At the 2015 Holiday Bowl, the Badgers will look for a way to beat USC. Finally.
They’re the Badgers’ bête noir. Their white whale. The Lucy to the UW’s Charlie Brown, continually pulling the ball away just as we think we’re bound to make that glorious kick. The USC Trojans seem to be the football team that always ruins the Badgers’ big day.
Wisconsin has played USC six times, and so far, the Badgers are 0–6. The Iliad tells us that the Greeks had to put up with 10 years of futility before finally defeating the Trojans. The Badgers have suffered for 63. They’ll meet again on December 30 in the 2015 Holiday Bowl, when Paul Chryst ’88 will see if he has the secret to beating USC.
January 1, 1953 (Rose Bowl)
Led by future Heisman Trophy winner Alan “The Horse” Ameche ’55, the Badgers went 6–2–1, tied with Purdue for the Big Ten championship, and qualified for their first-ever bowl appearance. The Trojans came in with a 9–1 record, had won the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC), and were already Rose Bowl veterans with 10 previous appearances. But the Big Ten hadn’t lost a Rose Bowl game since 1947, when it and the PCC had made the game their annual showdown of champions. But the Trojans stifled the Badgers and won 7–0.
October 14, 1955
The Badgers were undefeated and ranked #6 in the country when they went to Los Angeles to play 16th-ranked USC in a mid-season non-conference game. But the Trojans posted a 33–21 victory, and the UW lost five of its next six games. Badger coach Ivy Williamson suffered his first losing season, and the next year, he gave up walking the sidelines to become the UW’s athletic director.
October 6, 1956
The Badgers welcomed USC to Camp Randall for the first time, but home field gave no advantage, as the UW again suffered defeat, 13–6. That year’s team finished 1–5–3. But the season also saw the start of a new tradition: female cheerleaders.
January 1, 1963
Ten years after the teams’ first meeting, they once again faced off in the Rose Bowl, and once again, the UW got the loser’s share. The 8–1 Badgers came in ranked #2 in the country; the undefeated Trojans were #1. Early in the fourth quarter, USC led 42–14. Then the Badgers mounted a furious comeback, scoring 23 points to finish just short, falling 42–37. Led by receiver (and future athletic director) Pat Richter ’64, JD’71, the Badgers set nine Rose Bowl records.
September 26, 1965
The Trojans returned to Camp Randall for the last time (as of yet) to face a slumping Badger team — one that had gone 8–10–1 since losing the ’63 Rose Bowl. USC posted a 26–6 victory over the Badgers, who would not have another winning season until 1974.
September 24, 1966
The Badgers’ most recent game against USC was also its worst defeat, a 38–3 trouncing in Los Angeles. The fifth-ranked Trojans would go on to win their conference and appear in another Rose Bowl, which they lost to Purdue.