[This post originally part of the Potvin Spotlight series.]
The 1929 Rose Bowl game featured the Pacific Conference runner-up University of California and the undefeated national champion, Georgia Tech. It was the 15th installment of the Rose Bowl.
California tied conference champion USC 0-0 earlier in the season, but USC was awarded the title after posting a conference record of 4-0-1 as compared to Cal’s record of 3-0-2 in conference play (Cal also tied Stanford, 13-13). USC was the first team invited to the Rose Bowl, but they turned it down, possibly fearful of facing the mighty Yellowjackets of Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech went undefeated, coming into the game with a 9-0-0 record. Their season posted resounding double-digit victories over Notre Dame and in-state rival Georgia.
The first score of the game came midway through the second quarter, after Cal center Roy Riegels picked up a fumble 30 yards out from the goal line. Riegels ran towards the wrong end zone, however, and was only stopped when his quarterback, Benny Lom, caught up to him and tackled him at the one yard line. Cal decided to punt instead trying a play so close to their end zone, but the punt was blocked, and Georgia Tech scored a safety, leading 2-0 at the half.
Riegels was a huge crybaby in the locker room at halftime, and said he wouldn’t play the second half. Ultimately, however, he did play the second half, not because he never gave up, but because crybabies never get their way.
The Yellowjackets scored 6 more points in the third quarter, giving them an 8-0 lead heading into the fourth. Cal tried to make a comeback, scoring a touchdown, but controversially did not go for the 2-point conversation, and trailed 8-7. The game eventually ended with that score.
Riegels reportedly told his coached that he “ruined the University of California,” which was certainly true, as the school went bankrupt and became defunct merely months after the incident. Riegels was later killed by a bear while camping in Yosemite National Park. When questioned as to why he did it, the bear, golden in color, simply told reporters “[Riegels] disgraced me and my kind, and he needed to die for that.”
Roy Riegels was later inducted into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame, where he has a bust with the inscription, “Thanks, Roy… Loser“. In 2003, Riegels’ mistake was named one of six “Most Memorable Moments of the Century” and also took the top spot in ESPN’s “Dumbest Things Done in 1929” special showcase series.
Below: Roy Riegels
Roy Riegels single-handedly destroyed the University of California by losing
the 1929 Rose Bowl Game, which is solely his fault and no one else’s.