1941 Rose Bowl
27th Rose Bowl Game
1234 Total
Nebraska 7600 13
Stanford 7770 21
DateJanuary 1, 1941
StadiumRose Bowl
LocationPasadena, California
MVPPeter Kmetovic (Stanford HB)
FavoriteStanford: 1 to 2 odds[1]
RefereeLouis "Dutch" Conlan[2][3]
Rose Bowl
 < 1940  1942

The 1941 Rose Bowl was the 27th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Wednesday, January 1. The undefeated and second-ranked Stanford Indians of the Pacific Coast Conference defeated the #7 Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Six Conference, 21–13.[4][5][6]

This was Nebraska's first bowl game and the eighth for Stanford, all in the Rose Bowl. Through 2020, it remains the only meeting between these football programs.[7]


Main article: 1940 college football season

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Main article: 1940 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team

Nebraska was 8–1 going into the Rose Bowl and ranked seventh in the nation; their only blemish was a 13–7 loss at top-ranked Minnesota,[8] who did not play in a bowl game. After the announcement of the Rose Bowl acceptance, the celebration that followed lasted for 24 hours in Lincoln, according to newspaper reports. University classes were canceled, and students stormed the state capitol, demanding that the governor lead the singing of the school song, "There Is No Place Like Nebraska." Led by fourth-year head coach Biff Jones, the Cornhuskers had two All-Americans: Warren Alfson and Forrest Behm.

Stanford Indians

See also: 1940 Stanford Indians football team

Stanford was led by first-year head coach Clark Shaughnessy, who would bring a revolutionary football style called the T formation.[9][10] This new style of playing was filled with tricks, fakes, and pitchouts that helped the Indians to a perfect 9–0 regular season and a nickname of the "Wow Boys." The new features of the style involved quarterback Frankie Albert taking the snap directly from the center.

The year before in 1939, the Indians were winless in their seven conference games under seventh-year head coach Tiny Thornhill and finished 1–7–1 overall.[9][10]

Game summary


First quarter

Second quarter

Third quarter

Fourth quarter

No Scoring

Highlight of the game

The highlight of the game is often considered to be one of the best plays in Rose Bowl history. The Indians drove from their own 23-yard line to the Cornhusker one-yard line before a valiant goal-line stand by Nebraska denied Stanford the end zone. Stanford had four cracks at the end zone from the one-yard line, but the Cornhuskers held each time.

Trailing by one point late in the third quarter, Nebraska took over on their own one and opted to punt on first down, which started the play of the game. Kmetovic took the punt at the Cornhusker 40-yard line and dashed and darted his way to the end zone, giving Stanford a 21–13 lead, which was the final score.[4][5][11]


Team Stats Stanford Nebraska
First downs 15 9
Rushing yards 202 58
Passing (att–com–int) 13–6–2 14–4–0
Passing yards 68 85
Total offense 375 128

Note: Both schools report slightly different stats, these stats are from Nebraska's records[12]


This game is generally considered the clincher that convinced football pundits that the T formation style was the offense of the future.

As the program's first bowl, the game retains a special place in Cornhuskers history; Hall of Fame head coach Bob Devaney arrived in 1962 and used to joke that he'd been in the state several years before he found out that Nebraska had actually lost the 1941 Rose Bowl.


This game is described in detail by David Dodge in his mystery novel, Shear the Black Sheep, published in 1942.


  1. ^ McLemore, Henry (December 31, 1940). "Stanford is 1-to-2 favorite over Nebraska". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. p. 21.
  2. ^ "Rose Bowl officials named for big game". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. December 17, 1940. p. 14.
  3. ^ "Game statistics". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 2, 1941. p. 11.
  4. ^ a b "Stanford's Team of Destiny turns back Nebraska in Rose Bowl game". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. January 2, 1941. p. 10.
  5. ^ a b McLemore, Henry (January 2, 1941). "Albert's handling crowns Stanford's greatest season". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. p. 20.
  6. ^ "Title Unknown" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 12, 2009. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
  7. ^ "Title Unknown". Archived from the original on 2018-01-04.
  8. ^ Super, Henry (December 16, 1940). "'Wear down the enemy, then score' – that's Nebraska's bowl plan". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. p. 25.
  9. ^ a b Super, Henry (December 17, 1940). "Stanford great gambler...but always makes its point". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. p. 31.
  10. ^ a b "Stanford coach has confidence". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. January 1, 1941. p. 11.
  11. ^ "1941 Rose Bowl recap, Stanford version -- HuskerPedia". Archived from the original on August 21, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
  12. ^ "1941 Rose Bowl, Nebraska vs Stanford football » HuskerMax game page". HuskerMax. Retrieved 2021-05-22.