Memorable Football Games – I
November 9, 1912 –West Point NY: Scalped
The Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania was founded in 1879 as a place to "civilize" Native Americans so they could find their place in American society.
  • In 1899, the school hired Glenn "Pop" Warner to coach football and other sports.
  • In 1907, when he returned to Carlisle after three years coaching his alma mater, Cornell, Pop discovered a student named Jim Thorpe.
  • Warner first used him in track, and the story of Jim single-handedly winning meets are the stuff of legend.
  • In 1912, Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics. (He was later forced to return the medals when it was learned that he had played semipro baseball.)

That fall, Thorpe returned to the gridiron for the Indians. (Was their nickname politically incorrect since the players were, in fact, Indians?)

  • Allowed to play football reluctantly by Warner, who feared injury to his track star, Jim earned All-American honors in 1911 when he scored all his team's points (four FGs and a touchdown) in an 18-15 upset of mighty Harvard.
  • Carlisle finished that season 11-1.
  • The 1912 team defeated Penn, Harvard, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. But no victory attracted as much attention as the one at West Point.

Warner had developed the single wing offense that would dominate football until the 1940s.

  • The formation allowed Thorpe to run, pass, handoff, or punt.
  • For Army, Pop unveiled the next evolution of his offense: the double wing.
  • According to a newspaper account: "The shifting, puzzling, dazzling attack of the Carlisle Indians had the Cadets bordering on a panic."
  • The New York Times wrote that Thorpe "simply ran wild, while the Cadets tried in vain to stop his progress. It was like trying to clutch a shadow... Thorpe tore off runs of 10 yards or more so often that they became common."
  • On one play, he ran 92 yards only to have the touchdown nullified by a penalty. He then ran 97 yards to paydirt.
  • Newspapers reported the final result in headlines such as "Indians Scalp Army 27-6" and "Jim Thorpe on Rampage."

One of the Army players who tried to "clutch a shadow" was Dwight Eisenhower. Many years later, Ike recalled:

Except for [Thorpe], Carlisle would have been an easy team to beat. On the football field, there was no one like him in the world.

Many people agreed, as evidenced by the fact that an Associated Press poll in 1950 voted Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the century. (Babe Ruth finished second.)

Streak Buster: Penn-Dartmouth - November 10, 1917

Braves Field, Boston
Braves Field, Boston

Coach Clarence Spears
Clarence Spears, Dartmouth coach

The University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College first met on the gridiron in 1896.
  • The Quakers won that year 16-0 and again the next 14-0, both in Philadelphia.
  • With Penn established as one of the perennial Eastern power, the Big Green didn't challenge the Quakers again until 1913, when Dartmouth started a three-year winning streak.
  • The squads tied in 1916 at Penn 7-7. The Quakers ended the sea­son losing to Oregon 14-0 in the Rose Bowl.

First year Dartmouth coach Clarence Spears moved their 1917 game with Bob Folwell's Quakers to Braves Field in Boston. The new home of Bos­ton's National League entry seated 40,000.

  • In his article in the Sunday Boston Globe, Melville E. Webb, Jr., pro­nounced the game a rip tearing battle from start to finish.
  • He further opined: Pennsylvania had the better set of backs, gaining at will midfield, but Dartmouth showed a lot of defensive strength when the play had been forced down into their own territory.

The teams battled scoreless through the first three periods. Finally, Penn took the lead but had to survive a Dartmouth onslaught that ended on the final play of the contest.

  • Berry of Penn missed no less than five drop kicks that would have given the Quakers a 3-0 lead. He missed from the enemy 44 twice, from the 42, the 41, 33, and even the 27. Quigley missed a sixth FG try from the 41. Webb:

Only one of all these tries for goals was at all close. Berry's final effort early in the third quarter being the nearest, the ball being wafted by the wind so that it hit one of the uprights well above the bar and then was deflected off toward the side line. [See drawing below.]

