The 1963 Rose Bowl was a college football bowl game played on January 1, 1963, at the end of the 1962 college football season. It was the 49th Rose Bowl Game. The USC Trojans defeated the Wisconsin Badgers, 42–37. This is the first #1 versus #2 match-up to occur in a bowl game, although #1 versus #2 match-ups had occurred previously as regular season games (typically referred to as "Games of the Century"). Ron Vander Kelen, the Wisconsin quarterback and Pete Beathard, the USC quarterback, were both named the Rose Bowl Player of the Game. Down 42–14 in the fourth quarter, Vander Kelen put together a number of drives to score 23 unanswered points and put the Badgers in position to win the game. Due to the historic #1 versus #2 bowl match-up, the number of Rose Bowl records set, and the furious fourth quarter rally by Wisconsin, this game frequently appears on lists of "greatest bowl games of all time."
This was the first bowl game to pair the #1 and #2 teams in the AP Poll, although there had previously been six regular season #1 versus #2 games since the inception of the poll in 1936. This was the second Rose Bowl meeting between USC and Wisconsin (the first being the 1953 Rose Bowl) and the fourth meeting, overall.
Wisconsin finished the regular season 8-1, becoming the sole champion of the Big Ten Conference. The Badgers were undefeated except for a loss to conference rival Ohio State at Ohio Stadium, ranked #5 in the AP poll at the time. Notable victories were over then-#1 Northwestern during homecoming (37-6) and a comeback victory over archrival Minnesota, then ranked #5 (14-9). The Badgers earned their third trip to the Rose Bowl.
After two consecutive losing seasons in 1960 and 1961, John McKay turned the Trojans around in his third season as head coach. The team opened with a defeat of number 8 ranked Duke. Consecutive wins against SMU, at Iowa, California, and at Illinois got the Trojans ranked higher in the top 10. On November 3, 1962, the Trojans played their biggest game of the season against the Washington Huskies, who were ranked #9. In the homecoming game, the Trojans blanked the Huskies 14–0. With that win, the Trojans were ranked number two behind Northwestern. On November 17, by beating Navy and with Alabama losing to Georgia Tech 7–6, USC ascended to the number one spot in the AP poll. In the UCLA-USC rivalry game, the Bruins led 3–0 until the fourth quarter, when the Trojans scored two touchdowns. In what would be the final game for Notre Dame football coach Joe Kuharich, USC shut out a 5–4 Notre Dame team at the Coliseum, breaking a five-game losing streak for the Trojans against the Fighting Irish in the annual intersectional rivalry. The Trojans finished ranked number 1 for the first time in the history of the AP poll, and were undefeated for the first time since the 1939 USC Trojans team played in the 1940 Rose Bowl.
USC tackle Marv Marinovich was ejected when he got caught elbowing Steve Underwood, the Wisconsin captain. Wisconsin, under the direction of quarterback Ron Vander Kelen put together an incredible comeback attempt in the fourth quarter. Pete Beathard had completed his fourth touchdown pass with 14:54 left in the game to put USC up 42–14. Then the Badgers, led by Vander Kelen, put together one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college football, scoring 23 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before time ran out. The final score of the game was USC-42, Wisconsin-37. For their efforts, USC quarterback Pete Beathard and Wisconsin quarterback Ron Vander Kelen were both named the Rose Bowl MVPs.
Eleven Rose Bowl records were set and five still stand as of 2008: most intercepted passes (3 by Ron Vander Kelen), most touchdown passes (4 by USC, and six overall), most first downs by one team (32 by Wisconsin), and most penalties (USC 12 for 93 yards). The Rose Bowl record 79 total points scored in this game stood for nearly thirty years (subsequently broken in the 1991 Rose Bowl). The omitted records stood for more than thirty years were broken by Danny O'Neil of the Oregon Ducks in the 1995 Rose Bowl.
The 1964 Cotton Bowl Classic subsequently became the second #1 versus #2 bowl game, while the 1969 Rose Bowl became the second #1 versus #2 Rose Bowl.
Both of the consenus 1962 All-America ends played in this game. Pat Richter (Wisconsin) and Hal Bedsole (USC) would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, in 1996 and 2012, respectively. This was Richter's last college game, while Bedsole was an underclassman.
Three players from this game (Beathard, Vander Kelen, and Richter) have been inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. John McKay has also been inducted as a coach.
The game is considered by many to be among the greatest games in college football history, along with the 2006 Rose Bowl among others.