Memorable Football Games – VI

November 28, 1929: Comiskey Park, Chicago – Ernie's Record-Setting Day

After helping the Duluth Eskimos save the National Football League, Ernie Nev­ers went back to his alma mater Stanford as an assistant coach in 1928. A year later, he returned to the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals since the Duluth fran­chise no longer existed.

On a snowy Thanksgiving Day in the Windy City, Nevers set several NFL records that stand to this day. He scored six TDs and took care of four conversions for all the Cardinals' points in a 40-6 blasting of the Bears in the annual "city champ­ionship" game before 8,000 fans who braved the weather.

Because the Comiskey Park field was slippery, Cardinal coach Dewey Scanlon decided to abandon his regular double-wing offense and have Nevers blast away at the Bears middle linemen. Ernie followed the plan to a tee.

  • He scored on a 20y run in Q1 but missed the extra point kick.
  • He scored soon after and this time converted the PAT for a 13-0 lead.
  • The Cardinals interior, led by 243-pound G Walt Kiesling, Duke Slater, and Herb Blumer, controlled the line of scrimmage.
  • Ernie's backfield mates, Gene Rose, Mickey McDonnell, and Cobb Roo­ney, not only blocked for him as well but also set up his TDs with fine runs of their own.
  • Nevers' third score, on a 6-yard run, made it 20-0 at the half.

The Cards line was also prevailing defensively, holding the Bears vaunted back­field of Red Grange, Paddy Driscoll, and Joey Sternman in check.

  • The Bears lone TD was scored in Q3 by Garland Grange, "brother of the famous redhead," on a 60-yard pass and run from QB Walter Holmer.
  • The Cardinals stifled any hopes of a Bear comeback by retaliating with another rushing onslaught that culminated in a one-yard plung by Nevers and a 27-6 lead.

Q4 brought two more scores, another one-yard run and a 10-yard burst past fallen defenders.

  • Nevers finally left the game to huge cheers from the South Side fans.
  • Combined with 19 points against Dayton the previous Sunday, he had 59 straight points!
  • Over 80 years later, the records Ernie set that day in Chicago have still not been broken.

Ernie Nevers, Cardinals
Ernie Nevers


Cardinals G Walt Kiesling
Walt Kiesling


Bernie Bierman

Jock Sutherland

Pug Lund

Izzy Weinstock

Stan Kostka

Bob Tenner

October 20, 1934: Pitt Stadium– Gopher Deception
Bernie Bierman, after coaching Tulane to the Rose Bowl in 1931, moved to his alma mater, Minnesota.
  • He was only 5-3 in his first season but led his second squad to a strange 4-0-4 record.
  • One of the victories was 7-3 over Pittsburgh in Minneapolis - the only defeat the Panthers suffered that season.

In 1934, 35 Gophers traveled East carrying rabbit's feet for a return engagement.

  • Bierman's boys had warmed up for the intersectional clash by routing North Dakota State 56-12 and downing Nebraska 20-0.
  • Jock Sutherland's Panthers were also undefeated: Washington and Jefferson 26-6, @West Virginia 27-6, and USC 20-6.
  • Pitt wanted revenge for their only loss of the 1933 campaign.

65,000 saw their heroes outplay the visitors 7-0 in the first half.

  • Magnificent punting kept UM backed up until Pitt got the first break, recovering HB Pug Lund's fumble on his six. However, four plays turned the ball over on downs at the one.
  • After punting out, Minnesota repelled the next enemy thrust at the 12.
  • After failing in close, Pitt struck from afar. On the next possession, Izzy Winstock bolted through LT from the Panther 36 and roared downfield until the defense closed on him. Then he lateralled to the trailing Mike Nicksick who raced untouched the rest of the way.

The Gophers were a different team after intermission.

