1902: THE GAME THAT STARTED IT ALL…
The first contest in Rose Bowl Game history, played on a 110-yard field in Tournament Park, was
not even a full game.
Michigan capped one of the most astounding seasons in college football history with a 49–0
pummeling of Stanford. The Indians conceded with eight minutes left in the game, giving the
Wolverines the first Rose Bowl Game title.
The football game was born as an addition to the sporting events that had complemented the
New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade since its inception in 1890. The game was to feature
an intersectional postseason matchup—the first of its kind—pitting the best team from the East
against the best team from the West. The forward pass was yet to become legal, touchdowns and
field goals each were worth five points, and extra points were worth one.
Michigan was invited to play Stanford, champion of the Pacific Coast Universities. According
to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, the Wolverines “left Ann Arbor on
Dec. 17 with temperatures below freezing and six inches of snow on the ground. Eight days later,
Michigan arrived in Los Angeles and was greeted by 80-plus degrees and newspaper reports
listing several reasons why Stanford should win.”
Twenty minutes into the game, the 8,500 spectators that packed the stands and sidelines
designed for only a few thousand had little reason to doubt those newspaper reports. Stanford’s
defense repeatedly stopped a Michigan attack that had scored 501 points in 10 games so far that
year. The score was 0–0.
However, 23 minutes into the game, Michigan halfback Willie Heston broke loose for a 21-yard
gain to Stanford’s 9-yard line. Three plays later, Michigan scored the first touchdown in Rose Bowl
Game history on a 6-yard run by fullback Neil Snow. After a 20-yard field goal, Michigan’s Chris
Redden scored on a 25-yard punt return to make the score 17–0 at halftime.
In the second half, the Wolverines simply dominated. They scored on runs of 2, 8, 17, 4 and 21
yards, in addition to a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Overall, Michigan ran for 527 yards on 90 carries, with Heston taking 18 of those carries for 170
yards. Snow ran for 107 yards, and the powerful fullback punched the ball into the end zone five
times. The Wolverines’ defense held Stanford to 67 yards on 24 carries.
Michigan’s victory was its 11th without a loss that season. The Wolverines outscored their
opponents 550–0. Despite the 8,500 spectators that packed the field, it was reported that the
football game didn’t meet financial expectations. The lopsided score, too, made organizers fear
that spectators might lose interest, so the game was replaced by a polo match in 1903, and by
chariot races beginning in 1904, until football returned in 1916.
MICHIGAN 49, STANFORD 0
GAME SUMMARY scoring by halves
MICHIGAN 17 32 49
STANFORD 0 0 0
(Touchdowns and field goals worth 5 points; PATs 1 point.)
Mich Snow, 6-yard run (Shorts kick)
Mich Sweeley, 20-yard field goal
Mich Redden, 25-yard punt return (Shorts kick)
Mich Snow, 2-yard run (kick failed)
Mich Redden, 25-yard fumble return (Shorts kick)
Mich Snow, 8-yard run (kick failed)
Mich Snow, 17-yard run (kick failed)
Mich Snow, 4-yard run (Shorts kick)
Mich Herrnstein, 21-yard run (kick failed)
Michigan: Fielding “Hurry Up” Yost
Stanford: Charles M. Fickert
Twenty-three minutes into the first half, Michigan’s
Willie Heston broke loose on a naked bootleg and
picked up 21 yards. It was the first “big play” in
Rose Bowl Game history.
Team Stats Michigan Stanford
First Downs 27 5
Net Yards Rushing 527 67
Rushing Attempts 90 24
Punts–Avg. 21–38.9 16–34.9
Fumbles 1 9
Mich: Heston—170; Snow—107; Herrnstein—97
Mich: Sweeley 21–819.
Stan: Fisher 5–160; McFadden 4–119.