Game of the Century (college football)
The phrase "Game of the Century" is a
superlativethat has been applied to several college footballcontests played in the 20th century, the first full century of college footballin the United States. It is a subjective term applied by sportswritersto describe the most notable games of the period.
Why does the title "The Game of the Century" cover multiple games?
The phrase "Game of the Century" is usually placed in
quotation marks[http://www-tech.mit.edu/V113/N59/argue.59s.html Fighting Irish Win Game of the Century] The Tech (MIT newspaper) Mike Duffy and Andrew Heitner. Volume 113, Issue 59 : Friday, November 19, 1993] to indicate the ironyor emphasize the incorrectness of the statement as it applies to college football games. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/17/AR2006111701689.html Happens Every Year Top-Ranked Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan Play Today, But the 'Game of the Century' Moniker Has Been Trotted Out for Decades] The Washington Post College Gameday, Adam Kilgore. November 18, 2006] What makes the phrase subjective is that sportswriters and fans list the games that they remember or attended. Games that were played before radio and television broadcasts are only preserved in print. Working sportswriters, at most have a history that goes back to the middle of the 20th Century. Television and the Internet have made broadcasts of more recent games available to all. Unlike the "Game of the Century" in college basketball, there has been no specific football game that changed the sport as dramatically.
What makes a game "The Game of the Century"?
#1 vs #2
Some of the games were a #1 vs #2 in the
AP Poll, which happened only 31 times in the 20th century. [ [http://www.kiko13.com/cflrankings/aponevstwo.htm Games Where #1 Faced #2] (kiko13.com)] The Bowl Championship Serieswas created later to make at least one matchup of the top two teams in the nation. Quite often a winning streak is on the line. The prospect of two juggernaut teams on a roll, or "unstoppable force meets immovable object", creates a high interest spectacle.
Although college football is a team game, individual performances can be the difference maker in a great game. The
Heisman Trophyis awarded to the greatest players in the game. A top player, having the best game or best play of his career, is another common theme in the "Game of the Century".
The "Game of the Century" is not always a decisive win. The lure of sport is that the outcome is in doubt until the game is played. A dramatic finish makes the game memorable.
"Some matchups are "Game of the Century" before being played because of what's on the line. Some become "Game of the Century" because people can't believe what they saw."-David Leon Moore [ [http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/pac10/2006-11-23-usc-defense-cover_x.htm USC takes defensive tack] By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY.
November 23, 2006]
When sportswriters are asked to list the top college football games ever played, the games below usually appear on their lists.. [ [http://cfn.scout.com/2/561908.html Scout.com: Greatest Regular season Games] . CollegeFootballNews.com, Posted August 28, 2006]
In each listing, the visiting team is listed first unless the game was played at a neutral site, in which case the teams are listed in alphabetical order.
1916 Georgia Tech vs. Cumberland
October 7, 1916, American footballgame between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Cumberland College Bulldogs (now Cumberland University) was the most-lopsided game in the history of college football. Georgia Tech won, 222-0.
Cumberland, a school in
Lebanon, Tennessee, had actually discontinued its football program before the season but had forgotten to cancel its game against the Yellow Jackets. Tech coach John Heismanwas in no mood to accommodate the Bulldogs, perhaps because Tech's baseballteam had lost 22-0 the previous year to a Cumberland team that Heisman suspected to have included professional players posing as Cumberland students. He insisted on the schools' scheduling agreement, which required Cumberland to pay $3,000 (which would equate to over $60,000 today [http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl] ) to Tech if its football team failed to show. So, George Allen (who was elected to serve as Cumberland's football team student manager after first serving as the baseball team student manager) put together a scrub team of 14 men (some being his Kappa Sigma brothers) to travel to Atlantaas Cumberland's football team.
Cumberland received the opening kickoff and failed to make a first down. After a punt, the Yellow Jackets scored on their first play. Cumberland then fumbled on their next play from scrimmage, and a Tech player returned the fumble for a touchdown. The Bulldogs fumbled again on their next play, and it took Tech two runs to score its third touchdown. Cumberland lost nine yards on its next possession, then gave up a fourth touchdown on another two-play Tech drive.