  • Now it was Pitt's turn to fumble, recovering the first two deep in their own territory. UM covered the third at the 42, their first possession across midfield.
  • 230-pound FB Stanislaus Kostka – "the hardest man to stop in college football" – pounded ahead twice for the visitors' initial first down of the contest.
  • After three more runs, the Gophers faced fourth-and-one as the quarter ended.
  • Trickery produced not only the first down but the tying TD as fleet Julius Alphonse took a reverse 22 yards to paydirt.

Forcing what today would be called a "three-and-out," Minnesota received the punt on its 46.

  • Kostka and Lund bulled to the 26.
  • Another Kostka plunge followed by a lateral pass and a shuttle pass set up the fourth-and-two play on the 18 that ESPN selected as #96 in its 100 Moments That Have Defined College Football.
  • Here is the dramatic description of Arthur Daley in the next day's New York Times.

Again the mighty Kostka went hurdling at the Pitt line and the Panthers braced. He never got through, but it mattered not. He had flicked the ball to Glen Seidel at his left. The blue-jerseyed defense shifted and Seidel ferried the pigskin back to Pug Lund, over to the right. Minnesota's All-American took aim and fired a forward pass to Bob Tenner, standing alone a scant step from the end zone. Into Tenner's waiting arms the ball spun. Despe­rately Pitt tacklers dove for him but it was too late. It was one step and he was over with the winning score. It all happened with such bewildering suddenness that the huge crowd sat silent for a split second, scarcely aware of what had taken place before its eyes. Then a roar of thunderous acclaim split the air.

The PAT failed but the Gophers easily held on, 13-7. Sutherland called it "the greatest game between the two greatest teams that ever played on the same field."
Minnesota went on to an 8-0 season for which it was recognized by every evaluator as national champion. Pitt finished 8-1. So the Gophers spoiled their perfect season for the second year in a row.
  • Sutherland could at least boast that his charges provided Bierman's lads their only tight game.
  • UM roared through their six Big Ten foes 181-19! They outrushed opponents 2,700 to 550 and made 135 first downs to opponents' 37.
  • Because of the policies of their schools and conferences, neither Minnesota nor Pittsburgh played in a bowl game that year.
December 9, 1939: Los Angeles Coliseum - Why Didn't You Kick?
It's rare that a scoreless tie would rate the appellation "memorable." But the game we are about to review is an exception.
  • UCLA was a Johnny-come-lately to football, not fielding a team until 1919, the year the school was founded.
  • As a result, the L.A. crosstown rivalry did not begin until 1929 and even that was too early. Southern Cal, already a national power on its way to its second Rose Bowl appearance, spanked its upstart neighbor 76-0 and then 52-0 the next season.
  • Clearly not ready for primetime, the Bruins halted the series for five years to develop their program.
When it resumed in 1936, UCLA had indeed improved, as evidenced by the 7-7 tie.
  • The opposing coaches, Howard Jones of USC and Bill Spaulding of UCLA, were close friends who had come to Los Angeles in the same year, 1925.
  • They jointly promoted both teams in order to build up the rivalry. The fact that the 1937 game was a thriller won by the Trojans 19-13 helped their cause.
  • However, 1938 saw another USC cakewalk, 42-7, after which Spaulding resigned as head coach to concentrate on being Athletic Director.
  • He was replaced on the sidelines by Edwin "Babe" Horrell, who made a fateful decision late in his first Southern Cal game that has been remembered ever since.
UCLA RB Kenny Washington
Kenny Washington
The 1939 Bruin-Trojan clash attracted national attention.
  • UCLA's All-American LHB Kenny Washington, an African-American who could run, pass, return kicks, and tackle, was joined by RHB Jackie Robinson, who would gain fame eight years later when he integrated baseball (the worst of his four sports at UCLA), as well as another "Negro back," Woody Strode.
  • The "speedsters" (as Mel Allen called any African-American back when he broadcast the Rose Bowl for NBC) formed the first black trio on a major college team.
  • Both teams were undefeated: UCLA 6-0-3 and USC 8-0-1. The winner would play in the Rose Bowl.

