National Football Foundation

News Detail

This Week in College Football History: Thanksgiving Edition
This Week in College Football History takes a look back at some of college football's landmark moments over the last 146 years.
Published: 11/26/2014 11:00:00 AM

(Pictured: Hall of Famer Johnny Rodgers opened the scoring for Nebraska by breaking six Oklahoma defenders and racing 72 yards to the end zone. No. 1 Nebraska would defeat No. 2 Oklahoma in the "Game of the Century"  on Thanksgiving Day in 1971.)

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 146 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 can be downloaded by clicking here.

We hope you enjoy this special edition of This Week in College Football History featuring memorable games that took place on Thanksgiving Day during the past 146 years.


Nov. 25, 1971
No. 1 Nebraska def. No. 2 Oklahoma, 35-31
Norman, Okla.

Hall of Fame head coach Bob Devaney and Nebraska hosted Oklahoma for the 1971 edition of the “Game of the Century.” Oklahoma Hall of Fame halfback Greg Pruitt had led a Sooner offense that had averaged an NCAA-record 566 yards per game coming into the epic battle. But Oklahoma’s offensive line, featuring Hall of Fame center Tom Brahaney, found their match in Nebraska noseguard and future Hall of Famer Rich Glover, who posted 22 tackles on the day. Pruitt and Sooner wideback Joe Wylie, a 1972 NFF National Scholar-Athlete, amassed only 70 yards from the backfield. Oklahoma quarterback and NFF National Scholar-Athlete Jack Mildren accounted for 28 of the Sooners 31 points, accumulating 267 total yards and four touchdowns. Huskers I-back Jeff Kinney enjoyed a successful day, rushing for 174 yards and four touchdowns, setting a Nebraska career rushing record, but Hall of Fame wideback Johnny Rodgers emerged as the real star of the day when he opened the scoring by breaking six Oklahoma defenders at his own 28-yard line and racing 72 yards to the end zone. On the final drive, Rodgers caught a clutch pass on third-and-eight to set up Kinney for the game-winning score. Nebraska finished 13-0 after trouncing Alabama in the Orange Bowl for its second-straight national championship. Oklahoma crushed Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, finishing No. 2 with an 11-1 record.


Nov. 26, 1953
Cornell tied Pennsylvania, 7-7

The underdog Big Red came from behind for a 7-7 deadlock, which gave Cornell the Ivy League title and spoiled the final game of George Munger’s College Football Hall of Fame coaching career at Penn. Quaker fullback Joe Varaitis scored the opening touchdown on an 18-yard run, but Cornell reserve quarterback Herb Bool responded in the second quarter with a score of his own on a 60-yard bomb to Bruce Brenner. Cornell finished 4-3-2, while Pennsylvania finish 3-5-1.

Nov. 26, 1964
No. 2 Alabama def. Auburn, 21-14
Birmingham, Ala.

College Football Hall of Fame coaches Bear Bryant of Alabama and Shug Jordan of Auburn squared off in the 1963 edition of the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide thwarted a fired-up Tiger squad despite being outgained 301-245 on offense. Auburn held a 7-6 lead in the second quarter after Hall of Fame halfback Tucker Frederickson’s touchdown. Frederickson’s Alabama counterpart, Ray Ogden, took the opening kickoff of the second half coast-to-coast for the game’s final lead change to make it 14-7. The Tigers lost a fumble at the Alabama 23-yard line in the final minutes, and Tide quarterback Joe Namath put the game out of reach with a touchdown strike to Ray Perkins. The loss capped off a 6-4 season for the Tigers. Top-ranked Alabama would claim the national title despite being upset by Texas in the Orange Bowl to finish 10-1.

Nov. 28, 1895
Michigan def. Chicago, 12-0
Chicago, Ill.

Chicago's Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg could not pull off a win against rival Michigan in the last year before Big Ten play. The field was covered with a layer of ice as Michigan opened the scoring with a 35-yard run from halfback John Hollister and a fumble recovery in the end zone by quarterback J. Deforest Richards. The play of the game came from Wolverine fullback John Bloomingston, who ran the entire length of the field for a touchdown on a punt return, sealing the game at 12-0. Hall of Famer Bert Herschberger appeared at fullback for Chicago. The two teams met annually on Thanksgiving from 1893-99, but Stagg and the Maroons ended the tradition after refusing to play the game anywhere else but Chicago.

Nov. 28, 1957
No. 17 Virginia Military Institute def. Virginia Tech, 14-6
Roanoke, Va.

VMI completed its first undefeated season since 1920 with a win over in-state rival Virginia Tech. The game’s critical touchdown came in the second quarter when halfback Bobby Jordan gave the Keydets a 7-0 lead on a one-yard plunge. The Hokies, featuring Hall of Fame end Carroll Dale, pulled within one in the fourth quarter as quarterback Jimmy Lugar fired two passes for 42 yards to set up Barry Frazee’s 17-yard touchdown run. In the final minutes, Jordan found the end zone to secure the win. The Southern Conference champion Keydets finished No. 20 in the final AP Poll with a 9-0-1 record, but the players voted to snub all bowl invitations. The Hokies finished the season 4-6.


Nov. 28, 1963
No. 1 Texas def. Texas A&M, 15-13
College Station, Texas

The top-ranked Longhorns became the first undefeated Southwest Conference championship team since TCU accomplished the feat in 1938. The Aggies did not make it easy, establishing a 13-3 lead going into the fourth quarter on two touchdown passes by quarterback Jim Keller. Texas substitute quarterback Tommy Wade’s excellent passing set up touchdown runs by Tommy Ford and Duke Carlisle to avoid the upset. The Longhorns, coached by College Football Hall of Famer Darrell Royal and featuring Hall of Famer Tommy Nobis, finished 11-0 after stampeding over Navy in the Cotton Bowl for the school’s first national championship. The Aggies finished the season 2-7-1.
Check out, the NFF’s new home for storytelling that promotes the power of amateur football. Features focus on the stories that evoke the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, competitive zeal, character building and the drive for academic excellence that exemplifies many of the young men who play football and the families who support them. #FootballMatters

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 in Atlanta, the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame, the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF High School Showcases, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF Faculty Salute Initiative presented by Fidelity Investments, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, and scholarships of more than $1.3 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. The NFF also collaborates with the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) to release the FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll; awards the William V. Campbell Trophy presented by Fidelity Investments and prominently displayed at its official home inside the New York Athletic Club; and bestows several other major awards at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner. NFF corporate partners include the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, the Sports Business Journal and Under Armour. Learn more at

Created by the National Football Foundation, is the home for storytelling that promotes the power of amateur football.

corporate partners