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1951 Stanford Rose Bowl Football Season

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Stanford All-American Bill McColl shared stories about the 1951 Stanford football team and the 1952 Rose Bowl on our podcast.

New Head Coach Chuck Taylor

Stanford took the field in 1951 under a new head coach, Chuck Taylor. Taylor replaced Marchy Schwarz, who had compiled a 28-28-4 record at Stanford over six seasons, including a 5-3-2 record in 1950.

This wasn’t the same Chuck Taylor the famous shoes are named after. Football coach Chuck Taylor was a member of Stanford’s 1940 “Wow Boys” who went undefeated under Clark Shaughnessy and topped Nebraska in the 1941 Rose Bowl.

Taylor was only 31 years old when the 1951 NCAA football season started.

A Fast Start

Stanford started the season at 2-0 before visiting the Big House at Michigan. Stanford scored three second-quarter touchdowns in the game, one of them by Bill McColl, and marched on to a 23-13 victory. (NOTE: You can learn more about Michigan football in that era with Michigan legend Roger Zatkoff in episode 22 of The Game Before the Money Podcast.)

Stanford’s big road win over Michigan placed them in the AP Top 20, and the team kept climbing. Stanford topped UCLA the next week and the Santa Cruz Sentinel credited McColl with “turning the tide” with his pass catching in Stanford’s 21-7 win. McColl was also noted in a headline for winning “honors” for his early season success.

Stanford headed into November undefeated, as Bill McColl scored the winning touchdown in a 14-7 win over Hugh McElhenny and the Washington Huskies to close out October.  Stanford soon climbed into the AP Top 10.

Stanford vs USC 1951 Showdown

The win over Washington set up a Top 10 showdown with undefeated USC and their star Frank Gifford on November 10, 1951.   Over 96,000 fans attended the game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. McColl opened the scoring with a touchdown to put Stanford ahead 7-0.

USC kicked off early in the fourth quarter with a 14-7 lead. Stanford’s Bob Mathias, who previously won an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon in the 1948 Olympics, returned the kicked 96 yards for a touchdown. Stanford next faced two setbacks – they missed the extra point, so USC still led 14-13. Soon afterward, Stanford quarterback Gary Kerkorian fumbled in his own end zone and USC recovered for a touchdown. The Trojans made the extra point but it was nullified due to a penalty. They missed the second try, and USC led 20-13 with about 7 minutes left.

The rest of the game was all Stanford.

Stanford rallied for two late touchdowns, the game-winner coming in the closing seconds to defeat USC 27-20, to gain the upper hand for the Pacific Coast Conference’s Rose Bowl berth.

Hear All-American Bill McColl share stories of Stanford’s 1951 season and the team’s historic game against Army in 1950 on our football oral history podcast.

1951 Pacific Coast Conference Champions

Stanford defeated Oregon State the week after topping USC. The team headed into their annual “Big Game” against Cal ranked #3 in the country.

Cal thumped Stanford by a 20-7 score, but Stanford’s 6-1 conference record lofted the team into the Rose Bowl against Illinois. Stanford held a lead in the Rose Bowl until quarterback Gary Kevorkian suffered an injury that forced him from the game. Illinois took command late and scored a then-record 27 points in the fourth quarter to win 40-7.

Below is a fun 1952 Rose Bowl photo of players taken during the week of the game. Stanford All-American Bill McColl is on the far right.

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