1954 Rose Bowl: Competitive loss to Michigan State
The third time wasn’t quite the charm for the UCLA Bruins when it came to winning the Rose Bowl, but it was the best appearance for the program. UCLA fell to Michigan State 28-20 in front of over 100,000 fans on New Year’s Day 1954. The Bruins finished the 1953 campaign as the No. 5 team in the country with a record of 8-2.
UCLA had a chance to tie the game at 21 in the fourth quarter when the Bruins recovered a fumble and took it to the house, but they failed to convert on the extra point. Billy Wells of Michigan State returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown with just under five minutes remaining to put the finishing touches on the 28-20 win. Wells was named MVP.
This was Year 5 of Red Sanders’ tenure as head coach, and the team finished at No. 5 in the country even though he still had not won a bowl game. The next year the Bruins did not play in a bowl game, but at 9-0 were given a share of the National Championship by the AP.