  • Penn also missed an excellent scoring chance when Van Ginkle dropped Berry's pass while headed toward the EZ.
Penn finally started the winning drive from its 35. Webb:

Then came a series of unstoppable line plays in which Straus was the greatest power for the Quakers. The ball was carried up the field steadily from one first down to ano­ther, until it rested on Dartmouth's 20-yard line. It took nine plays only for Penn to cover this 45 yards of ground.

  • After Dartmouth repelled several thrusts, a controversial play turned the tide for the visitors. Let Melville describe the action.

The next play was a forward pass, Berry hurling the ball high over the scrimmage, over his own right wing and down into the corner of the field, a few yards from the goal. The play was a great bit of strategy on the part of Penn's general, for Miller, the end, raced down the field uncovered, and turned just as the ball dropped into his arms.
Miller was standing only five yards from the goal, but as the ball came to him half back Phillips of the Dartmouth team came racing across. Phillips apparently had little chance to get the ball, but he crashed into Miller, who could not make the catch.
It was a very close thing, but Umpire Carl Marshall, who was right on top of the play, ruled that Phillips had interfered with Miller. Therefore Pennsylvania was allowed to keep the ball at the spot where the interference occurred. This made it first down for Penn and only five yards to go for the touchdown needed to win the game.
The Quakers pinned their faith on Straus, and they made no mistake. The big back was stopped with about a yard gain in each of his first attempts, but on fourth down and a yard and a half to go, a big hole was opened for him, and he hurled himself through.

Trailing 7-0 after the extra point, Dartmouth's chances seemed bleak since the Green had not threatened the Penn goal. However, the Hanover Boys were not willing to concede the victo­ry. After receiving the kickoff, the Green unleashed a passing attack of their own.

  • Hubert McDonough passed to Edwin Myers for 28 and then Harold Presson for 15.
  • McDonough's 6y end run put the ball in scoring position for the first time with only a few minutes to play.
  • With first down on the 19, McDonough on a fake play swung away off to the left and nearly broke loose. He gained 5y.
  • The versatile QB (really a tailback in the single wing formation of the day) fired another pass to Myers that the Dartmouth wing almost brought down.
  • Let Webb describe the final play.

There was time for just one more play. This also was a forward pass, McDonough again throwing the ball. His pass was directed over the midst of the scrimmage and was sent into the end zone. Myers again was supposed to get the ball and he came within an inch of doing so.
Straus was the only Pennsylvanian who had a chance to break up the pass, and he did it beautifully. He and Myers raced for the ball, but Straus got there first. Jumping, he hit the ball just as it was dropping into Myers' arms. Dartmouth's last hope was thus spoiled.

Dartmouth finished the season with a 5-3 record while Penn went 9-2.

Penn Defeats Dartmouth
Sunday Boston Globe 11/18/17
October 29, 1921: Harvard Stadium, Cambridge MA – Centre of Attention
Appalachian State's stunning upset of #5 Michigan to start the 2007 season sent researchers scurrying to the archives to find a similar feat. While they found no instance where a team ranked in the AP poll has been defeated by a "lower division" team, they could have found an example from the days before the AP poll began in 1936.
Tiny Centre College of Danville, KY traveled to Massachusetts to take on unbeated Harvard and stunned the world with a 6-0 victory.
  • Harvard was so confident that many of its first-team players opened the game on the bench.
  • With a scoreless game at the half, the first string took the field for the second half.
  • The only score came on a stutter-step 31-yard run in the second half by Alvin "Bo" McMillin.
  • This was Harvard's first regular season defeat since 1916.
  • Centre jumped into the Top Ten and had a chance to become national champs until upset by Texas A&M in the forerunner of the Cotton Bowl.

Bo became a national hero and made Walter Camp's All-American team, but investigation would have revealed some interesting facts about him.

