1979 Rose Bowl
65th Rose Bowl Game
1234 Total
Michigan 0370 10
USC 71000 17
DateJanuary 1, 1979
StadiumRose Bowl
LocationPasadena, California
MVPCharles White (USC RB)
Rick Leach (Michigan QB)
FavoriteUSC by 5 points [1]
RefereePaul Kamanski (Pac-10);
split crew: Pac-10, Big Ten)
Attendance105,629 [2]
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersCurt Gowdy, John Brodie,
and O. J. Simpson
Rose Bowl
 < 1978  1980

The 1979 Rose Bowl was a college football bowl game played in Pasadena, California, on January 1, 1979. It was the 65th Rose Bowl Game. The USC Trojans, champions of the Pacific-10 Conference, defeated the Michigan Wolverines, (co) champions of the Big Ten Conference, 17–10.[2][3][4][5] USC running back Charles White and Michigan quarterback Rick Leach were named the Players of the Game.


Main article: 1978 NCAA Division I-A football season


Main article: 1978 Michigan Wolverines football team

Michigan came into the game ranked fifth in both major polls with a 10–1 record, with their only loss to Michigan State. The Wolverines tied for the Big Ten title with Michigan State, and earned the Rose Bowl berth because the Spartans were on probation. Michigan had been to the previous two Rose Bowls, but lost both.[1]


Main article: 1978 USC Trojans football team

USC came into the game ranked third in both major polls with an 11–1 record. In September, USC decisively defeated then #1 ranked Alabama 24–14 in Birmingham, but subsequently suffered their lone defeat to new Pac-10 member Arizona State, falling 20–7 in Tempe in mid-October. USC defeated UCLA 17–10 to win the Pac-10, and then closed out the regular season by defeating defending national champion Notre Dame 27–25. USC had also defeated Big-10 regular season co-champion Michigan State 30–9 in late September. The Trojans entered the game as five-point favorites.[1]

Charles White's "Phantom Touchdown"

USC had driven deep into Michigan territory in the second quarter. At the three-yard line in a dive over the middle towards the goal-line, Charles White was hit hard by Michigan's great middle linebacker Ron Simpkins and fumbled the ball before he entered the end-zone.[6][7] The ball was recovered by co-captain linebacker Jerry Meter. The officials for this game were made up of a Pac-10/Big Ten crew. Upon White's fumble, the umpire (a Pac-10 official) immediately and correctly marked the ball around the one-yard line and signaled that there had been a change of possession. Then the line judge, a Big Ten official, came running in raising his hands signaling that White had scored a touchdown.[2][4] This touchdown has become known as White's "Phantom Touchdown" as he was awarded the score after first fumbling, and entered the end-zone without the ball.[5] This has been confirmed by White himself.

The touchdown put USC up 14–3 and they added a field goal before halftime. The only score in the second half was an extended play by Michigan in the third quarter that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown pass.


A mild earthquake, 4.6 on the Richter scale, took place shortly before halftime but caused no disruptions.[2][3][4]


First quarter
Second quarter
Third quarter
Fourth quarter


Earlier in the day at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, #2 Alabama upset #1 Penn State, 14–7. USC vaulted into the #1 spot in the UPI poll, while Alabama was first in the AP poll.

The loss was Michigan's third straight in the Rose Bowl and fourth consecutive in major bowls; their most recent postseason win was in January 1965. Two years later, they returned to Pasadena and won the Rose Bowl.

This was the fifth straight win for the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl and ninth in the last ten. USC returned the following year and successfully defended their title.

This was the final Rose Bowl for television broadcaster Curt Gowdy; Dick Enberg took over play-by-play duties the following year.


  1. ^ a b c "Rose Bowl winner could be national champion". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 31, 1978. p. 3B.
  2. ^ a b c d "USC No. 1?". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. January 2, 1979. p. 29.
  3. ^ a b Hofmann, Dale (January 2, 1979). "White's TD gives Michigan a jolt". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 1, part 2.
  4. ^ a b c "A call, not the quake, shakes the Rose Bowl". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). UPI. January 2, 1979. p. 1B.
  5. ^ a b Jares, Joe (January 8, 1979). "Rose Bowl". Sports Illustrated. p. 14.
  6. ^ "The List: Worst calls in sports history". ESPN.
  7. ^ "Biggest Blown Calls in Sports History". Bleacher Report. June 26, 2011.