The Yellow Jackets led 63-0 after the first quarter and 126-0 at halftime. Tech added 54 more points in the third quarter and 42 in the final period.
Several myths have developed around the game. Some people have written that Cumberland did not have a single play that gained yards; in fact, its longest play was a 10-yard pass (on 4th-and-22). One page on Cumberland's website says the Yellow Jackets scored on every offensive play, but the play-by-play account of the game posted online says otherwise. [http://www2.cumberland.edu/about/gotc/gamestory.html The Story of The Game of the Century] by G. Frank Burns, Cumberland University Historian]
1946 Army vs. Notre Dame
November 9, 1946: Army (the football program of the United States Military Academyat West Point, New York), then ranked Number 1 in the Associated Presscollege football poll, played the University of Notre Dame, of South Bend, Indiana, ranked Number 2, at Yankee Stadiumin New York City. [cite book |last=Whittingham |first=Richard |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=Rites of autumn: the story of college football |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year= 2001 |month= |publisher=The Free Press |location=New York |isbn=0-7432-2219-9 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages=148-183 |chapter=6 |chapterurl= |quote=It was surely the game of the year, and many have said it was the college football game of the century ]
This matchup, with the national attention it got in the era before the service academies ceased to be major football powers, was usually played at a neutral site, often in New York City. The 1924 game between the schools, a Notre Dame victory at the
Polo Grounds, was the game at which sportswriter Grantland Ricechristened the Fighting Irish backfield -- quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, halfbacks Jim Crowleyand Don Miller, and fullback Elmer Layden-- the "Four Horsemen." The 1928 edition, with Notre Dame trailing Army at halftime at Yankee Stadium, was the game where Notre Dame coach Knute Rocknedelivered his "Win one for the Gipper" speech, resulting in a comeback win for the Fighting Irish.
Both teams were undefeated going into the 1946 game at Yankee Stadium. Both teams averaged over 30 points per game. Army had a 25-game winning streak, last losing to Notre Dame in 1943 (26-0), but had won the last two contests between the schools by scores of 59-0 and 48-0. Army had the defending
Heisman Trophywinner, Doc Blanchard, also known as "Mr. Inside", the man who would win it that year, Glenn Davis, also known as "Mr. Outside", and one of the nation's top quarterbacks in Arnold Tucker. Notre Dame had the quarterback who would win the Heisman the next year, Johnny Lujack. Both Tucker and Lujack were also outstanding defensive backs at a time when football players, college as well as professional, usually played both offense and defense.
Despite the high-scoring and much-hyped offenses, the game ended in a scoreless tie, with each school's best chance at a scoring drive coming back-to-back: Tucker intercepting Lujack, and Lujack then making a touchdown-saving tackle on Blanchard a few plays later. Notre Dame's defense did something no other team had ever done — it held the famous "Touchdown Twins", Blanchard and Davis, to a total of 79 yards. As an indication of how the defense of both teams dominated, seven linemen in that game were nominated for Lineman of the Week honors in the weekly Associated Press poll. Joe Steffy, an Army guard who helped shut down the Notre Dame running game, won the honor, followed closely by Notre Dame right tackle George Sullivan and freshman lineman Jim Martin who helped stifle Army's running attack and dropped Davis on consecutive plays for losses totalling 17 yards. Both Notre Dame coach Leahy and Army coach Blaik called the game "a terrific battle of defenses."
Both teams would finish the season undefeated with this one tie, but it was Notre Dame that was awarded the National Championship by the Associated Press, with Army coming in second. Neither school accepted bowl bids in that era, and so neither put itself at risk of a loss that would have tarnished their National Championship bid.
With Blanchard, Davis and Tucker having graduated, Army's winning streak would be broken the next year, by
Columbia University. Notre Dame would not lose until early in the 1950 season. Sporting News named the 1944-45 Army Cadets and the 1946 Fighting Irish the second and fifth greatest teams of the Twentieth Century respectively.