Jackie Robinson
The 103,300 that gathered at the Los Angeles Coliseum – the largest crowd at that time for a football game west of the Mississippi – undoubtedly expected an offensive show. What they got was not what they expected but a thrilling and controversial game nonetheless.
  • The Trojans drove to the enemy 22 in the first quarter but relinquished the ball on downs.
  • Washington immediately fumbled the ball back on the 28. USC moved to the 11 from where QB Grenville Lansdell ran six yards only to fumble into the end zone, where the Bruins recovered.
  • Neither team threatened again until deep into the last quarter.

    USC HB Grenville Lansdell fumbles when hit by Jackie Robinson (28) yards from the goal in Q1.

Finally, in the dying minutes, QB Ned Matthews, mixing the pass and the run, led UCLA 76-yard to a first-and-goal at the 3. Then came the following sequence of plays.

  • First down: Washington (who played all 60 minutes) stopped up the middle – no gain.
  • Second down: Leo Cantor gains one.
  • Third down: Same play loses three.

Fourth down on the five. Easy decision, right? Kick the field goal and win the game.

  • But Coach Horrell did nothing, as he explained later:
I considered sending a man in to call for a kick just before we made that first down on the four. But when my boys made the first down, I changed my mind. After all, these kids were doing pretty well without my help. Anything Matthews did from then on was good enough for me.
  • Try applying that reasoning in today's high stakes football!

USC HB Bobby Robertson tries to evade a trio of Bruins: Kenny Washington (13), Bill Overlin (5), and Woody Strode (27)

Ned decided to use a democratic approach to determine UCLA's next move.

  • He took a poll of the players in the huddle.
  • Five said kick the field goal, and five wanted to go for the touchdown.
  • Like the vice president in the Senate, Matthews cast the deciding vote and called a halfback option pass by Washington to E Bob MacPherson.
  • While eschewing the field goal seems ludicrous from our vantage point 70 years in the future, at least putting the pigskin in your best player's hands made sense.
  • One problem, though. USC could read Matthews' mind. Trojan DB Bobby Robertson:
We were sure of one thing: Washington would have the ball. So our guys up front were concentrating on him, and the guys in the back, like me, were concentrating on him, too. But I also knew he might throw the ball: he was a great passer, too.
  • As a result, Robertson was all over MacPherson and batted down the pass in the end zone to preserve the scoreless tie.

Video of highlights of USC-UCLA 1939

Because of the way it ended, the tie was a bitter pill for UCLA and felt like a victory for USC, which received the Rose Bowl bid to play Tennessee (whom the Trojans defeated, 14-0). In any case, the annual game was now on the national sports radar screen, where it continues to this day.

Reference: Football Feuds: The Greatest College Football Rivalries, Ken Rappoport & Barry Wilner
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January 1, 1942: Rose Bowl, Durham NC – We Will Have Our Rose Bowl Trip!
Oregon State College, picked to finish near the bottom of the 10-team Pacific Coast Conference for the 1941 season, surprised the pundits by winning the PCC champion­ship.
  • After a 2-2 start, the Beavers won their final five games to earn their first ever trip to the Rose Bowl.
  • As was the custom at the time, the PCC champion picked its opponent for the game in Pasadena.
  • Since 8-0 Minnesota, #1 in all the polls, was prohibited from playing in a bowl game by Western Conference (Big Ten) rules, Oregon State's AD, Percy Locey, settled on Duke, champions of the Southern Conference and #2 in many rank­ings.
  • Blue Devil Coach Wallace Wade readily accepted. Not only did he want to reward his players for an undefeated season but was itching to remove the bad taste from Duke's last trip to Pasadena for the 1939 game.
  • Unscored on all season, the "Iron Dukes" lost 7-3 in the last minute to USC. The game had been Wade's first Rose Bowl loss after taking Alabama teams to two wins and a tie.
Both schools launched into travel preparations for their teams and supporters.
  • For only $181.81, Duke fans received a round trip ticket with Pullman accommo­dations, hotel room, admission to the game, and even a side trip to the Grand Canyon.
  • However, an event halfway around the world changed everyone's plans. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 launched the U.S. into World War II.
Within a week, Lieutenant General John DeWitt ordered the cancellation of all major sporting events on the West Coast, including the Rose Bowl.
  • He feared that a packed stadium would present too tempting a target for Japa­nese planes.
  • As a result, Oregon State coach Lon Stiner dismissed his players. Some left for what might be their last holiday season at home before enlistment while others made plans to join the war effort.
  • However, AD Locey began searching for another site for the game. After consi­dering Soldier Field (a suggestion of Chicago sportswriter Arch Ward who had created baseball's All-Star Game and the annual game between the College All Stars and the NFL champions) and listening to offers from Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Spokane, Locey asked Duke to host the game on its campus.
  • Faced with not playing the game at all, Wade agreed to stage the game in Durham.
  • His players, however, were not happy. They were willing to give up their Christ­mas holidays for a trip to sunny California but were reluctant to do so for a game in their own stadium.
  • Wade placated them by granting some days off to visit home.