  • Centre admitted the 22-year old in 1917 despite the fact that he didn't have enough credits to graduate from high school.
  • For the next five years (one extra year because of military service in World War I), he quarterbacked the Praying Colonels but never seemed to attend any classes.
  • No one minded since Centre began to clobber its smaller rivals (e.g., 95-0 over Transylvania) and defeat the likes of Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
  • In 1920 Centre had lost only twice, to Harvard and Georgia Tech.
Bo should have been ruled ineligible for the 1921 season since he lacked 35 credits out of 120 to graduate and had failed one of three courses the previous semester. But under the lax rules of the day, each school was on the honor system to keep its own athletes in line.
Bo McMillin
Bo McMillin
In 1922, Bo became coach at Centenary College in Shreveport for $11,000 and a promise to upgrade the schedule.
  • Within a year, Centenary's enrollment, which was 43 when Bo arrived, shot up and the team lost only once, to Tennessee.
  • Bo eventually coached at Geneva College (PA), Kansas State, and Indiana before moving to the NFL with the Detroit Lions. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

ESPN selected Bo's run against Harvard as #93 in its 100 Moments That Have Defined College Football.

Reference: College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy by John Sayle Watterson
October 18, 1924 –Champaign IL: The Ghost Gallops
It was a festive occasion at the University of Illinois as $1,700,000 Memorial Stadium was officially dedicated. (The arena had actually been completed for some games in 1923.)
  • The capacity of 69,249 was exhausted as the 2-0 Illini hosted the mighty Wol­verines of Michigan, unscored on in their first two contests.
  • The teams had not met in 1923 when both went 8-0 and claimed national titles.
  • Illinois had been Big Ten champion by virtue of its 5-0 conference record vs. Mich­igan's 4-0.
Illinois' success in 1923 was partly attributable to the excellent coaching of Robert Zuppke and partly because of the play of 5'10" 170 lb. sophomore running back Harold "Red" Grange.
  • At first, Red didn't even go out for football. He had played in high school but thought baseball and basketball were his better sports. (He also ran track.)
  • When pressured by fraternity brothers, he joined the freshman team and was is­sued #77. In the first scrimmage against the varsity, he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown, and the legend of "The Galloping Ghost" began to form.
In his first varsity game as a sophomore against Nebraska, Grange scored touchdowns on runs of 50, 35, and 12y.
  • His 125 yards in punt returns in that game is still the school record.
  • Illinois' rock-ribbed defense held the first three opponents to one touchdown each and then pitched shutouts for the last five games to complete the undefeated campaign.
  • Red was named All-American.
After one season, Grange ranked as a good but not great back. That per­ception changed in one quarter of football in the third game of his junior year.

Zuppke and Michigan coach Fielding Yost were personal rivals.

  • Zuppke wrote a letter to his players during the summer in which he accused Yost of taking the Illini lightly.
  • Grange recalled: Zup had worked on that game from the start of the summer. He started telling us all kinds of things Yost had been saying about us all summer. It wasn't until a long time afterward that I found out that Yost had been in Europe the whole summer. He had gotten us so riled up about Yost that we just couldn't lose.

The Wolverines came to Champaign as heavy favorites.

  • Yost predicted trouble for Red. (Note the use of "Master" rather than "Mister.")
Master Grange will be carefully watched. Every time he takes the ball, there will be 11 hard, clean Michigan tacklers headed for him at the same time. I know he is a great runner. But great runners have the hardest time gaining ground when met by special preparation.
  • The "special preparation" wasn't nearly enough.
  • Michigan foolishly kicked off to Red to start the game. He roared up the middle, then cut right and ran 95 yards untouched for a touchdown.
    In his Preface to Red's 1953 autobiography, Ira Morton described the kickoff return like this. "Grange took the opening kickoff on the Illinois five-yard line and headed upfield like a cheetah chasing prey. Within seconds he crossed Michigan's goal line, untouched. The stadium erupted in the first of a series of thunderous, nearly deafening ovations."
  • A few minutes later, Grange ran 67 yards around left end for a second touchdown.
  • Next possession: 56 yard touchdown run.
  • Still again, 44 yards to paydirt.

