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This Week in College Football History: Dec. 23-29
This Week in College Football History takes a look back at some of college football's landmark moments over the last 145 years.
Published: 12/20/2013 11:00:00 AM

(Pictured: On Christmas Day in 1987, Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns to help Oklahoma State beat Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen and West Virginia in the Sun Bowl.)

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 145 years. If you choose to use this content in whole or in part, as a courtesy, please credit The National Football Foundation and use the NFF logo, which is available upon request.


Dec. 25, 1987
No. 11 Oklahoma State def. West Virginia, 35-33
Sun Bowl – El Paso, Texas

Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns, but No. 11 Oklahoma State still needed a goal-line stop at the end of the game to hold on for a win against West Virginia in a Sun Bowl marred by sleet and snow. Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen’s Mountaineers held a 24-14 lead at the half, thanks in part to tailback A.B. Brown, who rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on the day. However, the Cowboys rallied in the third quarter to take the lead behind a touchdown run by Thomas and a touchdown pass by quarterback, and future Oklahoma State head coach, Mike Gundy. West Virginia marched down the field late in the fourth quarter to pull within 35-33 on a six-yard touchdown by fullback Craig Taylor. West Virginia attempted a two-point conversion, but Cowboy defensive tackle Shawn Mackey tackled Keith Winn at the goal line to preserve Oklahoma State’s win.


Dec. 23, 1978
North Carolina State def. No. 16 Pittsburgh, 30-17
Tangerine Bowl – Orlando, Fla.

2013 Hall of Fame inductee Ted Brown (North Carolina State) had his jersey number retired after the Wolpack’s upset over No. 16 Pittsburgh in the 1978 Tangerine Bowl. Brown finished his career as the fourth leading rusher in NCAA history, gaining 126 yards and scoring a touchdown early in the first quarter to give N.C. State a lead they would not relinquish. The Wolfpack would take a 17-0 lead into halftime based on its run game and dominant offensive line, which included College Football Hall of Famer Jim Ritcher. N.C. State’s defense was led by linebacker and future Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, who led the Wolfpack with 195 tackles in 1978, a single-season school record that still stands.. Pitt made it a two-possession game early in the fourth quarter, but the Wolfpack picked off Panther quarterback Rick Trocano three times, including a return for a touchdown by safety Mike Nall, to seal the victory.

Dec. 24, 2009
SMU def. Nevada, 45-10
Hawaii Bowl - Honolulu

SMU soundly defeated Nevada in its first bowl appearance in 25 years. SMU quarterback Kyle Padron threw for two touchdowns and a school-record 460 yards as SMU produced its largest margin of victory in school bowl-game history. SMU dominated the game from the start with a 31-0 lead at the half, and  Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault and Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick were unable to respond. After going 1-11 the previous two seasons, the Mustangs (8-5) had their most wins in a season since their last postseason game, which coincidentally was also played in Hawaii, when SMU beat Notre Dame 27-20 in the 1984 Aloha Bowl to finish 10-2. Coach June Jones won his first game back at Aloha Stadium, where he had coached Hawaii for almost a decade.

Dec. 26, 1984
Iowa def. No. 19 Texas, 55-17
Freedom Bowl – Anaheim, Calif.

No. 19 Texas and Iowa faced off in the first Freedom Bowl in 1984 with the Longhorns attempting to end the season on a positive note after falling from a No. 3 ranking in November. However, Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry and Iowa had other ideas. Hall of Fame quarterback Chuck Long threw two early touchdowns to give Iowa a 14-0 lead. The Longhorns bounced back, trailing the Hawkeyes 24-17 at the half, but the Iowa defense and Hall of Fame linebacker Larry Station did not allow Texas to score for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, Long kept the Hawkeyes rolling, throwing for 241 yards and four touchdowns in the third quarter alone. He finished the day with 461 yards and six passing touchdowns, an NCAA bowl record. With the rout, Iowa would find its way into the final AP Poll at No. 16.

Dec. 27, 1969
No. 15 Florida def. No. 11 Tennessee, 14-13
Gator Bowl – Jacksonville, Fla.

Hall of Fame coach Ray Graves ended his career with a win as his No. 15 Florida Gators topped Hall of Fame coach Doug Dickey and No. 11 Tennessee 14-13 in the 1969 Gator Bowl. A game expected to be an offensive shootout turned out into a defensive battle. Florida trailed 10-7 in the third quarter when Hall of Famer Carlos Alvarez hauled in the winning nine-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Reaves. Gators linebacker Mike Kelley earned Most Valuable Player honors by scoring Florida's first touchdown on an eight-yard blocked punt return and collecting a fumble and an interception. The game proved to be Dickey's last as the head coach at Tennessee as he effectively swapped sidelines by taking over at Florida the following season. NFF Board Member and current Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle took over for Dickey at Tennessee.

Dec. 28, 2002
Wisconsin def. No. 13 Colorado, 31-28
Alamo Bowl – San Antonio

Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez led Wisconsin to a 31-28 overtime upset of No. 13 Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl. In a game ruled by turnovers, Colorado cornerback Donald Strickland gave his team a 7-0 lead with a 91-yard interception return. Wisconsin answered with three interceptions of its own, including one by 2004 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Jim Leonhard, to build a 21-14 halftime lead. Colorado reclaimed the lead by recovering fumbles on consecutive Badger possessions to take a 28-21 advantage. Wisconsin quarterback Brooks Bollinger led an 80-yard drive in just 90 seconds, which included two fourth-down conversions and a one-yard touchdown run with 51 seconds left to play. The drive sent the game into overtime. After holding Colorado scoreless on the first possession of overtime, the Badgers won the game on a 37-yard field goal by Mike Allen to move to 7-1 in bowl games under Alvarez.

Dec. 29, 1998
Purdue def. No. 3 Kansas State, 37-34
Alamo Bowl – San Antonio

2000 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Drew Brees and Purdue upended No. 3 Kansas State 37-34 in the 1998 Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats were looking to bounce back after losing the Big 12 Championship Game and falling out of the BCS picture, but the Boilermakers forced Kansas State into seven turnovers and created a dramatic fourth quarter. Trailing 30-20 midway through the final frame, Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop connected with Darnell McDonald for an 88-yard scoring strike. Bishop put the Wildcats on top with a touchdown pass to Justin Swift with 1:24 to play, but Brees coolly led Purdue on a game-winning 80-yard drive culminating in a 24-yard touchdown pass with just 30 seconds remaining. Brees finished the game with 230 yards and three touchdowns, and the win moved Purdue to No. 24 in the final AP Poll.

About The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl "Red" Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame, the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards presented by Fidelity Investments, Play It Smart, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, and scholarships of more than $1.3 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. The NFF presents the MacArthur Bowl, the William V. Campbell Trophy endowed by HealthSouth, and releases the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Standings. NFF corporate partners include the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the BCS, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, Liberty Mutual Insurance, NCAA Football, and Under Armour. For more information, please visit

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