The sport of college football is built upon its history and tradition. Each week during the season, FootballMatters.org will take a look at some of the history behind some of the upcoming weekend’s top games.
#5 Washington at #23 Washington State, Friday, November 25, 3:30 pm ET FS1
All-Time Series: Washington leads 70-32-6 over Washington State.
First Played: 1900
In the wild and wooly Pacific Northwest, no game more fervently divides the loyalties of the fans like the Apple Cup, contested each year between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars. From 1934 to 1961, the two team’s played for the “Governor’s Trophy” before it was renamed the Apple Cup in 1962 due to the high-volume of apples grown in the state. From 1950-1980, the year’s in which Washington State hosted the games (with the exception of 1954) were played at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane and the 2011 contest was held at CenturyLink Stadium – home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. The first game between the two rivals was a 5-5 tie in 1900 and they have played every year since 1945. Notable games include:
November 22, 1975 – In 1975, the Washington Huskies welcomed in new Head Coach Don James. The future Hall of Famer set about rebuilding the program in Seattle, but he was blessed with a veteran team including all-time great Warren Moon. They were coming off of a big win against the then #13 USC Trojans the previous week. That year’s contest against the Cougars would be in Seattle at Husky Stadium. The game was back and forth until the Cougars began to pull away leading 27-14 late in the fourth. Rather than kick a field goal, Washington State went four a fourth and one conversion on the Huskies 14. An errant pass was intercepted by Washington’s Al Burleson that was returned 93 yards for a touchdown. The Cougars went three and out on the next series which put the ball in Moon’s hands for one more drive. On the next series, Moon’s pass was tipped into the hands of Husky wide receiver Spider Gaines who raced down the field for a 78-yard touchdown. The extra point kick gave the Huskies a 28-27 win capping off a 6-5 season for James. On the opposing sideline.
November 21, 1992 – Martin Stadium in Pullman would be the site for the 1992 Apple Cup. Head Coach Mike Price’s Cougars would be defending their home field against the #5 Huskies. Two factors would be on the side of Washington State that day, their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Drew Bledsoe and Mother Nature herself. Flurries of snow blanketed the stadium that day; while it may have stifled the Huskies, it proved to be no problem for Bledsoe. He led the Cougars to a massive 42-23 upset of the Huskies on that day, connecting with wide receivers C.J. Davis and Philip Bobo on multiple occasions. The Snow Bowl, as it would come to be known by fans, would cap off a big year for Price, Bledsoe, and the Cougars. They would finish the year ranked in the top 25 and secure a victory in that year’s Copper Bowl. Bledsoe would be the runner up in the Heisman Trophy voting and be taken number one overall in the following year’s NFL Draft.
November 23, 2002 – When it comes to rivalries, almost nothing is better than being playing the role of spoiler. In 2002, the Washington State Cougars came into the Apple Cup against the Huskies ranked #3 in the nation and were poised for a BCS National Championship Game berth. Senior quarterback Jason Gesser was having a stellar season for the Cougars, having earned Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors (shared with USC’s Carson Palmer). However, with the Cougars leading, he was knocked out of the game on a tackle by Huskies defensive lineman Tank Johnson. With less than 4 minutes remaining, the Cougars led 20-10; Gesser’s replacement, Matt Kegel, threw an unfortunate interception to freshman Huskies defensive back (and future NBA All-Star) Nate Robinson. Washington roared back to tie the game and send it into overtime. The teams traded field goals heading into triple overtime, when a backward pass by Kegel was ruled a fumble and recovered by the Huskies much to the displeasure of the home crowd at Martin Stadium.
#3 Michigan vs #2 Ohio State, Saturday, November 26, 12:00 am ET ABC
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-47-6 over Ohio State.
First Played: 1897
For thousands and thousands of devoted fans, there is no bigger game played than the one known as “The Game” played between the Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Michigan Wolverines. Between the two schools, there have been 19 National Championships and 10 Heisman Trophy winners. Conference championships, Rose Bowl berths, and national titles have all been decided by the outcome of this annual clash. The 10-Year War between Head Coaches Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler was the epitome of this contest and with the arrivals of Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh to the schools, this rivalry has reached a fever pitch once again. This weekend’s duel will be between two top five programs and again the implications are higher than ever. Notable games include:
October 20, 1923 – The Michigan Wolverines dominated this rivalry in the early years. Led by Hall of Fame Head Coach Fielding H. Yost, the 20th installment of the matchup was held at Ferry Field in Ann Arbor. The game attracted a record crowd of close to 50,000 fans. A field goal by Michigan’s Jack Blott was the only score in the first half. The Wolverines poured it on in the second half and the Buckeyes were stymied completely offensively, never advancing the ball past the Michigan 40-yard line. The Wolverines won 23-0, the largest margin of victory in the early stages of this rivalry. They would go on to win the first of their 11 National Championships in 1923 and set the stage for what would annually become one of college football’s most important games.