1966 Notre Dame vs. Michigan State
November 19, 1966: Notre Dame vs. Michigan State University, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. Notre Dame, which hadn't won a National Championship since 1953 (a long drought by their standards), was ranked Number 1 in one poll and #2 in the other. Defending National Champion Michigan State, who had finished the season #1 in the UPI poll, but was upset by UCLA in the Rose Bowl the previous year, entered the game ranked Number 2 in one poll and #1 in the other. The Fighting Irish, whose bid for a National Championship two years earlier was snuffed out by USC, were hungry, while the Spartans had history and home-field advantage on their side. This was the first time in 20 years that a college football was given the "Game of the Century" tag by the national media, and ABC had the nation's viewers in its grip, with equal parts Notre Dame fans and Michigan State fans.
Interestingly enough, the game was not shown live on national TV. Each team was allotted one national television appearance and two regional television appearances each season. Notre Dame had used their national TV slot in the season opening game against Purdue. ABC executives did not even want to show the game anywhere but the regional area, but pressure from the West Coast and the South (to the tune of 50 000 letters) made ABC air the game on tape delay.
Terry Hanrattywas knocked out after getting sacked in the first quarter by Spartan defensive lineman Bubba Smith. Starting Notre Dame running back Nick Eddywas out entirely after hurting his shoulder getting off the train in East Lansing. And Michigan State held a 10-0 lead by early in the second quarter. But the Irish came back, scoring a touchdown right after Michigan State's field goal and tied the game on the first play of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame had the ball on its own 30-yard line with 1:10 to go, needing about 40 yards for a game-winning field goal. But Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghianchose to run the clock out, not wanting to risk a turnover, preserving the tie and Notre Dame's Number 1 ranking. The game ended in a 10-10 tie.
For nearly 40 years, Parseghian has defended his end-of-the-game strategy, which left many fans feeling disappointed at the game not having some sort of resolution, Michigan State fans and others who wanted Michigan State to win calling him a coward, and college football expert
Dan Jenkinsleading off his article for " Sports Illustrated" by saying Parseghian chose to "Tie one for the Gipper." Others chided Notre Dame by calling them the "tying Irish" instead of the "Fighting Irish." But considering it was a road game, Notre Dame was without his own starting quarterback and one of its starting running backs, the backup quarterback, Coley O'Brien, was a diabetic and was exhausted to the point where he couldn't throw, settling for a tie may have been in Notre Dame's best interest.
Notre Dame beat Rose Bowl bound USC 51-0 in Los Angeles the next week, completing an undefeated regular season and moving them to Number 1 in both polls. The Irish did not accept bowl bids until 1969 (see below), and Michigan State was the victim of a pair of Big Ten rules that would be rescinded a few years later: The same school could not represent the league in the Rose Bowl in back-to-back seasons, and only the league Champions could accept a bowl bid, unless they refused the Rose Bowl bid or, because it was on probation, were prohibited from accepting the bid, which, in either case, would then go to the second-place team. So despite being Big Ten Champions and undefeated in the regular season, in each case for two seasons in a row, the Spartans could not play in the Rose Bowl.
The Sporting news named the 1966 Fighting Irish and the 1965-66 Spartans the eleventh and thirteenth greatest teams of the Twentieth Century respectively.
1967 USC vs. UCLA
November 18, 1967: The University of California, Los Angeles, ranked Number 1 in both polls, played the University of Southern California, ranked Number 2 in the coaches poll and 4 in the AP poll. The Bruins had senior quarterback Gary Bebanas the leading Heisman Trophycandidate and the Trojans had junior running back O. J. Simpsonalso as a strong Heisman candidate in a showcase game for player of the year. This is widely regarded as the signature game in the UCLA-USC rivalry. The game would be broadcast live and in color in ABC's second season of covering college football.
Both teams played their home games at the
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseumuntil 1982, when UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl stadium. Both teams also wore their home uniforms. This game was for the "championship of Los Angeles", for the championship of the AAWU conference (now the Pacific Ten), and for a berth in the Rose Bowl game. This was also for the National Championship, since this was the last year where the final AP poll would be published before the bowl games.
