Ohio State football returns to the Rose Bowl. Here's some good, and bad, history in Pasadena

Joe Harrington
The Columbus Dispatch

The first bowl game the Ohio State football program played in was the 1921 Rose Bowl. It wasn't a great start for the Buckeyes, as they lost to California 28-0. 

More than a century later, the Buckeyes are back in Pasadena after accepting a bid following Big Ten champion Michigan's selection to the College Football Playoff. No. 6 Ohio State will play No. 11 Utah on Jan. 1. 

Ohio State is making its 16th appearance in the "Granddaddy of them all" and its first since 2019. The Buckeyes are 8-7 in the New Year's Day staple.

This is Ohio State coach Ryan Day's first Rose Bowl appearance. His three predecessors, Urban Meyer, Jim Tressel and John Cooper, were 3-0 in the game. Tressel beat Oregon 26-17 in 2010 and Meyer beat Washington 28-23 in 2019.

Cooper won possibly his biggest game as Ohio State's coach when OSU rallied to beat Arizona State 20-17 in 1997 as Joe Germaine hit David Boston in the end zone with 19 seconds left. 

Ohio State has played in only three Rose Bowls in the past 30 years (1997, 2010, 2019). Here are some Ohio State Rose Bowl facts:

Ohio State's first 10 bowl games were in the Rose Bowl

The Buckeyes played in the Rose Bowl in 1921, but didn't return to a bowl until 1950, when they again played California. They won 17-14 for the program's first bowl win ever. 

The Buckeyes won three more bowl games after that, all Rose Bowls, in 1955, 1958 and 1969. Ohio State lost the 1971 and 1973 Rose Bowls, won in 1974, then lost two more in 1975 and 1976.

The 1977 Orange Bowl was the first time Ohio State played in a bowl game that wasn't the Rose, and they beat Colorado 27-10. The Buckeyes didn't go back to the Rose Bowl until 1980, when they lost to USC 17-16.

Ohio State famously declined a Rose Bowl invite

Columbus Dispatch columnist Michael Arace recently wrote about the time Ohio State decided not to go to the Rose Bowl. In 1961, Ohio State faculty voted not to send the Buckeyes to Pasadena. 

Minnesota went instead and beat UCLA 21-3. 

Most rushing yards in Ohio State bowl game history came in the Rose Bowl

In 1971, Ohio State rushed for 364 yards against Stanford. Rex Kern had 129 of those yards and John Brockington had 101. 

The 1971 27-17 loss may have cost Ohio State a championship. The Texas Longhorns, the defending champions in 1969, were crowned the national champions before their bowl game against Notre Dame by the coaches poll which, was run by the wire service UPI.

Ohio State was No. 2 in the AP poll.

Notre Dame upset the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl on the same day Ohio State lost to Stanford.

Nebraska claims the 1970 national championship, as the Cornhuskers were voted by the AP, as does Texas. 

Which Ohio State coach has won the most Rose Bowls?

That would be Woody Hayes, who won four Rose Bowl games. Hayes also has lost the most (four). Hayes' first Rose Bowl win was in 1955 when Ohio State beat USC 20-7. 

Ohio State head coaching records in the Rose Bowl 

  • John Wilce: 0-1
  • Wes Fesler 1-0
  • Woody Hayes 4-4
  • Earle Bruce: 0-2
  • John Cooper: 1-0
  • Jim Tressel: 1-0
  • Urban Meyer: 1-0

When was the last time Ohio State lost in the Rose Bowl?

Ohio State is on a three-game winning streak in Pasadena. The Buckeyes' last loss came in 1985, a 20-17 loss to USC. Ohio State coach Earle Bruce was 0-2 in Rose Bowls. 

That 1985 game is significant because...

Could another Cris Carter receiving record fall?

The most receiving yards in Ohio State bowl game history is 172 by Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter and came in the 1985 Rose Bowl.

Earlier this season, Carter was surpassed by Chris Olave on the program's all-time touchdown receptions list. Olave eventually became the all-time program leader when he passed David Boston. 

Jaxon Smith-Njigba set a record for receptions in a game earlier this year. He also had 240 yards receiving in that game. Garrett Wilson went for 126 yards receiving against Michigan State while Olave had 140, their biggest reception yard days of the season. 

Carter's nine catches in that 1985 game is an Ohio State Rose Bowl record. 

Some Ohio State all-time bowl game records with Rose Bowl connections

Like Carter's big game, many of Ohio State's bowl records were set in Rose Bowls. Here are some notable ones. 

Most points scored in a Rose Bowl: 42 vs. USC in 1974. 

Most points allowed in a bowl game: 42 vs. USC in 1973 

That's right, a year after losing to the eventual national champion Trojans 42-17, Ohio State came back and won the next season 42-21. 

Ohio State wide receiver David Boston catches a pass from quarterback Joe Germaine for the winning touchdown in the final seconds of their 20-17 win over Arizona State at the 83rd Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1997.

Most passing yards in the Rose Bowl: Art Schlichter's 297 yards against USC in 1980 is the most by a Buckeye. 

Pass completions in a Rose Bowl: Dwayne Haskins completed 25 in 2019 against Washington. 

The record before Haskins' game was 24 by Mike Tomczak and it was a program bowl game record. Haskins' record didn't last long as Justin Fields completed 30 passes in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl against Clemson.  

Most rushing yards in the Rose Bowl: Archie Griffin rushed for 149 yards in 1974 against USC. 

Most punts: Brent Bartholomew punted eight times in the 1997 Rose Bowl. Ohio State, though, won 20-17.

The longest interception: Vic Janowicz, 54 yards, 1950 Rose Bowl. 

Janowicz went on to win the Heisman Trophy in the 1950 season.

Most receiving touchdowns in a Rose Bowl: David Boston, 2 in 1997. 

Many Ohio State receivers have caught two touchdown passes in a bowl game, including Olave against Clemson last season. Boston's two grabs were the difference in the 1997 win. 

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