand despite Murakowski clearly fumbling the ball and Cal’s Will Lotter clearly recovering it as Murakowski crashed in from the 2. That gave the Wildcats a 13-7 halftime lead, building on the 73-yard touchdown run by Frank Aschenbrenner.
Cal’s All-American fullback Jackie Jensen, who would later leave the game with a thigh injury, answers Aschenbrenner’s long run with a 67-yard scoring run of his own.
The Bears would take the lead in the third quarter, when Jack Swaner (17 carrier, 79 yards, TD) plowed his way home from the 4.
At this, it looked like Cal would be the team to break the PCC’s legacy of futility. That was, until Northwestern marched 88 yards – aided by Cain’s quick whistle on Tunnicliff’s apparent fumble and Aschenbrenner’s lone completion of the afternoon (a 17-yarder to Don Stonesifer) – to set up Tunnicliff’s winning score.
NU – Aschenbrenner, 73-yard run (Farrar kick good)
Cal – Jensen, 68-yard run (Cullum kick good)
NU – Murakowski, 1-yard run (Farrar kick missed)
Cal – Swaner, 4-yard run (Cullum kick good)
NU – Tunnicliff, 42-yard run (Farrar kick good)
Northwestern: Bob Voigt
California: Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf
Because it was getting dark, the 1949 game was the first time that the Rose Bowl turned on the lights.
NU: Aschenbrenner 11-119; Tunnicliff 11-99; Murakowski 12-33; Miller 2-8; Perricone 6-21
Cal: Jensen 11-70; Swaner 17-79; Main 8-15; Keckley 2-8; Sarver 2-6; Brunk 7-40
NU: Burson 1-4-17
Cal: Erickson 3-6-33; Celeri 3-8-50; Jenson 0-2-0
NU: Stonesifer 1-17
Cal: Van Doren 2-33; Brunk 1-17; Souza 1-15; Cunningham 1-14
NU: Aschenbrenner 6-258
Cal: Jensen 3-92; Brunk 1-40