California connections: Falcons no strangers to Rose Bowl

Bowling Green State University senior quarterback Matt McDonald, the son of former USC quarterback Paul McDonald, will become the fourth McDonald in his family to play inside the Rose Bowl.

The Falcons will take on UCLA for the first meeting ever between the two schools, with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

While Matt hails from Newport Beach, California, Saturday marks his first career game at the Rose Bowl.

His dad, Paul, played three games inside the historic edifice, all of which were Trojan wins in the Rose Bowl game. Paul was 2-0 as a starter, including leading USC to the 1978 national championship.

Paul never played UCLA at the Rose Bowl since UCLA also played home games at the Coliseum until 1982. Paul was part of three Rose Bowl wins (1976, 1978, 1979) with the Trojans.

Matt’s older brother Michael was a USC quarterback from 2003-07 and was on the Trojan roster for five trips to the Rose Bowl, including three Rose Bowl games.

Matt’s other older brother, Andrew, was the starting quarterback for New Mexico State when the Aggies came to UCLA and the Rose Bowl in 2013.

McDonald started his high school career at Mater Dei where he won the starting job over J.T. Daniels. After an injury knocked McDonald out of the lineup, Daniels kept the starting job. McDonald then moved on to Mission Viejo HS.

So, there will be a bit of a coming home party for McDonald and BGSU wide receiver Austin Osborne, McDonald’s former high school teammate

“It’s great for them,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler said. “So very excited for both him and Austin.”

Osborne was the primary receiving target for McDonald at Mission Viejo High School in California.

The PrepStart All-American caught 36 passes for 961 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior during McDonald’s senior season at Mission Viejo.

Plus, Osborne, a Rancho Santa Margarita native, was part of Washington’s squad that faced Ohio State in the 2019 Rose Bowl.

Loeffler’s ties to the Rose Bowl go deep, too. A 1998 graduate of Michigan, Loeffler was on Lloyd Carr’s Michigan staff for the 1998, 2004, 2005 and 2007 Rose Bowls.

He was a student assistant on Michigan’s 1997 national championship team that beat Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl. He was UM’s quarterbacks coach for the 2004, 2005 and 2007 Rose Bowls.

BGSU as a team is not unfamiliar with the Rose Bowl, either. BGSU is the only MAC school to ever play at the Rose Bowl.

Bowling Green, the fifth-winningest program from the 1960s behind Alabama, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi, faced Cal State Los Angeles at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 25, 1967, in front of 2,464 fans.

BGSU won the game 42-27. It was the final game of Bob Gibson’s head coaching career at BGSU. Gibson, a long-time assistant coach of Doyt Perry, replaced the hall of fame coach upon retirement in 1965.

Hollywood connections

Bowling Green has a few connections to Hollywood.

The late actor Bernie Casey was an All-American (1960) for the Falcons and was a member of BGSU’s 1959 National Championship team (small college).

Casey was a first-round selection (ninth overall) in the 1961 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He enjoyed an eight-year NFL career with the 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. His acting career spanned five decades and included films like “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Under Siege” and “Brian’s Song.”

In the movie “That Thing You Do,” there is Villapiano’s, the “spaghetti place out by the airport,” which was named after former Bowling Green great Phil Villapiano.

Tom Hanks, who grew up in Oakland, was a fan of the Raiders and Phil Villapiano, who he used to call “Phil Villa-The Playah-piano.” Hanks wrote, directed and appeared in “That Thing You Do.”

Villapiano was a key member of the Oakland Raiders’ Super Bowl XI championship that was played at the Rose Bowl.

His momentum changing goal-line tackle against the Minnesota Vikings forced a fumble that was recovered by the Raiders’ Willie Hall, helping the Raiders to victory.

Coaches have Rose Bowl memories

Nearly a dozen other BGSU coaches and players have connections to California or have played in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

BGSU associate head coach and inside linebackers coach Steve Morrison is a 1994 Michigan alum. He played in the 1992 and 1993 Rose Bowl games for Michigan. He later was an assistant coach for Michigan and was on staff for the 2003 and 2005 Rose Bowls.

BGSU passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Erik Campbell is a 1988 graduate of Michigan. He played in the 1987 Rose Bowl and coached in four more: 1998, 2004, 2005, 2007 as Michigan’s wide receiver coach and assistant head coach.

BGSU running backs coach Brian White has coached in two Rose Bowls as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Wisconsin (1999 and 2000).

Fresno native and outside linebackers coach Sammy Lawanson was on Arizona State’s staff from 2012-13, which included the Sun Devils’ 2013 regular season trip to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA.

Football strength and conditioning coach Kevin Tolbert, who played football at Navy for hall of fame coach George Welsh, was also at Michigan as an assistant strength coach for the Wolverines during Carr’s tenue.

He was part of Michigan’s 2004, 2005 and 2007 Rose Bowl teams. He was also on staff at Stanford when the Cardinals came to UCLA and the Rose Bowl in 2010.

The players include BGSU center Jakari Robinson, who was part of the 2018 Cincinnati team that opened the 2018 season at UCLA.

Outside linebacker Bryce Brand claims Detroit as his hometown, but as a kid his parents moved to Concord, California, where he played at Clayton Valley Charter.

Defensive lineman Kitione Tau also hails from Concord. He played at Clayton Valley Charter with Brand before moving on to Pittsburg High School. Tau comes to BGSU via Laney Community College and was a true freshman for the Eagles when the school was featured on the fifth season of Netflix’s “Last Chance U.”

BGSU cornerback Davon Ferguson made his collegiate debut for Hartnell College in Salinas, California, making 55 tackles and two interceptions in 2017 before heading to Kansas for 2018-20.