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This Week in College Football History: Dec. 21-27
This Week in College Football History takes a look back at some of college football's landmark moments over the last 147 years.
Published: 12/18/2015 2:45:00 PM

(Pictured: College Football Hall of Fame tailback Ted Brown finished as the fourth-leading rusher in NCAA history after leading the Wolfpack to an upset win over Pittsburgh in the 1978 Tangerine 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 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.


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

Following his final game in a N.C. State jersey, College Football Hall of Fame tailback Ted Brown had it retired, finishing as the fourth-leading rusher in NCAA history after a 126-yard performance in the Tangerine Bowl upset over Pittsburgh. Brown opened the scoring with a one-yard run behind the blocking of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jim Ritcher, giving N.C. State a 7-0 first-quarter lead. The Wolfpack extended its lead to 17-0 at halftime thanks to a 51-yard field goal by Nathan Ritter and a 55-yard touchdown strike from John Isley to Lee Jukes. The Panthers got on the board in the second half on a 37-yard field goal by Mark Schubert, answered by two more field goals off the foot of Ritter. After Pitt closed the lead to 23-10, N.C. State safety Mike Nall put the final nail in the coffin with a 66-yard pick-six. The Wolfpack intercepted two more passes in the fourth quarter to hinder the Panthers’ efforts. N.C. State broke into the top-20 with the upset victory, finishing at No. 18 with a 9-3 record. Pitt’s Hall of Fame-loaded squad, including linebacker Hugh Green and offensive tackles Mark May and Jimbo Covert, fell out of the final poll with an 8-4 mark.  



Dec. 21, 1985
Georgia Southern def. Furman, 44-42
Diamond Bowl – Tacoma, Wash.

In the greatest comeback in Division I-AA title game history, Georgia Southern rallied from a 22-point third-quarter deficit to defeat Furman, claiming the first of four I-AA national championships from 1985-1990. College Football Hall of Fame quarterback Tracy Ham hit Frank Johnson on a 13-yard scoring strike with 10 seconds left in the game to give the Eagles the victory. Ham finished the game with four passing touchdowns, 419 yards passing and another 90 yards rushing. Johnson caught seven passes for 148 yards, all in the second half. Georgia Southern scored 38 points in the final 21:51 of the game to overcome a 28-6 Furman lead. The Eagles finished with a 13-2 record, while the Paladins ended the year with a 12-2 mark.

Dec. 22, 1893
USC def. Cal Tech, 14-4
Los Angeles

The win over Cal Tech culminated USC’s inaugural season as a member of the Intercollegiate Football Association of Southern California, the forerunner of the SCIAC. After the two teams exchanged four-down goal-line stands, the Trojans scored first to take a 4-0 lead after an unsuccessful point-after attempt. After multiple fumbles in the rain-soaked affair, Cal Tech advanced to the USC goal-line and tied the game at four apiece. The Trojans took a 10-4 lead just before halftime on a scoring run by Ben Smith. In the second half, a pair of big gains by Smith set up another USC touchdown, sealing the 14-4 victory. The Trojans finished with a 3-1 record.

Dec. 24, 1988
No. 20 Alabama def. Army, 29-28
Sun Bowl – El Paso, Texas

The 1988 Sun Bowl highlighted contrasting offenses as Alabama quarterback David Smith threw for 412 yards and Army rushed for 350 yards. Fullback Ben Barnett led the Cadets with 177 yards rushing, including a 51-yard dash up the middle on the first drive, against the fifth-best rush defense in the nation. Army racked up 233 yards on the ground in the first half alone, taking a 14-13 lead heading into the break. The Crimson Tide would have trailed by more, but College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas blocked two field goals. The teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter before Army safety O’Neal Miller returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown and a 28-20 lead. Alabama escaped the upset thanks to a 32-yard field goal by Phillip Doyle and a two-yard touchdown plunge by fullback David Casteal in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide improved to 9-3 and climbed to No. 17 in the final AP Poll. Coached by Hall of Famer Jim Young, Army finished with a 9-3 record as well.

Dec. 25, 1922
West Virginia def. Gonzaga, 21-13
San Diego East-West Christmas Classic

Both West Virginia and Gonzaga appeared in their first bowl in a battle between College Football Hall of Fame player-turned coach Clarence Spears of West Virginia and Hall of Fame coach Gus Dorais of Gonzaga. The Mountaineers took a 7-0 lead on Nick Nardacci's 12-yard touchdown run, and Russ Meredith returned an interception 80 yards to give West Virginia a 14-0 halftime lead. Jack Simons caught a touchdown pass from Nardacci in the third to extend the Mountaineers lead to 21-0. The Bulldogs narrowed the lead on two touchdowns by Matt Bross, one reception and one run, but they failed to catch up to the Mountaineers, who held on to win their first bowl game and claim the program’s first 10-win season (10-0-1). The 1922 season also marks the only undefeated season in West Virginia history. Gonzaga wrapped up the season with a 5-3 record.

Dec. 26, 2003
California def. Virginia Tech, 52-49
Insight Bowl – Phoenix

California, winners of four of its last five games coming into the Insight Bowl, wasted no time, waltzing to a touchdown on the opening drive. Golden Bear quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 394 yards on the day, scrambled for the early score. Later in the first quarter, Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall hit tight end Keith Willis for the first of his two touchdown receptions to take a 14-7 lead. Randall, a 2004 NFF National Scholar-Athlete, launched a bomb to Marcus Vick in the final minute of the first quarter to extend the Hokies’ lead to 21-7. California rallied behind two touchdown passes by Rodgers to cut the lead to 28-21 at halftime. Golden Bears’ fullback Chris Manderino plowed through the trenches for a touchdown to tie the game at 28 apiece, igniting a scoring spree for California that resulted in a 42-28 lead. Virginia Tech receiver Vincent Strang ran a reverse for a long touchdown to end the Golden Bears’ run midway through the fourth quarter. The Hokies added another touchdown when defensive back DeAngelo Hall broke three tackles for a game-tying punt return. With just over three minutes remaining, California started from its 35-yard line and maneuvered down field to set up a game-winning 38-yard field goal by Tyler Frederickson. California, despite a 3-5 start, managed an 8-6 record to wrap up the season. Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech squad fell to 8-5 with the loss.

Dec. 27, 1958
No. 11 Mississippi def. No. 14 Florida, 7-3
Gator Bowl – Jacksonville, Fla.

A sea of mud in the Gator Bowl neutralized Mississippi’s speed advantage while slowing down Florida’s backfield in a rare intra-SEC bowl matchup. Leading the all-time series 6-1-1, the Rebels took a 7-0 lead on a touchdown run by fullback Jim Anderson, who started in place of injured College Football Hall of Famer Charlie Flowers. Gator quarterback Jimmy Dunn took the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to reach Mississippi’s 11-yard line. The Rebel defense held strong, holding Florida to a field goal. The Gators threatened late in the game after recovering a 76-yard quick kick near the Mississippi goal-line. The Rebel defense stood strong once again, sealing the victory. Coached by Hall of Famer Johnny Vaught, Mississippi finished with a 9-2 record, while Florida fell to 6-4-1.

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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