Grange scores one of his four Q1 touchdowns.
Four touchdowns and there were still three minutes left in the first quarter!
  • Four touchdowns equalled the total number the Wolverines had allowed in the previous two seasons combined!
  • He amassed 265 yards of offense on six touches.
  • Red scored a fifth touchdown in the second half on a measly 13-yard run. Illinois romped 39-14.
  • Red said years later: I don't think I ever played in any other game where every man did exactly what he was supposed to do. In the first quarter, if a man was supposed to block the end, he blocked the end. If he was supposed to hit the tackle, he hit the tackle.
The Associated Press reporter at the game described Red's runs like this: "In each instance he started behind perfect interferences and side-stepped Michigan's safety men in the final spring. He has a way of dodging almost coming to a dead stop before whirling in another direction, that leaves his tacklers flat-footed and amazed."

In their other seven 1924 games, Michigan allowed only 15 points, less than half what Grange and Company put up that magical day in Champaigne-Urbana.

Red became a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Illinois still plays in Memorial Stadium, but there certainly has never been a performance to equal the one staged for its dedication game.

ESPN ranked Grange's performance against Michigan #25 in its 100 Moments That Have Defined College Football.
Zuppke wrote this about Grange in his Foreword to Red's autobiography: "I have watched an endless number of football players down through the years, but never have I seen anyone quite the equal of Harold "Red" Grange. He came nearer to being the perfect football player than anyone I have ever known. What made him the football immortal that he is? I think I can sum it up in these words: exceptional football abilities, courage, willingness to learn and, above all, his modesty. " It has often been said that all Grange could do is run. The fact is, he could punt, pass, block and tackle with the best of them. But when he did run he was something to behold. He was the smoothest performer who ever carried a pigskin. He ran with rhythm, every movement of his body having meaning and direction. On the gridiron, Red Grange was a football stylist, a symphony of motion."

Robert Zuppke

Red Grange, Illinois
Harold "Red" Grange

Fielding Yost

January 1, 1929: Rose Bowl , Pasadena CA– "What Am I Seeing?"
Bill Alexander's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets completed the 1928 season 9-0 to win the Southern Conference championship. Their host opponent in the Rose Bowl before 66,404 fans were the 6-1-2 California Bears of Clarence Price.

One of the most memorable plays in football history occured with four minutes remaining in the first half of a scoreless game.

  • Cal junior C-LB Roy Riegels was an outstanding player who had already been elected team captain for the following year.
  • Roy picked up Tech HB "Stumpy" Thomason's fumble on one bounce. Roy started running in the right direction but, seeing would-be tacklers in his path, executed a U-turn to bolt into the clear toward his own goal.
  • Teammate and star TB Benny Lom tried to catch him, yelling that he's going the wrong way. Thinking the faster Lom wanted him to lateral, Riegels kept going.
  • Famous broadcaster Graham McNamee shouted into his mike to a nationwide radio audience, What am I seeing? What's wrong with me? Am I crazy?
  • Lom reached his teammate inside the 5y line and got him to turn around. But several Tech players arrived to tackle Roy on the 1.
  • Cal immediately tried to punt from its end zone, but Vance Maree blocked Lom's punt out of the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 lead for Georgia Tech.
  • Riegels sat on the bench crying the rest of the half.

Coach Price ordered the reluctant Riegels to play the second half.

  • Tech scored a Q3 touchdown on a 15y run by Thomason following a 30y scamper by Warner Mizell. The missed EP left the score 8-0 but, without the two-point conversion for another 30 years, Cal had to score twice to win.
  • Riegels played hard, trying to atone for his blunder. He blocked a punt and recovered it at the Tech 30, but the Bears failed to capitalize.
  • Cal finally scored with 1:15 left. Lom climaxed the nine-play drive with a 36y pass to E Irving Phillips. Stan Barr booted the PAT to leave Cal a point short, meaning that Roy's gift of two points provided Tech its winning margin.
  • Riegels' teammates treated him compassionately after the game. They had thought so highly of him that they had already elected him captain for his senior year.
  • Roy recalled in 1991:

They were real quiet [after the game]. They didn't say anything derogatory or give me a bad time. I was just very embarrassed to find out I had done it 'cause I had played a lot of football in my day.