With the game tied 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, an injured Beban gamely threw a touchdown pass, but the extra point attempt was blocked, resulting in a 20-14 UCLA lead. Trojan quarterback
Toby Pagecalled a pass play, then saw the Bruin linebackers drop back into pass coverage. He changed the signals before the snap, and handed off to Simpson, who ran 64 yards for a touchdown. USC kicked the extra point, and held on to win, 21-20.
Despite the loss, Beban would win the Heisman; Simpson would win it the next season. Simpson would go on to have one of the greatest professional careers any running back has ever had, rushing for over 11,000 yards, mostly for the
Buffalo Bills, at a time when an NFL season was still 14 games. But Beban was a bust as a pro; he was drafted by the Washington Redskins, who already had a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Sonny Jurgensen. The Redskins moved Beban to wide receiver, and he lasted only two seasons. Keith Jackson, who covered the game for ABC, declared it many years later to be the greatest game he has ever seen. [ [http://www.coachoftheyear.com/award-tv.aspx Coach of the Year (2007) - hosted by Keith Jackson] "Keith Jackson has been broadcasting college football since 1952 and has reported games like the “Game of the Century” between UCLA and USC in 1967."] So did Giles Pellerin, a USC graduate who attended every game USC played from 1926 until his death at the 1998 USC-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl, 797 straight games over 72 years.
The Sporting news named the 1967 Trojans the ninth greatest team of the Twentieth Century.
1969 Texas vs. Arkansas
December 6, 1969: University of Texas at Austin vs. University of Arkansas. In a game between unbeatens played at Arkansas' Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, the Texas Longhorns were ranked Number 1 in the country, having won 18 straight games. The Arkansas Razorbacks were ranked Number 2, having won 15 straight.
This game would decide the Southwest Conference Championship, as well as its berth in the Cotton Bowl, setting it up to win the National Championship. Sensing that the matchup might be a possible 1-vs.-2 showdown, ABC offered to move the game from
October 18to December 6to give it more of a national audience to showcase the 100th year of college football, and the schools, enjoying the publicity, accepted. Thanks to a fortuitous upset of top-ranked Ohio State by Michigan, which elevated Texas and Arkansas to the top two spots, the move worked, making their game the focus of the entire American sporting scene. The game pulled a television rating of a 50 share, meaning half the TV sets in the country were tuned to this game.
Richard Nixonattended the game along with several members of his staff and U.S. Representatives George H.W. Bushof Texas and John Paul Hammerschmidtof Arkansas, having announced that he would give a plaque to the winner, proclaiming it to be the National Champion — to the chagrin of observers who thought it premature to do so before the New Year's Day bowl games, and of fans of Pennsylvania State University, which would also end the season undefeated. Arkansas took a 14-0 lead, and held it into the fourth quarter, but Texas came from behind to win, 15-14, and accepted Nixon's plaque.
The signature play of the game came in the 4th quarter with Texas trailing 14-8. The Longhorns, normally a conservative, power running team, faced 4th and 3 and chose to gamble with a deep play action pass. Quarterback James Street was so surprised by the call that he asked head coach
Darrell Royal"Are you sure?" before heading to the huddle. Despite double coverage, Street hit Randy Peschel with a 44 yard pass to keep the drive alive. Texas scored to take the lead 2 plays later.
Texas beat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, and removed any doubt as to whether it deserved consideration as National Champion, although Penn State fans still insist that their team, also undefeated and winner of the Orange Bowl, was better. However, it is worth noting that the Cotton Bowl first invited Penn State to play the Southwest Conference champions. The Nittany Lions declined the invitation, which would have resulted in them playing Texas and only one team ending the year undefeated, preferring to spend New Year's Day in warm Miami, where they defeated Big 8 champion Missouri. The 1969 Texas-Penn State conflict, never settled on the field, has been one of the major arguments in favor of a Division I-A playoff. Arkansas lost the
Sugar Bowlto Ole Miss. The entire Texas-Penn State debate and Nixon's involvement led to a quote from Penn State coach Joe Paterno, a conservative Republican, during a commencement speech at Penn State in 1974 about Nixon, "How could Nixon know so much about college football in 1969 and so little about Watergate in 1974?"
This game has been nicknamed "Dixie's Last Stand", since it was the last major American sporting event played between two all-white teams, although two schools in the
Southeastern Conference, LSU and Ole Miss, did not integrate their varsity football squads until 1972.