Coach Wallace Wade
Wallace Wade


1942 Rose Bowl Poster

Now it was the Oregon State fans who sought travel packages.
  • Hundreds booked round-trip tickets for $17.50 (sleeping berths were extra), with sidelines seats an additional $4.50 each.
  • Meanwhile, Duke borrowed bleachers from archrivals North Carolina and North Carolina State to raise seating capacity from 35,000 to 55,000.
  • Within three days of the announcement of the relocation, the game sold out. Scalpers demanded upwards of $15 for a $4.40 ticket.
  • The Beaver Special train left Corvallis December 19 for the 3,417-mile journey across the continent. 31 players and a traveling party of 50 enjoyed the air-conditioned cars.
  • One player was left behind. Reserve DB Jack Yoshihara had come to the U.S. with his mother at age three on the last ship before Japanese immigration was halted. President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order prohibiting Japanese-Americans from traveling more than 35 miles from their homes. At least Jack could listen to NBC's broadcast of the game New Year's Day.
  • The train stopped in Chicago where the team worked out at Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. The team toured the nation's capital and practiced in Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Redskins.
  • When the entourage rolled into Durham on Christmas Eve, a crowd of 2,000 welcomed them. The next day the team enjoyed a traditional Southern Christmas dinner, one of many events the week before the game. The visitors didn't get a chance to hobnob with Hollywood stars as they would have in California, but they did tour cigarette manufacturing plants.

In the meantime, Wade recruited players for his scout team to emulate Oregon State.

