Originally posted in August 2013, in honor of the 100th Rose Bowl game a report.
Just a few days after posting about the auction of a 1902 Usher’s ribbon and suggesting how rare it was to see authentic Point-A-Minute era memorabilia on eBay…this showed up on eBay:
Indeed, an athletic department schedule of most notably the 1901 football season, of course Fielding Yost’s first in Ann Arbor, along with track and baseball schedules. Impressive.
The final two games noted on the schedule are interesting. Of course like all schedules this was printed before the season, and this one assumes Michigan will have a couple games in California: one on Christmas Day in Los Angeles against Stanford, then another game against Stanford or Cal up state in San Francisco on New Year’s Day. This turned out to be incorrect on a few fronts as Michigan capped the 1901-02 season by crushing Stanford 49-0 in Los Angeles (Pasadena to be specific) on New Year’s Day and finishing the season 11-0, outscoring opponents 550-0. No other game was played on the long road trip. (Note that had the season played out as on the schedule, the Yostmen would have played their final three games on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day respectively—completing holy trinity of sorts for Michigan fans.)
It certainly makes sense that U-M might try to play more than a single game on this brutal road trip. It took days to make it across the country—you might as well make the most of it.
Casual fans who know Michigan played in the 1902 Rose Bowl probably assume that we somehow earned a trip to Pasadena in 1901 by virtue of U-M’s unprecedented romp through the 10 “regular season” opponents. Not true obviously. The game in California was in the works well before the season but as the eBay item illustrates, the specifics didn’t crystalize until later on.
Whether it was posturing by U-M or a reality, the Wolverines’ west coast trek seemed to be in doubt as late as December 1901. In the December 5th issue of the Detroit Free Press, athletic director Charles Baird provided a statement claiming that he’d completed negotiations with Stanford and California & agreed even sorted out the financial terms (yep, even in 1901) but that these local teams were suddenly backing out. Thinking the sudden case of cold feet had something to do with Yost’s 10-0, 501-0 record, Baird called them chicken:
Baird went on to state that door was left open to still make a trip and play someone else including Nevada, Oregon or “some eastern team.”
Two days later the Free Press reported that Stanford was back in the fold, and that the game was set. The folks in Pasadena at the Tournament of Roses association already agreed to pick up the travel tab for 16 men and the rest was history. The Granddaddy of them was ready to roll and Michigan was planning to head out west on December 20 to prep for the beating they would put on the overmatched Indians:
Stanford appeared every bit as capable as the papers reported, turning back the powerful Michigan offense, time and again, early in the contest. In fact, the game’s first score did not come until 23 minutes into the first half. After a series of short gains moved the ball to the Stanford 30, halfback Willie Heston broke loose on a naked bootleg and picked up 21 yards on the first “big” play in Rose Bowl history. Three plays later, fullback Neil Snow bulled through the tiring Stanford line from the six. Bruce Shorts added the PAT to give Michigan a 6-0 lead.
Soon after Sweeley booted a 20-yard field goal, Michigan’s Chris Redden returned a weak Stanford punt 25 yards for a td, giving the Wolverines a 17-0 half-time lead.
Under the sheer power of the Michigan eleven, Stanford’s valiant defense began to crumble in the second half. The Wolverines proved relentless, scoring on nearly every possession.
With eight minutes remaining in the game, Stanford captain Ralph Fisher approached the Wolverine bench and offered to concede; Michigan consented.
The 49-0 victory capped one of the most unbelievable seasons in college football history, Michigan had outscored its opponents, 550-0, winning 11 straight games. Willie Heston, too, made believers out of his West Coast critics. He gained 170 yards in 18 carries as the Wolverines recorded 527 yards on the ground.
Related: Holy Moly! The Rosy Grail (1902 Rose Bowl Program)
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