Vietnam Warstill raging and Nixon in attendance, protestors came to the game, and one of them got into a tree overlooking the stadium and held up an antiwar sign. The racial and political implications and the build-up to the game were the subject of a 2005 book, "Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming", which paid special attention to the demonstrations by anti-war and anti-racist groups. An urban legendgrew up around this game, claiming that this protestor was Arkansas native and future President Bill Clinton. Clinton, however, was not at the game, as he was then a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxfordin England, and was listening to the game on a shortwave radiowith some American friends.
The two coaches in this game,
Darrell Royalof Texas and Frank Broylesof Arkansas, both retired after the 1976 season and became athletic directors at their respective schools. Broyles, who retired as the Razorbacks' men's athletic director on December 31 2007, [Arkansas had a totally separate women's athletic department from 1971 until Broyles' retirement, after which the two departments merged. See Arkansas Lady'Backs.] spearheaded Arkansas' move from the Southwest Conference to the SEC in 1990. Broyles was instrumental in the Razorbacks and Longhorns playing a two-year series in 2003 (at Austin) and 2004 (at Fayetteville).
The Sporting News named the 1969 Longhorns the seventh greatest team of the Twentieth Century.
1971 Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
November 25, 1971: The best lead written about the '71 Game of the Century came from Dave Kindred, who back then wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal. He wrote, "They can quit playing now, they have played the perfect game." - ESPN's
Beano Cook[ [http://espn.go.com/classic/s/ou_neb_memories_beano.html ESPN Classic - This year's game is great, but it can't compare to '71 ] at espn.go.com]
University of Nebraska, defending National Champions, ranked Number 1 with a 29-game winning streak played the University of Oklahoma, ranked Number 2 with a national prominence dating back to the 50's when they won 3 national championships and a NCAA record 47 straight games. [ [http://www.soonersports.com/sports/m-footbl/archive/m-footbl-winning-streak.html Oklahoma Sooners Official Athletic Site - Football ] at www.soonersports.com]
The teams combined for 17 of 22 first-team All-Big Eight players. Nebraska had the nation’s top-ranked defense. Oklahoma had the nation's most productive offense with their wishbone averaging over 472 rushing yards per game, a NCAA record. [ [http://www.soonerstats.com/football/games/recap.cfm?GameID=690 1971 Oklahoma vs. Nebraska Game Recap - SoonerStats.com - Oklahoma Sooners Football, Basketball, and Baseball Scores, Records, and Stats ] at www.soonerstats.com]
The cover of Sports Illustrated (Nov. 22, 1971) published the week of the game included photographs of Nebraska linebacker Bob Terrio and Oklahoma running back Greg Pruitt, nose-to-nose, beneath the headline: "Irresistible Oklahoma Meets Immovable Nebraska.’’ [ [http://www.huskers.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=230&SPID=22&DB_OEM_ID=100&ATCLID=3002 1971 National Champions - Huskers.comNebraska Athletics Official Web Site ] at www.huskers.com]
The Husker "Blackshirts" defense included seven first-team All-Big Eight selections, four players who would earn consensus All-America recognition during their careers and two
Outland Trophywinners: middle guard Rich Gloverand tackle Larry Jacobson. Glover would win both the Outland and Lombardi awards in 1972 and eventually be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. They were joined in the starting lineup by end Willie Harper, like Glover, a two-time All-American. John Dutton, an All-American in 1973, was a sophomore backup. This defense is still considered by many to be the greatest in college football history. [ [http://www.huskers.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=230&SPID=22&DB_OEM_ID=100&ATCLID=3002 1971 National Champions - Huskers.comNebraska Athletics Official Web Site ] at www.huskers.com]
The Sooner's record setting wishbone was led by all-American QB
Jack Mildrenwho rushed for over 1,000 yards, but was also a very good passer. His weapons were Heisman candidate HB Greg Pruittwho averaged a stunning 9.5 yards per carry and speedy split end Jon Harrison. Future College Football Hall of Famer Tom Brahaneywas the anchor at center. [ [http://www.soonerstats.com/football/games/recap.cfm?GameID=690 1971 Oklahoma vs. Nebraska Game Recap - SoonerStats.com - Oklahoma Sooners Football, Basketball, and Baseball Scores, Records, and Stats ] at www.soonerstats.com]
The Husker offense was led by flanker,
Johnny Rodgers, who would go on to win the Heisman Trophythe next season and bullish tailback Jeff Kinney, a future NFL first round draft pick. The Sooner defense was anchored by all-Big 8 defensive tackle Derland Moore, a future all-American and NFL Pro Bowler.
