The 1942 Rose Bowl game is like no other in the history of this famous contest. Large crowds had been banned on the West Coast due to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and bowl officials accepted an offer from Duke to host the game in Durham, making this the only time the game has ever been played outside of Pasadena.
Often called the most hectic week in Durham’s history, the final days leading to the transplanted 1942 Rose Bowl only served as a prelude to what transpired on the field of play. Not even a steady rain that chilled the 56,000 spectators at Duke Stadium could detract from a marvelously contested affair between the Southern Conference champion Blue Devils and the invaders from Oregon State.
Coach Wallace Wade’s team, during a 9-0 regular season, averaged 34.5 points a game and scored at least 50 three times, making Duke the second-highest scoring club in the country.
The Blue Devils promptly fumbled away the opening kickoff to their guests. That play certainly set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
The Beavers’ first scoring march started on their own 49 and proceeded to inside the Duke 20 before it ran into a snag at the 15. It was third down and eight to go and everyone in the stadium knew it was a passing down except Don Durdan. He took the toss from center and dropped back a few feet as if to pass. Duke’s onrushing linemen stormed in but were caught by surprise when Durdan took off running around the right and crossed the goal line without being touched.
Steve Lach scored Duke’s first touchdown, scampering into the end zone on a reverse from four yards out. Durham’s own Bob Gantt converted the extra point to tie the score at 7-7.
The third period featured three touchdowns. The first one was the direct result of two big plays, with Gene Gray carrying the ball 24 yards from his own 45 to Duke’s 31. After a four-yard running play and an offsides penalty, left halfback Bob Dethman shot a pass to left end George Zellick for the touchdown.
Duke struck back only two minutes later. Lach turned in the key yardage by bolting 39 yards on another reverse to put the ball at the Beaver 25. After a Lach run and a penalty, Winston Siegfried plunged in with no difficulty from the one-yard line and Tommy Prothro booted an extra point to tie the score again.
Just two plays after taking the Duke kickoff, Dethman rifled a 68-yard touchdown pass to Gray to give Oregon State the lead for good.
Duke added a safety in the fourth quarter when Durdan was swarmed by five Duke players on a bad snap from center. Duke threatened offensively throughout the final period, three times advancing inside the Oregon State 35 and once to the 20 before George Peters intercepted a pass. The game ended with Dethman intercepting a Blue Devil pass, with the score 20-16.