November 22, 1969 – In 1969, the Ten-Year War between Hayes and Schembechler began. The Buckeyes were riding the crest of a 22-game unbeaten streak when they traveled to Michigan Stadium ranked #1 in the nation. Schembechler, previously an assistant under Hayes at Ohio State, had his Wolverines ready for battle. The defense of the maize and blue intercepted the Buckeyes six times, including three by defensive back Barry Pierson. In the second quarter, halfback Billy Taylor set up the Wolverines go-ahead touchdown on a 68-yard burst to the six-yard line; on the next series, the ensuing touchdown gave Michigan a 14-12 advantage. Pierson also contribute a spectacular punt return of over 60 yards that set up another Michigan score. When the smoke cleared at the end of the game, the Wolverines had upset their rivals 24-12. This game set a new tone for the annual game, as it entered a new era of excellence which would be the standard bearer for the programs going forward for decades to come.
November 18, 2006 – Many games over the years have been dubbed the “Game of the Century.” One of the latest to stake claim to that title was this one. Ohio State, under Head Coach Jim Tressel, was ranked #1 in the nation. Michigan, under the legendary Lloyd Carr, came in ranked #2. Ohio Stadium in Columbus was the site of what would go down as truly a legendary contest between the two rivals. Michigan quarterback Chad Henne dueled with Ohio State’s Troy Smith like a pair Old West gunfighters as they each led scoring drives on their first possessions. The running backs for each team also factored in heavily as Mike Hart for the Wolverines and Chris “Beanie” Wells for the Buckeyes found the end zone on multiple occasions. A late charge by Michigan came up short as an onside kick was recovered by Ted Ginn, Jr. of Ohio State. The Buckeyes would prevail 42-39; Smith would go on to win that year’s Heisman and the Buckeyes would earn a berth in that season’s BCS National Championship Game.
#13 Auburn vs #1 Alabama, Saturday, November 26, 3:30 pm ET CBS
All-Time Series: Alabama leads 44-35-1 over Auburn.
First Played: 1893
As has been said many times, familiarity breeds contempt. This is definitely the case in the state of Alabama and the fan bases of the Crimson Tide and the Tigers. Less than three hours and 200 miles separate Tuscaloosa and Auburn and this proximity has led to an undying rivalry between the two schools. Shouts of “War Eagle” and “Roll Tide” ring out from the stands at both Jordan-Hare Stadium and Bryant-Denny Stadium during these annual matchups. The game draws its name from Birmingham’s (the state capitol of Alabama and home to many of the matchups) role in the steel industry. When the SEC began divisional play in 1992, the winner of this contest has generally been a contender for the conference crown. The two schools have been players on the national title scene for decades; Alabama has claimed 16 National Championships and Auburn has claimed two of their own. Both schools played in each of the final five BCS Championship Games and this year’s contest again holds implications toward the National Championship. Notable games include:
December 4, 1948 – After 41 years, the Iron Bowl resumed and the “neutral” site of Legion Field in Birmingham was the host. The two teams had not played since their 6-6 tie in 1907, but after mounting pressure in 1947, the two schools agreed to the contest. A crowd of over 46,000 came out to see the resumption of this rivalry, which ultimately ended up a one-sided affair. Alabama jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after a touchdown by Crimson Tide backer Butch Avinger. The Tide literally rolled the rest of the day overwhelming the Tigers 55-0. This is still the largest margin of victory in the history of the contest.
December 2, 1972 – Legion Field was again the site of the Iron Bowl in 1972. The legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant led his #2 ranked, 10-0 team into their annual contest against the Auburn Tigers. No one could have foreseen the dramatic turn that this game took. The Tide were cruising to a 16-3 lead late into the game. On the next possession, Alabama’s drive stalled and they were forced to punt. It was blocked by Auburn’s Bill Newton and returned for a 25-yard touchdown by defensive back David Langner for a touchdown. On the next drive, Alabama was again forced to punt and it was again blocked and returned for a touchdown by Langner to give Head Coach Ralph Jordan’s Auburn team a 17-16 lead. Langner would again plague Alabama by snuffing out a drive with an interception. The game has been nicknamed “Punt Bama Punt” and has gone down as one of the defining moments in the rivalry and college football history.
November 30, 2013 – The Iron Bowl has seen some of the most exciting finishes in college football history. You would have to search far and wide to find one more exciting than the 2013 contest held at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. Both schools came into the contest with stellar records: Alabama at 11-0 was ranked first in the country while Auburn was 10-1 and were #7. The Tide and the Tigers were evenly matched for the entire game, going score for score. In the waning seconds, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon was knocked out of bounds on the Auburn 38-yard line with one second remaining. On the next play, and the score knotted at 28-28, Alabama lined up for what looked to be the game winning field goal. Head Coach Gus Malzahn put defensive back and punt returner Chris Davis in the end zone to defend and return a potential missed field goal – and that is exactly what he did. As the field goal attempt fell short, Davis fielded the ball 9 yards deep into the end zone and raced the length of the field for the winning touchdown. The “Kick Six” as the play has been called stunned Head Coach Nick Saban and Alabama and helped propel the Tigers into the BCS Championship Game.