Minnesota quarterback Sandy Stephens was named the Rose Bowl Player Of The Game. It was broadcast on the NBC television network and was the first national color television broadcast of a college football game.
The Gophers had gone to the Rose Bowl the previous year as the #1 team in the nation and lost to the Washington Huskies. In 1961, the Gophers actually finished in second place in Big Ten Conference play. Minnesota had a loss to Missouri, and a Big Ten loss to Wisconsin in their rivalry game. Ohio State was the Big Ten Champion. However, because of a faculty council decision to emphasize academics over athletics, Ohio State turned down the Rose Bowl Berth. Ironically, Minnesota would not have received the Rose Bowl invitation if they had, in fact, been the 1961 Big Ten champion and the conference had a formal agreement with the Rose Bowl for the 1961 and 1962 games, since the Big Ten had a "no-repeat" rule in effect until 1972. The Gophers were led by Sandy Stephens, the first African American All-American quarterback. However, he was not the first African-American starting quarterback in a Rose Bowl (this distinction goes to Charles Fremont West playing in the 1922 Rose Bowl).
The weather was sunny. Minnesota wore their home maroon jerseys, with white helmets and white pants. UCLA also wore their home powderkeg blue uniforms with gold pants. Using the single wing offense, UCLA struggled against the Gophers, netting only one field goal. Minnesota would get 21 first downs to UCLA's 8. The Gophers would hold the Bruins to 107 total yards, while going 297 yards on 66 plays. Stephens would rush for 46 yards on 12 carries, including two rushing touchdowns. Stephens also went 7 for 11 in passing for 75 yards.
This is Minnesota's only Rose Bowl win. It was also the last appearance for Minnesota in the Rose Bowl game. As of the 2013 season, Minnesota has gone the longest in the Big Ten conference without playing in the Rose Bowl game. Sandy Stephens was named the Most Valuable player, and became the first African American to get the award.
All-American defensive tackle Bobby Bell played in both the 1961 and 1962 Rose Bowl games for the Gophers. He later played in the 1967 and 1970 Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs, winning in 1970.