Stumpy Thomason scores for Georgia Tech in the 1929 Rose Bowl.
Thomason scoring in the second half

1929 Rose Bowl Program

Roy Riegels running wrong way
Roy Riegels running the wrong way

Roy Riegels after the play
Riegels right after being tackled

Roy Riegels Disconsolate
Disconsolate Riegels

Video of the play

Roy Riegels Wrong Way Run
Riegels' run gallery
Two outcomes were a direct result of Roy's error.
  • Having finished the season undefeated, Tech secured the national championship awards of the Helms Athletic Foundation (and of several research groups and computer rankings retroactively in subsequent years).
  • The NCAA Rules Committee changed the rule before the next season to prohibit the defense from advancing a fumble that hits the ground. "The Riegels Rule" was not rescinded until 1990.

"Wrong Way" Riegels became a national celebrity.

  • He received hundreds of gifts – upside-down cakes, railroad tickets starting at the end of the line, Wrong Way street signs.
  • In 1971, when Georgia Tech inducted its entire 1928 team into its Hall of Fame, Riegels and Lom attended as special guests and received honorary memberships in the Lettermen's Club.
  • At the podium, Roy said he told Stumpy he was mad at him because if he hadn't fumbled, the play would not have happened. Thomason replied, "I feel like I made Roy Riegels famous."

Roy earned accolades for his performance on the gridiron.

  • His junior year, he made the All-Coast team.
  • He was selected an All-American after his senior season. His notoriety following the Rose Bowl gained the attention of sportswriters across the nation, who learned he was a fine player who made one bonehead play.
  • Riegels was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1991, two years before his death.
  • Cal placed him in its Hall of Fame in 1998 to honor his sterling career.

Roy continued in football after graduation.

  • He coached high school, junior college, and armed forces football.
  • He said in 1990:

You know, I really wasn't a bad football player. But for the life of me, I still don't know how or why I did what I did.

The Rose Bowl Web site calls the Wrong Way run "the most famous play in Rose Bowl history" and credits it with gaining the annual game "national notoriety that never existed in such scope previously." ESPN voted the play #26 in its "100 Moments That Have Defined College Football." Many would argue that it should rank higher.

November 11, 1939 – Shreveport LA: Apres Moi Le Deluge

    One of the weirdest games in NCAA football history resulted when the Texas Tech Red Raiders visited the Centenary Gents.

    • A torrential rain swamped the stadium, resulting in a 0-0 tie.
    • There were 77 punts in the game, 67 of which were on first down!
    • In the second half, the teams punted 22 plays in a row.
    • Charlie Callahan of Tech set a record that will probably never be broken by punting 36 times for 1,318 yards.
    • Tech ran only 12 offensive plays netting -1 yards.
January 1, 1941: Sugar Bowl Stadium, New Orleans – Culture Clash

As the 2007 Boston College Eagles remained undefeated through eight games, they were compared to BC's greatest team: the 1940 aggregation that went 10-0 to earn an invitation to the Sugar Bowl.

Frank Leahy had high expectations for his 1940 team after the '39 squad, his first at BC, went 9-1 before losing to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in the school's first ever bowl game. The talent included five players who would eventually be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

After crushing Centre in the opener, the Eagles defeated a Tulane team many considered the country's second best, 27-7. Little did BC know that this would not be their last trip to the Big Easy that season. Temple, Idaho, St. Anselm, Manhattan, and Boston U. fell, the last four failing to score. Georgetown, winners of 22 in a row, provided the biggest scare. Famed sportswriter Grantland Rice called the contest before 41,700 at Fenway Park one of the greatest ever. Ahead 19-16 with under a minute to play, the Eagles faced 4th and 18 on their own 9. Senior triple-threat TB Charlie O'Rourke went back to punt but instead played cat-and-mouse for 45 seconds in the end zone before taking a safety. BC booted the free kick downfield to run out the clock. A 33-7 trouncing of Auburn and a 7-0 win over archrival Holy Cross completed the perfect season.