  • George McAfee, who played in the 1939 Rose Bowl and now toiled for the Chicago Bears, impersonated Oregon State's triple-threat left-handed TB Don Durdan.
  • Jasper "Jap" Davis, another Duke grad who was coaching the freshman team, suited up along with Dick Watts, a senior at North Carolina State.
Aerial view of 1942 Rose Bowl
Stadium during 1942 Rose Bowl
The authorities in Washington gave special permission for the plane to fly overhead.
The January 1 game may have been called the Rose Bowl, but North Carolina was not sunny California.
  • A steady, cold drizzle fell throughout the contest. Some fans lit fires in the stands to keep warm. The new grass Wade installed in the stadium was soggy even before the kickoff.
  • Oddsmakers established the homestanding Blue Devils as 3-1 favorites over the #12 Beavers despite the fact that OSC's line outweighed Duke's by nearly 10 pounds per man.
  • Once again, Stiner's team confounded the prognosticators.
1942 Rose Bowl action 1942 Rose Bowl Action - 5
L: Oregon State tacklers pursue Duke B Tom Davis. R: Duke traps a Beaver.
A moment of silence was observed at 2 p.m. for those lost at Pearl Harbor less than a month earlier.
  • Tom Davis returned OSC's kickoff but fumbled when clobbered, and a Beaver recovered at the 19. However, nothing came of the break.
  • But on Oregon State's next possession, Durdan, whose performance would land him in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, scored on a 19y run after finding no receiver open.
  • Pounding the Beavers on the ground, Duke tied the game 7-7 in Q2 when its star RB Steve Lach scored on a reverse from the 4.
  • The Blue Devils nearly scored again right before the half. Sophomore Bobby Rute threw three desperation passes from midfield that fell incomplete. But on fourth down, Bobby Gantt made a brilliant catch but was run out of bounds on the 5 as time ran out.
1942 Rose Bowl Action - 4
Don Durdan sweeps end for Oregon State.
The action picked up in the second half.
  • OSC jumped ahead again on a 31y pass from Bob Dethman to George Zellick.
  • But Duke answered back on a 1y run by Winston Siegfried. The TD was set up by Lach's 37y reverse.
  • Duke's QB Tommy Prothro kicked the tying PAT with two minutes left in Q3.
    Prothro would coach Oregon State to its next Rose Bowl appearance (and first in Pasadena) in 1956.
1942 Rose Bowl Action - 3
Duke fails to block the Oregon State punt.
The 14-14 tie didn't last into the final period.
  • After receiving the kickoff, OSC jumped back in front for good on Dethman's pass in the flat to Gene Gray who took it in 30y downfield and eluded two tacklers into the EZ to complete the 68y TD and set a new record as the longest pass play in Rose Bowl history.
    When Gray returned to Corvallis, he dutifully reported for induction into the Navy only to be rejected because of missing teeth that had been knocked out playing football. But eventually the Army Air Force took him, and he flew more than 50 combat missions over Europe. Gene stayed in the military after the war as a test pilot until he lost both arms when his fighter jet crashed in Panama.
  • The Beaver D, which had allowed only 33 points in the regular season and which had already given up more points than it had in any game that season only had to keep Duke out of the EZ to preserve the victory.
  • Q4 became a turnover fest. A Blue Devil INT led to a safety that made the score 20-16.
  • As time ran down, Rute reentered and tried to do what he couldn't quite accomplish at the end of the first half. But Dethman snared a pass to enable Oregon State to run out the clock.
  • Once again, Wallace Wade lost an undefeated season in the Rose Bowl game. You can't win even on your home field when you give the opponent seven turnovers.
  • Writers proclaimed the game the second greatest upset in Rose Bowl history after Columbia's 7-0 win over Stanford in 1934.
1942 Rose Bowl Action - 2
Davis carries for Duke.
Oregon State's winning TD
Gene Gray scores for Oregon State.
Most of the players who suited up for the game wore military uniforms before they ever put on football togs again.
  • OSC's Frank Parker and Duke's Charlie Haynes fought together in Italy. Parker helped carry a badly wounded Haynes to a farmhouse where medics were able to save him.
  • Wade at age 49 reenlisted right after the Rose Bowl loss. My boys were going in, and I felt like we should stay together as a team. We were just participating in a different battle. After insisting he wanted to serve in combat and not coach military teams, Wade partici­pated in the Battle of the Bulge. While sharing hot coffee and food, he and Stan Czech of OSC realized they were on opposite sides of the field three years earlier.
  • Four of the players in the 1942 Rose Bowl, one from OSC and three from Duke, were killed in action, including Al Hoover, who jumped on a Japanese grenade as if he were recover­ing a loose football to help his team.

For the 50th anniversary of the only Rose Bowl held outside of Pasadena, both squads were invited to the 1992 game.

  • Many of the Duke players finally entered the stadium where they were scheduled to play half a century earlier.
  • The 1942 Rose Bowl remains the only time that Oregon State and Duke have met on the gridiron.
Reference: "War and Roses," Brian Curtis, Sports Illustrated, 8/19/13
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November 14, 1943: Polo Grounds, New York – Chicago Bears @ New York Giants – Sid Luckman Day

Columbia QB Sid Luckman
Sid Luckman at Columbia

Bears Coach George Halas
George Halas

Bears co-coach Luke Johnsos
Luke Johnsos

Bears co-coach Hunk Anderson
Hunk Anderson

Sid Luckman passing on against the Giants on Sid Luckman Day

It was Sid Luckman Day at the Polo Grounds even though Sid was QB of the visiting Bears. Why?