ABC-TV would broadcast nationally to the largest audience ever, an estimated 55 million viewers and they had Chris Schenkel doing the play-by-play. Joining him in the booth for expert analysis was Oklahoma's legendary former coach,
Bud Wilkinson, with Bill Fleming roaming around down on the sidelines. Before the game, Schenkel and Wilkinson emerged from the tunnel leading to the field, and when the Oklahoma crowd spotted Wilkinson, they erupted into applause. They came to their feet with admiration for the coach who had guided the Sooners to prominence with three national championships and an NCAA record 47-game winning streak in the decade of the fifties. [ [http://www.soonerstats.com/football/games/recap.cfm?GameID=690 1971 Oklahoma vs. Nebraska Game Recap - SoonerStats.com - Oklahoma Sooners Football, Basketball, and Baseball Scores, Records, and Stats ] at www.soonerstats.com]
The game was played at Owen Field in Norman, Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day, on ABC in front of 55 million, at that time the largest television audience to ever watch a college football game. Not only at stake was the Big Eight title, but also the #1 ranking in the polls. However, the bowl trips had already been determined before the game, with Nebraska going to the
Orange Bowlin Miami and Oklahoma headed for the Sugar Bowlin New Orleans. Two days after Thanksgiving, #5 Auburn (9-0) would host #3 Alabama (10-0) for the Southeastern Conference title, the two opponents that Oklahoma and Nebraska would play.  . Given the magnitude of the game, Devaney had even had his players' food flown in from Lincoln, in case gamblers attempted to induce a hotel chef to give the Huskers food poisoning. [ [http://www.soonerstats.com/football/games/recap.cfm?GameID=690 1971 Oklahoma vs. Nebraska Game Recap - SoonerStats.com - Oklahoma Sooners Football, Basketball, and Baseball Scores, Records, and Stats ] at www.soonerstats.com]
The game went back and forth. The Cornhuskers struck first, with Rodgers shocking the Sooners with a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown after the Sooners' first possession was stopped. The punt return remains one of college football's signature moments, though it remains controversial. Some observers and many Sooner fans claim Nebraska cornerback Joe Blahak appeared to clip Sooner receiver Jon Harrison as Rodgers stormed for the touchdown, but no penalty was called, primarily because Blahak blocked Harrison at an angle, which was not a penalty. Referees for the game have continued to deny that there was a clip on the play, even after having studied film footage of it, which is inconclusive due to Blahak's trajectory.
The first half was atypical for both teams, as the Cornhuskers' potent offense was stymied by the underrated Sooner defense; meanwhile, the Sooners devastating wishbone offense was blunted by the brutal Cornhusker defense, as the Sooners had several turnovers and were continually frustrated by Husker middle guard Rich Glover, who would end up with twenty-two tackles on the day despite lining up across from Sooner all-American center Tom Brahaney.
Nebraska held a 14-3 lead, but Oklahoma came back, relying almost entirely on Jack Mildren's arm and legs, and the Sooners grabbed the lead at halftime, 17-14, on two long passes from Mildren to Harrison with just seconds left in the first half. For the first time all season, the Cornhuskers were trailing in a game.
Relying on a power running game, the Huskers retook the lead and led 28-17 going into the fourth quarter. Quarterback Jack Mildren led the Sooners back, and Oklahoma led 31-28 with 7:05 to play. The Huskers got the ball back on their own 26-yard line. Getting to the Oklahoma 48, Husker quarterback Jerry Tagge threw to Rodgers, who broke tackles and ran all the way to the 15. Jeff Kinney then carried four times, the last resulting in his fourth touchdown of the game, and Nebraska led 35-31 with two minutes to go. Sacks of Mildren on third and fourth down in Sooner territory finished the game off as a Nebraska win.