Frank Leahy
Frank Leahy
As an aside, BC RB Lou Montgomery didn't play against Tulane and Auburn because he was African-American. He would also not compete in the Sugar Bowl "out of respect for Southern rules" as had also been done for the Cotton Bowl the year before. (Leahy told Montgomery that BC might have won that game if he had played.) At least Lou made the trip to New Orleans, where he lived on the Tulane campus and watched the game from the press box.
1941 Sugar Bowl program
Robert Neyland's Tennessee Volunteers, champions of the Southeastern Conference, provided the opposition. The Vols had completed their second straight 10-0 season. However, this squad hoped to avoid the disappointment of their predecessor, which, after holding all ten opponents scoreless, lost to Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

Both teams had something to prove as UT ranked only #4 and BC #5 in the final AP poll, behind even 7-1 Michigan. 8-0 Minnesota topped the list, but the Big Ten snubbed bowl games. Some writers called the Sugar Bowl the de facto national championship game.

A record crowd of 73,181 watched favored Tennessee dominate the first half but take only a 7-0 lead to the locker room. Van Thompson scored on a 4-yard run, but the Vols lost the ball on downs at the BC 11 and suffered an interception by O'Rourke at the BC 15.

After Hank Woronicz blocked a punt in the third quarter – UT's first blocked punt in seven years – the Eagles scored in two plays to tie the game. Tennessee roared right back, moving 55 yards aided by a pass interference penalty ("called by the Northern official" according to the New York Times) that put the ball on the two. Fred Newman scored from there, but the PAT snap was bobbled. BC retaliated with a 68 yard drive culminated by a 6-inch plunge by FB Mike Holovak on fourth down. BC's attempt to run in the PAT failed to keep the game tied at 13.

The defenses stabilized until BC started a drive at its 30 with six minutes left. O'Rourke, "the pride of the South Boston Irish," ran and passed the ball to the Vol 24 as rain started to fall. O'Rourke took the snap and, running left, raised his arm as if to pass but instead swivel-hipped into the end zone. (Afterwards Leahy revealed that he had seen Neyland's team use the play on film and added it to his playbook.) Although the PAT failed, BC's defense held for the last two minutes for a 19-13 win.

Shortly after returning to Boston, Leahy accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater, Notre Dame, where "The Master" worked for 11 years before retiring with a 107-13-9 record.

To this day, Boston College calls itself 1940 National Champions. They argue that they should at least be considered co-champs with Minnesota and 10-0 Stanford, which beat Nebraska 21-13 in the Rose Bowl.

December 6, 1941 – Shrine Bowl, Honolulu HI: Caught in Conflict

The Willamette Bearcats from Salem OR won the Northwest Conference title with an 8-1 record, losing only to Idaho. They were invited, along with San Jose, to play a series of games with Hawaii called the Shrine Bowl. The team of 25 players traveled by train to San Francisco, then cruise ship to the islands.

The first game was played before a crowd of 24,000. The Bearcats lost to the hosts 20-6. The weather affected the visitors. "It was freezing when we left Salem, then we hit 85 degree weather and didn't last long," said senior Marv Goodman.

Willamette Bearcats 1941
Willamette Bearcats 1941

The next morning, the Oregon entourage waited outside the hotel for a bus tour of the island, including a visit to Pearl Harbor. Then black smoke filled the air, and airplanes flew over. They soon learned the Japanese had beaten them to Pearl Harbor. The Army quickly enlisted the team to string barbed wire on Waikiki Beach and even issued rifles and gave some training.

Willamette finally left Hawaii December 19 aboard the President Coolidge, a luxury liner that had arrived with evacuees from the Philippines. The purpose of the voyage to the states was to transport gravely wounded servicemen. Coach "Spec" Keene persuaded the captain to take the team and their followers in exchange for help caring for the wounded. The trip, usually four days, took seven because of zigzagging to avoid Japanese submarines. The Coolidge arrived in San Francisco on Christmas Day.

Almost the entire team enlisted in the service. Only one member was killed in action.

