When Duke hosts Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon, the program will celebrate one of the unique moments in school and college football history.
Donning helmets with their old logo, the Blue Devils will commemorate the 75th anniversary of when they hosted the Rose Bowl Jan. 1, 1942. It marked the only time the game has been played outside of Southern California, but Duke could not capitalize on the home-field advantage and lost 20-16 to Oregon State.
Less than a month before the scheduled game, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, which sent the U.S. into World War II. But there was a fear that the Japanese military might carry out a similar attack on the West Coast, prompting Lieutenant General John DeWitt to recommend that the Rose Bowl be canceled.
But the Blue Devils got creative, and head coach Wallace Wade—one of the preeminent coaches of his time and winner of three national titles with Alabama—suggested Duke host the Rose Bowl.
There would be no Rose Parade, and the game took place on a rainy and muddy day. Duke quickly increased the stadium capacity from 35,000 to 56,000 thanks to North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest sending over bleachers for the university to borrow.
And just like that, Durham became the center of college football for a day.
The Blue Devils were unable to mount a late comeback, as Oregon State won its only Rose Bowl in program history. The Beavers also commemorated the contest Saturday with gray helmets of their own.
The game marked Duke’s second Rose Bowl loss in four years, and Duke would never wind up winning it.
After the game, Wade entered the military as a lieutenant colonel, and Eddie Cameron took over the team, winning the 1945 Sugar Bowl. Even when Wade returned after the war, he could not lead his team back to a Rose Bowl, and he left Duke for good in 1950.
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