  • Because Sid had grown up in Brooklyn where he was a much-publicized high school player at Erasmus High.
  • Then he spurned dozens of colleges to star for Lou Little at Columbia as a single-wing TB.

At the end of his senior season, the newly-married Luckman wasn't interested in the rough pro game.

  • However, George Halas chose Sid with the first pick in the 1939 draft.
  • "Papa Bear" came to the newlyweds' small apartment for supper and persuaded Luckman to sign for $5,500.
  • George undoubtedly also enticed Sid with the promise of pioneering the T-formation offense that the Bears' staff wanted to install.
  • Luckman led the Bears to the championship game three years in a row from 1940 to 1942. They won the first two but lost the third to the Redskins.
The 1943 Bears had won six in a row after an opening tie at Green Bay. Steve Owens' Giants were only 2-2-1.
  • At that point, Luckman was the leading passer in the league, but he had a problem.
  • Thanks to an injured right shoulder in the previous game against Green Bay, Sid could barely lift his arm above his shoulder.
  • "I really want to play tomorrow," he told his co-coaches Luke Johnsos and Hunk Anderson, who replaced George Halas when the Bears' founder entered the service. "In fact, I have to play. Tomorrow is a special day, and I have to be in the lineup.
  • In the Polo Grounds locker room before the game, trainer Andy Lotshaw rubbed hot liniment into Sid's sore shoulder, but it had little effect.
  • So Andy suggested a shot of Novocaine. Desperate to play, Sid agreed and took a needle deep into the shoulder joint.
  • The star QB broke out in a sweat and his breathing and heart rates rose, making the trainer wonder, "What have I done?" But Sid soon returned to normal and, best of all, felt no pain in his shoulder. He could raise his arm over his head for the first time all week.

The Giants honored Sid in pregame ceremonies.

  • He received two $1,000 war bonds, one from his friends in Brooklyn and the other from his teammates.
  • William D. Richardson wrote in the New York Times the next day: "Right then was when the Giants and Giantfans made their mistake by not matching or out-donating the other donors. Sid seemed to take it as a personal affront ..."

Luckman celebrated his special occasion with a record-setting effort.

  • Sid almost single-handedly administered the Giants their worst defeat to that point in their history, 56-7.
  • He threw seven TD passes to break the mark of six set just two weeks earlier by Sammy Baugh of the Redskins against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • Sid also demolished the record for passing yards in a game with 453. That broke the previous standard of Cecil Isbell of the Packers by 120y!
  • The Bears set a NFL mark for total offense with 702y, breaking their own record of 613 set in 1941.
  • Luckman's total of 23 TD passes thus far in the season was only one away from the mark set by Isbell the year before, which Sid will surely break in the remaining two games. (He ended with 28.)

But Sid almost didn't break the record for TD passes.

  • With the Bears ahead 35-0 thanks to the first five scoring tosses, Anderson pulled his QB to rest his sore shoulder
  • But AP sportswriter Sid Feder told Johnsos in the press box that Sid needed one more TD pass to tie the all-time record and two to break it.
  • Luke relayed the message to Anderson, who told Sid about the record. The QB picked up his helmet and trotted back onto the field.
  • A few plays later as the Bears reached the NY 30, Johnsos sent down the play, then told Feder, "Here comes number six." Sure enough, Luckman hit George Wilson for the sixth TD.
  • When the Bears got the ball back, Johnsos held up seven fingers to Feder and mouthed the words, "Here it comes."
  • This time, Hamp Pool took in the pass at the 5 and, determined to get the record for his QB, dragged three Giants across the goal.

Chicago would win the championship again in 1943, 41-21 over the Redskins – the third straight year the two teams met for the title.