November 14, 1964 – Alabama @ Georgia Tech

Alabama and Georgia Tech had played every season since 1947. However, the 1964 game would mark the end of the series.

  • Relations between the schools had been strained since the 1961 game in Birmingham when Bama's Darwin Holt hit Tech's Chick Granning in the face while blocking on a punt return. Tech Coach Bobby Dodd considered it a dirty hit since Granning relaxed on the play when he saw the receiver behind Holt call for a fair catch. Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher accused Bear Bryant of teaching dirty play. As a result, Dodd refused to schedule any more games against Alabama when the current contract ran out. Also, Tech had left the SEC to become an independent following the '63 season.
  • When the Tide visited Atlanta in 1962, the rowdy Tech students, seated near the visiting bench in cozy Grant Field, threw liquor bottles that nearly hit Bryant. So when Bear arrived at the stadium for the '64 game, he decided to protect himself and have a little fun in the process. He went from locker to locker trying on helmets until he found one large enough to fit him. He walked onto the field wearing the headgear as the fans yelled "Go to hell, Alabama" which, as Bear said later, was the nicest epithet. After walking around the field for a few minutes, he went to the Bama sideline and exchanged the helmet for his famous houndstooth hat. His primary purpose had probably been to lessen the tension for his team before the big game. But he also mocked the bad blood between the schools.

The 1964 game is remarkable for the performance of Bama's backup QB.

  • Joe Namath had suffered a knee injury in the fourth game of the season against North Carolina State. The gimpy knee would hamper Namath the rest of his college and pro career.
  • Steve Sloan had replaced Joe William (called "Joe Willie" in the Bama media guide) the rest of that game and in the next four games, all victories to run the Crimson Tide record to 8-0 heading to Atlanta. Dodd's club was 7-1.
  • Before a record Grant Field crowd of 53,505, Sloan was ineffective in the first half. So with less than two minutes left in a scoreless game, Namath trotted onto the field and threw two long passes to set up touchdowns for a 14-0 lead at the break.
    • The Tide got things rolling by recovering a fumble at the 50 with 1:45 left in the half.
    • Namath promptly passed to David Ray to the 1. From there, Steve Bowman plunged over.
    • Alabama showed it was playing for keeps by trying an onsides kick. Tech's receiver fumbled and Creed Kilmer recovered for the visitors.
    • Namath again struck quickly to Ray Ogden for 45 yd to the five. Namath then hit David Ray in the EZ.
  • With two minutes left in the half, backfield coach Ken Meyer left the press box to head to the locker room for halftime. When the team came in, he was at the blackboard diagramming plays to break the scoreless tie. He was stunned when the players told him they were ahead.

    I couldn't believe it. It had all happened so quick. I was standing there completely unaware. That's how good Joe was. That's how quick he could make something happen and completely change the complexion of a game.

  • Sloan returned in the second half to engineer the 24-7 victory. Tech's touchdown came with only 21 seconds left to play.

Alabama defeated Auburn the following week to complete a 10-0 regular season. Bryant's Boys were voted #1 in the final AP poll, which was taken prior to the bowl games, which was good fortune for Bama. On January 1, 1965, Texas downed the Tide 21-17 in the first Orange Bowl played in prime time.

Alabama did not play Georgia Tech again until 1979 when Bobby Dodd was no longer AD.

Coach Bobby Dodd, Georgia Tech
Bobby Dodd

Bear Bryant vs. Ga. Tech 1964
Joe Namath and Bear Bryant vs. Tech 1964

Steve Sloan, Alabama QB
Steve Sloan

Joe Namath passes vs. Ga. Tech 1964
Joe Namath passes against Tech, 1964




1912: Carlisle @Army

1917: Penn-Dartmouth

1921: Centre @Harvard

1924: Michigan @ Illinois

1929: Rose Bowl

1939: Texas Tech @ Centenary

1941: Sugar Bowl

1941: Willamette @ Hawaii

1964: Alabama @ Georgia Tech


Memorable Games II

Memorable Football Games Index


Football Magazine

Golden Rankings Home