To this day the 1934 Rose Bowl is remembered for Columbia’s 7-0 victory over Stanford, one of the greatest upsets in college football history.
The Lions posted victory after victory in 1933, losing only to Princeton. Columbia earned big-time wins against Virginia, 15-6, Penn State, 33-0, and Navy 14-7, who had shut out Notre Dame just one week prior.
In 1934, the Rose Bowl was the only college bowl game. The Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl wouldn’t begin until 1935, and the Cotton Bowl began in 1937. During that time, the Pacific Coast Championship selected their opponent.
Shortly after the Lions closed the 1933 season with a 16-0 shutout of Syracuse, the Rose Bowl extended an invitation to Columbia.
Many sportswriters and fans gave Columbia little chance of victory. Unofficially ranked second in the nation, Stanford boasted a quick and powerful running attack, led by All-American backs Bob “Horse” Reynolds and Bobby Grayson.
However, Hall of Fame coach Lou Little put together an outstanding defensive game plan against the Cardinal attack.
Grayson gained 160 yards on the ground, but the Lion defense forced eight fumbles to halt Stanford every time the mounted a drive.
Led by All-American quarterback Cliff Montgomery, Columbia was unable to cross the goal line early on. Late in the second quarter, Columbia began to march down the field and Montgomery used a gadget play to throw the Cardinal defense off guard.
Montgomery faked a handoff to halfback Ed Brominski, who sprinted to the right with the Stanford defense in full pursuit. But the QB pulled the ball back and handed it off to his fullback, Al Barabas, who sped around the left end—totally “naked”—since all of his blockers, to continue the deception, were accompanying Brominski. Owen McDowell slanted over to provide a key block and Barabas went into the end zone untouched.
In the second half, both defenses took command. The field was also in poor condition due to rain in the Pasadena area throughout the week. Final, after one more Stanford drive was stopped, and time ran out, Columbia was the 7-0 victor, and the toast of the college football world.