Story and photo courtesy of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
As part of an ongoing series throughout the fall, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame posts This Week in College Football History, which takes a look back at some of college football's landmark moments over the last 144 years.
December 6, 1969: With President Richard Nixon and U.S. Representative George H.W. Bush in attendance and over half of the nation's TV sets watching, Texas and Arkansas played in the “Game of the Century” in the sport's 100th season. The top ranked Longhorns, led by Hall of Fame Coach Darrell Royal, traveled to Fayetteville to meet the second ranked Razorbacks guided by Hall of Fame Coach Frank Broyles. Two Texas turnovers led to two Arkansas scores, and the Hogs headed to the 4th quarter up 14-0. On the first play of the quarter James Street scrambled 42 yards for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion cut the deficit to six. With under five minutes to play and facing a fourth and two, Royal called "Right 53 Veer Pass." Street hit Randy Peschel for a 44-yard gain. Two plays later Jim Bertelsen ran in for the game tying score. Happy Feller' s extra point made it 15-14 Texas. In the closing moments, Arkansas moved into Longhorn territory before an interception ended the threat. President Nixon declared Texas the national champion. They would later defeat Notre Dame in Cotton Bowl to complete their unbeaten season. Arkansas fell to Archie Manning and the Ole Miss Rebels in the Sugar Bowl. CLICK HERE TO WATCH A VIDEO RECAP OF THIS GAME ON THE NFF DIGITAL NETWORK.
OTHER NOTABLE DATES
December 3, 1949: In the era of one platoon football, it was possible that one player could dominate an entire game, and that was the case when Hall of Famer Kyle Rote replaced injured Hall of Famer Doak Walker in the Southern Methodist backfield. Playing in the single wing, Rote, ran, passed, kicked and punted the Mustangs to a near victory against top-ranked Notre Dame. The Cotton Bowl crowd in Dallas saw a Fighting Irish team, which featured five Hall of Famers, jump to a 13-0 halftime lead. Rote opened the scoring in the second half, and he led a fourth quarter comeback that saw #44 pass and run the Mustangs to a 20-20 tie. After Notre Dame regained the lead 27-20, Rote took the Mustangs inside the Irish five during the closing seconds of the game before turning the ball over on downs.
December 4, 1965: A late season matchup in Memphis between No. 5 UCLA and No. 7 Tennessee was one of the biggest offensive shows of the season. The Vols took a 20-7 halftime lead, but Hall of Fame quarterback Gary Beban responded when he scored his third touchdown, putting the Bruins in the lead 34-29. Vol QB Dewey “The Swamp Rat” Warren had the final say, leading his team on a methodical game ending TD drive that culminated with him scoring on a fourth down run from the UCLA one-yard line as Tennessee prevailed 37-34. UCLA rebounded in the Rose Bowl, upsetting Michigan State and finished ranked #4. Tennessee beat Tulsa in the Bluebonnet Bowl to finish ranked #7.
December 5, 1992: In the first-ever SEC championship game, No. 2 Alabama defeated Coach Steve Spurrier’s No. 15 Florida Gators in Birmingham. Hall of Fame coach Gene Stallings saw his Crimson Tide take a 21-7 lead before the Gators stormed back to tie the score at 21 a piece. Late in the 4th quarter, Alabama DB Antonio Langham picked off a Shane Matthews pass, returning it 27 yards for a touchdown. The score sealed a Crimson Tide win, the SEC Championship, and a berth in the Sugar Bowl to play for the national championship. Alabama upset top ranked Miami in the title game, claiming the school's 12th national crown.
December 7, 1963: After the assassination of President Kennedy, the 1963 Army-Navy game in Philadelphia was nearly canceled and played only at the request of Mrs. Kennedy. The game was similar to the 1946 contest where the underdog staged a potential game-winning final drive only to see the clock run out with the ball inside the opponent’s five-yard line. Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubauch called on fullback Pat Donnelly to score three touchdowns as the Midshipmen led 21-7 with 11 minutes to play. Army responded with a touchdown and a two-point conversion to trail 21-15. A successful on-side kick gave the ball back to Army. During the ensuing drive, the Cadets expended all of their time outs. Battling the deafening crowd noise, they failed to execute a fourth down play from the Navy two-yard line as time ran out. The Midshipmen finished the season 9-1 and ranked No. 2. They would lose to top ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
December 8, 1956: Unbeaten and ranked sixth, Miami (FL) possessed one of the nation’s best defenses with an offense powered by Hall of Fame fullback Don Bosseler. The Pittsburgh Panthers, ranked No. 13, came to Miami, looking to avenge a 21-7 loss to Hurricanes the previous year. Bosseler made a key 25-yard run in the Hurricanes’ first score, allowing them to head to the locker room with a 7-0 lead. But in the second half, the Pitt defense out-played Miami’s top-ranked defense. Pitt scored two touchdowns in the second half, giving the Gator Bowl bound Panthers a 14-7 victory.
December 9, 1961: In one of college football’s forgotten bowl games, Baylor upset #10 Utah State in the first Gotham Bowl. Played in New York’s Polo Grounds, Baylor’s Ronnie Bull and Don Trull stood out as the offensive stars in the Bear’s 24-9 win against an Aggie team that was led by Hall of Famer and NFF National Scholar-Athlete Merlin Olsen. The final Gotham Bowl was played a year later in Yankee Stadium.
This report was researched and written by College Football Hall of Fame Curator and Historian Kent Stephens.