Rose Bowl memories: Clay Matthews

Former USC linebacker Clay Matthews, who spent 19 years in the NFL, looks back on his Rose Bowl experience against the Michigan Wolverines

"It was the 1977 Rose Bowl and we had a very strong team. I think we ended up finishing second in the nation, we lost our opener to Missouri, who had Kellen Winslow as a tight end. We won out after our season opener. I think Pittsburgh went undefeated and ended up number one, but I don't think they would've beat us in a BCS type match up. I think it would have been a really good game, seeing as both teams were inundated with future NFL players and high draft picks. They had Tony Dorsett that year, but we had five linebackers that went on to have meaningful careers in the NFL. Guys like Rod Martin, Dennis Johnson, Mike McDonald, David Lewis, Garry Cobb, Eric Williams, myself, and Mario Celoto. Our defensive line was really solid, and we had guys like Gary Jeter and Rich Dimler. In the secondary we had defensive backs like Danny Reese, who played for the Bucs and safety Dennis Thurman played 12 years with the Cowboys. We had a really talented defense.

We played Michigan that year and they were a very talented team on the offensive side of the ball, they had a bunch of first round picks. We stayed in the Wilshire Hyatt and we won 17-10. They had a really solid offense and we had a solid defense. It ended up being a really low scoring game with no highlights, more of an NFL type game. We were two great teams that practically nullified each other. We did all of our workouts at U.S.C., you could parallel that game to this years' game, with both teams having hopes of a national championship. We lost our opener, which was John Robinson's first game and I think Michigan had lost as well. When it is a low scoring game, there aren't as many chances to make plays. So my best memory of the game is the next year, the pre 1978 year we had a picture of me and a host of other Trojan teammates tackling a Michigan player. It was just one of those games where you had to fill gaps. We didn't really open up our offense. The football back then was a little less wide open."


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