This game, much more than the previous year's National Championship, made Nebraska a program with a national following. Already having sold every seat available at their Memorial Stadium since coach Bob Devaney arrived in 1962, they would be a perennial National Championship contender and a frequent presence on national TV, with fans across the country seeing banners at Memorial Stadium reading "Californians for Nebraska", "Floridians for Nebraska", "Alaskans for Nebraska", and so on. Nebraska native Johnny Carson (an alumnus of NU) would often take pride in the Cornhuskers' accomplishments during his monologue as host of The Tonight Show, and fellow Nebraskan Dick Cavett would also mention them on his talk show.
The Cornhuskers went on to defeat the University of Alabama, by then ranked Number 2, 38-6 in the Orange Bowl, completing their back-to-back National Championships. Devaney coached for one more year, going 9-2-1, before becoming Nebraska's athletic director and handing the reins over to assistant Tom Osborne.
Pruitt ended up not winning the Heisman, which went to Auburn University quarterback Pat Sullivan. By a coincidence, Auburn was the team Oklahoma would end up playing, in the Sugar Bowl, and the Sooners won, 40-22. (By another coincidence, these two arch-rivals, Nebraska and Oklahoma, would end up playing each half of another nasty rivalry, Alabama and Auburn, and beat them both.)
Despite the defeat, Oklahoma's program was also relaunched by this game, and they would be a perennial National Championship contender throughout the 1970s and much of the 1980s. Oklahoma coach Chuck Fairbanks left the Sooners following the 1972 season to become the head coach of the New England Patriots of the NFL. Offensive coordinator
Barry Switzersucceeded Fairbanks and compiled a 157-29-4 record from 1973 through 1988 and guided the Sooners to national championships in 1974, 1975, and 1985.
The Sporting News named the 1971 Cornhusker team the greatest team of the Twentieth Century in 1988.
ESPN.com has named the 1971 Nebraska Cornhusker team the greatest team of all time. [ [http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/colfootball/teams/best.html ESPN.com List of Greatest College Football Teams of all time - Retrieved Sept 2008] ]
1987 Miami vs. Penn State
January 2, 1987: In the next "Game of the Century", the largest television audience in college football history watches as the undefeated and #1 Miami Hurricanes battle the undefeated and #2 Penn State Nittany Lions in the Fiesta Bowlfor the national championship. [ [http://espn.go.com/abcsports/bcs/fiesta/s/1987.html Bowl Championship Series - 1987 - Penn State 14, Miami 10 ] at espn.go.com] The game garnered a 25.1 television rating, with an average of 21,940,000 viewers watching the NBC telecast per minute. [http://cronkitezine.asu.edu/archives/stories/bowl03.html]
Of the two teams, Miami had the starpower, as it was led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback
Vinny Testaverde, running back Alonzo Highsmith, and defensive tackle Jerome Brown, all of whom would be selected within the first nine picks of that April's NFL Draft. Miami was seldom challenged during the regular season and was considered a prohibitive favorite over the gritty Nittany Lions. Tensions between the teams were heightened when Miami players attended a Fiesta Bowl barbecue held days before the game dressed in fatigues.
The game played out in surprising fashion. Miami's offense had little trouble moving the ball, yet the vaunted Penn State defense was able to pressure Testaverde enough (four sacks) that the Hurricanes committed a whopping seven turnovers (five interceptions, two fumbles). Miami scored first to take a 7-0 lead, but Penn State would answer with a touchdown of its own to tie it up at 7 at halftime. Miami added a field goal early in the fourth quarter to take a 10-7 lead, but momentum swung when Penn State linebacker
Shane Conlanintercepted a pass from Testaverde and returned it 38 yards to the Miami 5. D.J. Dozier would then score on a six-yard run to give Penn State its first lead of the night at 14-10.
