As we look at the 1962 college football season in this Pac-12 Friday series entry, we have a mythical national title for one of our teams from the Rose Bowl alliance of the Conference of Champions and its Midwest adversary, the B1G. In fact, the Granddaddy of Them All featured a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup on New Year’s Day for all the marbles.
With that teaser put out there, let’s get to the fun stuff …
1962 AAWU MVP: Pete Beathard, USC
The league added a sixth team in 1962—Washington State—but nothing was going to stop the USC Trojans from an undefeated season. The Washington Huskies finished in second place, with a 14-0 road loss against USC the only league blemish on their record. So, our MVP should come from one of those two schools.
There really is only candidate, however: USC quarterback Pete Beathard. He finished second in total yards (1,238) and first in total touchdowns (15), and his passing yardage (938) was second in the league. Beathard also tossed 10 TD passes to just 1 interception, while running for 290 yards and 5 more TDs. No one else in the conference even came close to that level of balanced, efficient success.
To be fair, the Trojans offense was loaded: Running back Willie Brown (865 total yards, 4 TDs), wide receiver Hal Bedsole (827 total yards, 11 TDs), and backup QB Bill Nelson (822 total yards, 9 TDs) also helped the well-oiled machine that was USC’s offense roll through the schedule. But Beathard was the signal caller and gets our nod.
1962 B1G MVP: Ron Vander Kelen, Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Badgers topped the league with a 6-1 conference mark, followed closely by Minnesota (5-2), Northwestern (4-2), and Ohio State (4-2). The Buckeyes handed the Badgers their only loss, but Ohio State also lost to the Wildcats and Iowa, costing them a share of the league title. Northwestern had been No. 1 in the country before losing to Wisconsin on November 10, so this was a closely contested league race in 1962.
No position player gained more than 740 yards from scrimmage, and the best QB was Wisconson’s Ron Vander Kelen. He tossed 14 TDs and 10 INTs, while his 131.1 QB rating was second best in the league. In terms of total yards, Vander Kelen posted 1,839 yards, which was more than 500 yards more than the top-rated QB from Northwestern, Tom Myers. The 17 total TDs for the Badgers QB was also better than Myers by 3 scores.
In the end, Myers threw more INTs than TDs, and Wisconsin beat Northwestern, 37-6. That gives a big edge to Vander Kelen, as well. There is no doubt that the Badgers star was the league MVP.
1962 Rose Bowl MVP: Beathard & Vander Kelen (original), Beathard (revised)
The Trojans jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead over Wisconsin in Pasadena, and in the fourth quarter, it was 42-14 before the Badgers scored the final 23 points of the game to make it look close in the boxscore. Both starting QBs were voted co-MVPs afterward, but we are going to vehemently disagree—and here is why.
Beathard tossed the first TD of the game as USC built its halftime lead, and then in the key third quarter, he threw 2 more TD passes to Bedsole to put the game away. Vander Kelen threw 3 INTs and then padded statistics with garbage-time comeback yardage. Overall, Beathard threw 4 TD passes to give the Trojans that huge lead.
Perhaps the emotion of the time led to the tie vote for the MVP, but we know better with hindsight. Vander Kelen was the primary reason Wisconsin fell behind by 28 points, so he doesn’t get any credit here for bringing his team back against USC’s second-string defense.