January 1, 1968
Indiana football diehards will remember this date as the first and, currently, only Rose Bowl appearance for their beloved Hoosiers.
(And believe me, while they may be few, I'm betting Indiana football fans represent a level of die hard incomprehensible to us spoiled rotten types who cheer on the Nebraskas, Ohio States, Oklahomas and Southern Cals of the world.)
History will show that they came up short in a 14-3 loss to the Trojans of Southern Cal led by 128 yards and both touchdowns from future good citizen OJ Simpson, but the fact that they were even there was probably nothing short of amazing.
The 1967 Indiana Hoosiers were led by a stout defense, and that was somewhat of a necessity since they scored over 20 points only three times all season. Despite an offense that didn't exactly strike terror in the heart of opposing defenses, they found ways to win and win often finishing the regular season 9-1 including a 6-1 Big 10 mark. This mark was good for a three way 1st place tie with Minnesota and Purdue, but since the other two finished 8-2, the Hoosiers got the trip to Pasadena.
It should also be noted that despite their #4/#6 national rankings, Indiana's winning ways may have put as many of their older fans in the cardiac ward as they elated others. But while folks may have been clutching their chests in the stands, the Hoosiers had no issues with tight contests as seven of their nine wins were by 7 points or less.
By the way, this season could also arguably called the greatest turnaround in NCAA history as they were rebounding from a 1-8-1 campaign in 1966. Head Coach John Pont's work didn't go unnoticed as he was named the Eddie Robinson (FWAA), Bear Bryant (AFCW) and Walter Camp Coach of the Year.
Their reward was Simpson and a John McKay-led Southern Cal team that was in the midst of a four year Rose Bowl run. Just what were they up against? As QB Harry Gonso later said:
"We had several functions and events before the game with USC. We didn't see them as athletes because they were in their dress clothes. But when we walked on the field with them for the first time, and it was Indiana and SC, I went, ‘Oh my God. What have we gotten ourselves into?' We probably had four or five real studs, and they had 30."
Gonso's assessment was accurate and the #1 Trojans held Indiana to 189 yards and their only 17-yard FG came on 35 yard drive that began in Trojan territory. However, the Hoosiers battled valiantly throughout the contest, and the 15,000 strong contingent of Indiana fans who made the trip have a story that no one back in Bloomington can match to date.
Oh yeah. 1968 also saw the Ohio St. Buckeyes finish 10-0 and claim the national title on New Years Day 1969 by defeating the Trojans with the help of 11 All-Americans and six 1st round NFL draft picks.
Give me the story of those plucky Hoosiers any time.
(Likely the sum of Indiana's offensive highlights for the day...)