The score was still 14-10 when Miami took over at its own 23 with just over 3 minutes left. Testaverde was masterful on the drive, converting a key 4th-and-six pass from Miami's own 27 to
Brian Bladesfor a 31-yard gain and at one point completing six straight passes on the drive to take the Canes all the way down to the Penn State 6 with just 18 seconds remaining in the game. But on the next play, Penn State fooled Testaverde when the Lions decided to drop eight men back in pass coverage and rushed just three. Testaverde failed to read the coverage and his pass was intercepted at the goal line by linebacker Pete Giftopoulos, sealing the upset win for Penn State.
Miami dominated the game statistically, racking up 445 total yards and 22 first downs to just 162 yards and 8 first downs for Penn State. But in the end, it was Penn State that walked away with the victory--and the national championship--in this "Game of the Century."
1993 Florida State vs. Notre Dame
November 13, 1993: In a matchup of unbeatens, Florida State University was ranked Number 1, and Notre Dame was ranked Number 2. The winner of this game, at Notre Dame Stadiumin South Bend, Indiana, was certain to play Number 3 Nebraska (which would then move up to Number 2) in the Orange Bowl for the National Championship.
Florida State had quarterback
Charlie Ward, who would win the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame was an underdog, but had the home-field advantage. They also had the experience of having played in the 1946 and 1966 "Games of the Century."
It was a game between the most-hyped program of the era and the most-hyped program in college football history, and NBC, which had exclusive rights to Fighting Irish home games (and was thus mocked by some as the "Notre Dame Broadcasting Company", much as CBS was ripped as the "Cowboys Broadcasting System" by
Dallas Cowboys-haters in the 1970s and 1980s), tried to market this matchup as the "Game of the Century." There was considerable media discussion as to whether the game would live up to the hype, and, if not, how bad NBC would look. ESPN would also hype the game, showing FSU players touring the Notre Dame campus that week wearing green hats with shamrocks and gold-embroidered FSU initials on the front, and having the first on-campus edition of "College GameDay" from South Bend. The Peacock Network did not have to worry, because they got the classic they hoped for.
The Irish appeared to be riding those mystiques the entire game, leading 31-17 as the Seminoles got the ball with 1:39 to play. But Ward drove the 'Noles down the field, and hit
Kez McCorveyon 4th-and-20 for a touchdown that bounced off Irish safety Brian McGee. Notre Dame got the ball back, but went three-and-out, giving FSU one last shot. In just three plays, they got to the Irish 14 with three seconds to play. Ward rolled out and had a wide open receiver in the end zone, but did not see him, and his pass was batted down. Notre Dame won, 31-24, and a sellout crowd stormed the field.
The Irish were now Number 1, and set up to play Number 2 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, leaving now-Number 3 Florida State in a lesser bowl. All Notre Dame had to do was beat Boston College the next week. But BC won on a last-second field goal, and the Irish were knocked out of the top spot. Nebraska advanced to Number 1 and Florida State to Number 2, and their National Championship showdown was set. Ironically, having blown potential National Championships by missing last-second field goals in their games against the University of Miami in each of the two previous seasons, Florida State won the game, 18-16, after hitting a last-minute field goal and Nebraska's miss of a last-second field goal try. The Seminoles earned their first National Championship. Cornhusker fans, having had several close calls since their last title in 1971, would have to wait one more year.
*Celzic, Mike. "The Biggest Game of Them All: Notre Dame, Michigan State and the Fall of 1966": ISBN 0671758179 (Michigan State - Notre Dame Game)
*Corcoran, Michael. "The Game of the Century" ISBN 0743236211 (A detailed narrative of the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma game)
*Frei, Terry. "Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming": ISBN 0743224477 (The details of the political climate in the leadup to this game in terms of racial tensions and anti-Vietnam war sentiments are documented in the book)
*White, Lonnie. (August 2004). "UCLA vs. USC: 75 Years of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports": Los Angeles Times Books. (ISBN 1-883792-27-4) (UCLA - USC)
*Whittingham, Richard. (December 1985). "Saturday Afternoon: College Football and the Men Who Made the Day": Workman Pub Co. ISBN 0894809334 (Synopsis of several of the listed games)
*"College Football's Twenty-Five Greatest Teams":
The Sporting News. ISBN 0-89204-281-8
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