  • Luckman was voted MVP of the '43 season.
  • Sid's record has been tied six times - as recently as 9/5/13 by Peyton Manning - but never surpassed.
  • Sid explained afterwardthat it was "strictly luck."All I could think of when that seventh touchdown went in was the day I saw Lou Gehrig hit four home runs in Yankee Stadium. You've got to give the Bear organization credit for all this. They have the feeling they are the best football team in the world, and they go out every Sunday to prove it.

When Sid retired in 1950, his #42 was retired by the Bears.

  • He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
  • Luckman, whose sports idol was Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers, is undoubtedly the greatest Jewish football player ever.
October 25, 1952: Iowa City IA – Evy Surprises Woody

After opening with four straight defeats, "The Old Man," as the players called their new coach Forrest Evashevski despite his youth (34), faced the most anticipated game in Iowa for a long while.

  • The tenth-ranked 3-1 Ohio State Buckeyes were coming to town for the first time in 25 years.
  • Believing that "if you couldn't match an opponent's strength, you changed tactics without warning," Evy threw out the single wing offense and introduced an unbalanced split-T or "Wing T" to spread out OSU as much as possible.

The sports editor of the Ohio State Journal wrote before the game:

Trusting their over-confidence won't show, Coach Woody Hayes' Buckeyes gridders will travel ... to Iowa City ... intent on making 50,000 Hawkeye Homecoming fans [actually 44,659 attended] wish they had waited another 25 years before inviting Ohio State back to Iowa stadium.

Instead, it was the visitors who hoped they would not have to return for 25 years.

  • Q1 was scoreless but gave hope to the underdog as most of the play occurred in OSU territory.
  • Iowa reached the 14 but failed to score.
  • Finally, the Hawkeyes got a break when FB Doug Goodwell muffed a punt into his end zone where he was smothered for a safety.

Iowa scored the only TD of the day early in the fourth quarter.

  • Bernie Bennett began the charge by returning a punt 44y to the OSU 25.
  • Shortly afterwards, FB Binky Broeder rammed in from the one.
  • TB John Borton of the visitors completed 18 passes for 160y but could not penetrate the Hawkeye 28.
  • Despite gaining 14 first downs to 9 for the home team, the Buckeyes fell 8-0.

Watch the highlights of the game by clicking the link on this page:

The victory highlighted Evy's 2-7 maiden voyage in Iowa City. However, it was a portent of things to come, including Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl victories in 1956 and 1958.

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January 2 , 1956: Rose Bowl, Pasadena CA – Unlikely Hero

Michigan State turned the Big Nine into the Big Ten when it entered the conference for the 1953 season.

  • Clarence "Biggie" Munn's 8-1 squad won the championship and defeated UCLA in the Rose Bowl 28-20.
  • The following season, Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty took over and suffered through a 3-6 maiden season.
  • However, the Spartans rebounded in 1955 to post an 8-1 record. The only loss came in the second game of the season at archrival Michigan 14-7. That was enough to cost MSU the conference championship, which went to 9-0 Ohio State.
  • However, because of the conference's no-repeat rule, Duffy's bunch traveled to Pasadena to once again play the Bruins (8-2), champions of the Pacific Coast Conference.
1956 Rose Bowl program cover

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As it had done two years earlier, UCLA jumped out to a lead over the Spartans.

  • FB Bob "Pogo" Davenport leaped into the end zone early in the first quarter.
  • MSU QB Earl Morrall (who later played for the undefeated 1982 Dolphins) hit TB Clarence Peaks for a 13y TD to tie in the second quarter.
  • After a scoreless third stanza, Peaks threw a 67y TD to E John "Thunder" Lewis for a 14-7 MSU lead.
  • But Ronnie Knox, directing Henry "Red" Sanders' single wing attack from his TB position, led the Bruins 55y to paydirt in just five plays.
  • With 5:00 showing on the clock, the Spartans began their countermarch into enemy territory. However, star K-FB Gerry Planutis missed a 40y try.

