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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 147 years.
Published: 11/26/2015 10:00:00 AM

(Pictured: The stellar defensive play of College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus and a touchdown run by Hall of Fame fullback Jim Grabowski fueled No. 8 Illinois's 13-0 upset of No. 4 Michigan State in 1963.)

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 147 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.


Nov. 28, 1963
No. 8 Illinois def. No. 4 Michigan State, 13-0
East Lansing, Mich.

The opening kickoff was an indicator of how the rest of the pseudo-Big Ten Championship game would play out as Michigan State halfback Dewey Lincoln bobbled the ball and was downed at his own three-yard line. College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus’ great day on defense paved the way for the Illinois upset and the Illini’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1951. Kicker Jim Plankenhorn booted two first-half field goals to give Illinois a 6-0 halftime lead, and Hall of Fame fullback Jim Grabowski rumbled 14 yards for a score early in the third quarter behind the blocking of 1963 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Richard Deller. Halfback Sherman Lewis was held in check by Butkus and the Illini defense, which allowed only 148 yards rushing to the Spartans. Under Hall of Fame player-turned-coach Pete Elliott, Illinois finished with an 8-1-1 record and a No. 3 ranking after a 17-7 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl. The loss wrapped up a 6-2-1 season for Michigan State and Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty



Nov. 23, 1989
Cornell def. Penn, 20-6

Cornell’s Todd Nicholson ran for two touchdowns as the Big Red snapped a five-game losing streak with a 20-6 victory over Penn in the season finale for both schools. The loss notched the fifth straight for the Quakers, who shared the Ivy crown the previous season with Cornell. The Big Red compiled 266 rushing yards, led by a 98-yard performance by fullback John McNiff. Nicholson’s first score capped a 15-play, 65-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. After a short Quaker punt gave Cornell prime field position, quarterback Chris Cochrane scored from the two-yard line early in the second quarter for a 13-0 lead. Penn’s loss included one positive note as Bryan Keys gained 66 yards to become the Ivy League's second all-time leading rusher with 3,137 yards, behind the 4,715 of Cornell’s College Football Hall of Fame running back Ed Marinaro. Both the Big Red and the Quakers ended the season with 4-6 records.

Nov. 24, 1994
West Virginia def. No. 22 Syracuse, 13-0
Morgantown, W.Va.

After an abysmal September that resulted in a 1-4 record for College Football Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen and West Virginia, the Mountaineers closed the season with four straight victories, including two over ranked opponents Boston College and Syracuse. West Virginia gained 230 yards on the ground, led by tailback Jimmy Gary and fullback Kantroy Barber, who scored on a second quarter touchdown run. The Orange rushing game was limited to just 51 yards on 32 carries as tailback Kirby Dar Dar picked up just 24 yards. Syracuse was knocked out of bowl consideration and the top-25 with a 7-4 record. At 7-5, West Virginia earned a spot in the Carquest Bowl, falling 24-21 to South Carolina to finish 7-6.

Nov. 25, 1965
Tulsa def. Colorado State, 48-20
Tulsa, Okla.

Trailing 20-15 to Colorado State, Tulsa quarterback Bill Anderson scored on an eight-yard run late in the third quarter before pitching touchdown passes of 60, 63 and 51 yards to set an NCAA record for single-season total offense (3,343 yards). Anderson finished the day with 37 completions for 502 yards and five touchdowns. College Football Hall of Famer and Golden Hurricane end/kicker Howard Twilley caught two of those five touchdown passes and made four extra points to finish the year with 127 points, becoming the first lineman to win the nation’s scoring title. Coached by Glenn Dobbs, a Hall of Fame halfback for the Golden Hurricanes from 1940-42, Tulsa finished the season as Missouri Valley Conference champions with an 8-3 record after a loss to Tennessee in the Bluebonnet Bowl. The Rams, coached by 2001 NFF Toner Award recipient Mike Lude, ended the season with a 4-6 record.

Nov. 25, 1999
No. 18 Mississippi State def. No. 23 Mississippi, 23-20
Starkville, Miss.

Appropriately nicknamed “The Pick and the Kick,” the 1999 Egg Bowl marked only the fourth time that both schools entered the game in the top-25. Mississippi held the lead nearly all game as quarterback Romaro Miller threw first half touchdown passes to Maurice Flournoy and Adam Bettis and holding a 20-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. Mississippi State had stayed in the game with a 29-yard scoring run by tailback Dicenzo Miller in the second quarter, setting up a golden fourth quarter for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State quarterback Wayne Madkin threw two touchdown passes in the quarter, tying the game at 20 apiece with 27 seconds remaining. Instead of taking a knee to send the game to overtime, Romaro Miller attempted a deep pass that was intercepted by defensive back Eugene Clinton and returned 27 yards. The pick set up kicker Scott Westerfield’s winning 44-yard field goal. Mississippi finished the season with an 8-4 record and a No. 22 ranking after a win over Oklahoma in the Independence Bowl. The Bulldogs finished with their first 10-win season since 1940 after a win over Clemson in the Peach Bowl.

Nov. 26, 1953
Utah def. BYU, 33-32
Provo, Utah

A national television audience marveled at the wide-open style of football that gave them a preview of the WAC conference, still nine years before its creation. BYU, a big underdog to Utah, surprised the Utes with a strong aerial game that set up three touchdown runs by fullback Don James. Utah fullback Don Peterson countered James’ impressive performance with four touchdowns, and quarterback Don Rydalch added another on a 20-yard pitch to halfback Max Pierce. After the teams battled to a 13-13 tie at halftime, the game’s most pivotal play came in the third quarter. After leveling the score at 20 apiece, Utah was kicking off, but BYU committed a penalty with the ball in the air which, at the time, resulted in a possession change to the kicking team. The Utes quickly scored to turn a once 20-13 deficit into a 27-20 lead. After a late rally by the Cougars, they attempted to tie the game for the fourth time, but a botched snap prevented Billy Meadows from attempting the extra point. Utah clinched its third straight Skyline Eight title with the win and finished with an 8-2 record. BYU ended the season with a 2-7-1 record.

Nov. 28, 1985
No. 15 Texas A&M def. No. 18 Texas, 42-10
College Station, Texas

Thanks to three touchdown passes by quarterback Kevin Murray, Texas A&M clinched a spot in the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 1967. Ahead 7-0 at halftime, the Aggies exploded for 21 points in a four-minute span during the third quarter as Murray threw a pair of touchdowns to Rod Harris, and Roger Vick scored on an 11-yard touchdown run. Texas turnovers set up the second and third scores for Texas A&M in their hot streak. The Longhorns, who had six turnovers in all and allowed six sacks, finally scored in the fourth quarter on Jeff Ward’s 57-yard field goal. Following a successful onside kick, Texas scored again on a 10-yard pass from Todd Dodge to Russell Hays. The Aggies answered with two more touchdowns to bury the Longhorns. Texas A&M finished with a 10-2 record and a No. 6 ranking after defeating Auburn 36-16 in the Cotton Bowl. Texas fell to 8-4 after a loss to Air Force in the Bluebonnet Bowl.   

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 William V. Campbell Trophy presented by Fidelity Investments, annual scholarships of more than $1.3 million and a series of initiatives to honor the legends of the past and inspire the leaders of the future. NFF corporate partners include the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, New York Athletic Club, Pasadena Tournament of Roses, PrimeSport, SKP, the Sports Business Journal and Under Armour. Learn more at

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