January 1, 1968: USC 14, Indiana 3.

I wish the list were so long as to make this project impractical, but this post is the first in a series looking back at IU's eight previous bowl appearances. While IU has won three of its eight bowl appearances, certainly none of IU's subsequent bowl bids has eclipsed the significance of the Hoosiers' out-of-nowhere appearance in the Rose Bowl after the 1967 season. IU entered the game ranked fourth, tied for its highest-ever AP ranking, and lost to eventual national champion USC. The box score (click for a readable version), courtesy of the IU media guide, is below:



USC won comfortably on the scoreboard and statistically. The Trojans outgained IU 317-189, and the Trojans, let by future Heisman winner/Pro Football Hall of Famer/murderer OJ Simpson, rushed for 248 yards, including 25-128 and two touchdowns by Simpson himself. USC so dominated on the ground that the Trojans had no incentive to do anything else, attempting only nine passes. Regular season hero Harry Gonso was 9-25 passing for 110 yards for IU, and running back John Isenbarger managed only 38 yards on 12 carries. To this date, kicker Dave Kornowa, who kicked a field goal in the second quarter, remains the only IU player to score in the Rose Bowl.

While the game may have been a letdown, it was and remains a highlight of IU's athletic history. IU was then the last Big Ten school to make its first Rose Bowl appearance, and so it would have been significant even if it were not IU's only appearance. The Hoosiers were 1-8-1 in 1966 and had not won more than three games in a season since going 4-4-1 in 1959, and had posted only one winning season (5-3-1 in 1958) since the departure of the legendary Bo McMillin after the 1947 season. IU's 1967 Rose Bowl appearance was as improbable as Northwestern's 1995 appearance.

Here are some photos I stumbled across in IU's Hoagy Carmichael collection some time ago while looking for something else. Whoever catalogued these images did not grasp their significance, describing them as "Hoagy Carmichael in a crowd of spectators" and "Crowd at an Indiana University football game" and such things.






While IU seems far from a return to Pasadena, there were times that a mere return to any postseason competition seemed improbable. Let's hope that everyone reading this is still around when it happens again.

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