When The Wildcats From Evanston (No, Not Lexington) Were Kings For A Day

If there’s ever been a football program in the past 50 years that’s had a Rodney Dangerfield “no respect” problem, it’s the Purple People from Evanston.

The Wildcats were once perennial proud contenders in the Big Ten Conference, feared from Columbus to Minneapolis and all points in between. But after a brief moment of glory in the Ara Parseghan era, our boys sunk like a lead balloon and have only been able to come up for a brief gasp of air ever since.  Playing in a conference with Ohio State and Michigan is no way to guarantee yourself many championships.

And yet right in the middle of one of the most powerful Big Ten mini-dynasties of all time – a postwar run by Michigan that included a 25 game winning streak – the Wildcats won a Rose Bowl.  A killer 1948 schedule that included unbeaten Michigan and Notre Dame produced two losses, but other than that it was eight easy wins and a trip to Pasadena, with the right to play the # 4 ranked California Golden Bears on New Year’s Day.  The unbeaten Berkeley eleven was mentored by former Northwestern coach Lynn “Pappy”Waldorf, while the Wildcats’ coach Bob Voigts had himself played under the legendary Cal coach during his Northwestern years.

It was a tough assignment, but the Wildcats parlayed four interceptions and a 43-yard dash by “Little” Ed Tunnicliff  to nip the Berkeley eleven in the final minutes by a count of 20 to 14.  It was a thriller all the way that also witnessed a touchdown run of  73 yards by the Wildcats’ Frank Aschenbrenner that was quickly countered less than a minute later by a 67-yard scoring gallop by the Golden Bears’ All-American Jackie Jensen.  It was only the third Rose Bowl to match the Big Ten against the then-Pacific Coast  Conference, and the Wildcats made the most of it.

Click here to buy a poster of this program cover.

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