Rules of the day prohibited signaling plays or formations from the sidelines.

  • Officials caught UCLA assistant coach Jim Myers making a possing motion as a Bruins player looked to the bench from the huddle.
  • The 15y penalty backed UCLA to its 7. Trying to pass from his end zone, Knox threw the ball to a tackle to avoid a sack.
  • There was no safety awarded for intentional grounding in the end zone, but the Bruins were now on their 1.
  • Knox quick-kicked to the middle of the field but another penalty, for interfering with the receiver, gave MSU a first down on the 25 with less than 2:00 left.
  • But the Spartans went backwards, recovering their own fumbles twice and getting a delay of game penalty.

Then Daugherty surprised everyone by turning to inexperienced K Dave Kaiser to try a 41y FG with 0:07 left.

  • He had missed his only two tries during the season.
  • To make matters worse, the ball was snapped while he was in the middle of a practice kick.
  • However, he adjusted and nailed the winner.
  • Because he was near-sighted and played without glasses, Kaiser had to turn to the referee.
  • "I wasn't sure I made it until the official near me raised his arms, and then Buck Nystrom swarmed all over me."
  • In 1999, Kaiser became the first Spartan inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
December 12, 1965: Wrigley Field, Chicago– A Day to Remember

On a damp, chilly day, Gayle Sayers, rookie HB for the Chicago Bears, left every one of the 46,278 fans in attendance with an experience they would never forget.

  • On a muddy field, Sayers tied an NFL record with six touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers.
  • The record was first set by Ernie Nevers for another Chicago team, the Cardinals, in 1929 at Comiskey Park against the Bears.
  • Dub Jones of the Cleveland Browns also scored 6 TDs in 1961 against the Bears.

Sayers started his onslaught quickly.

  • On the second play of the game, he took a screen pass from QB Rudy Bukich and zigzagged through the 49ers D for an 80y TD.
  • On the next possession, Gayle took a pitchout from the 49ers 21 and raced around end. At the 3, CB Jimmy Johnson seemed to have Sayers cornered, but the Kansas Flash leaped over him into the end zone.
  • A 7y sweep provided his third TD of the first half and a 27-13 lead.
  • In Q3, Sayers rambled 50y to the end zone, leaving defenders strewn in his wake.
  • His fifth TD was a simple 1y dive.
  • Early in the fourth, Gayle took a Tommy Davis punt at his 18 and set sail upfield. At the 50, he slipped down while eluding the last defender, Davis.
  • Not to worry. He soon caught another Davis boot, this one at the 15, and wouldn't be denied by either the coverage team or the mud – 85 yards to paydirt.

Sayers amassed 336 all-purpose yards in the 61-20 rout.

  • Legendary Bears coach George Halas (who was Player-Coach in that 1929 game) called it "the greatest performance I have ever seen on the football field."
  • TE Mike Ditka said: "Yeah, the mud affected the kid. If it had been dry out there, he would've scored 10 touchdowns."
  • Lost in the hoopla was the fact that Davis (from LSU) missed his first PAT of his NFL career, ending his streak at 234.

Sayers had scored four TDs in a game earlier in the season against Minnesota.

  • He finished the season with 2,272 all-purpose yards and a record 22 TDs.
  • His total is even more amazing when you consider that Halas, who didn't like using rookies, kept Sayers on the bench for the first two games of the season.
  • So in only 12 games, Gayle averaged 189 yards and nearly two TDs a game.
  • He won the Rookie of the Year award in a landslide.

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1929: Ernie's Record-Setting Day

1934: Gopher Deception

1939: Why Didn't You Kick?

1942: We Will Have Our Rose Bowl Trip!

1943: Sid Luckman Day

1952: Evy Surprises Woody

1956: Unlikely Hero

1963: Birth of Instant Replay

1965: A Day to Remember


Memorable Games - VII

Memorable Football Games Index


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