Pictured: On Thanksgiving Day in 1936, NYU stunned No. 3 Fordham at Yankee Stadium in what then-Rams offensive lineman Vince Lombardi (above) called “the most devastating loss of my life.”
The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame’s This Week in College Football History takes a look back at some of college football’s landmark moments that took place on Thanksgiving. 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. 24, 1903
Clemson tied Cumberland (Tenn.), 11-11
The 1903 Thanksgiving meeting between Clemson and Cumberland (Tenn.) was billed as the “Championship of the South,” as the winner would be the champion of the SIAA. In just its eighth season, Clemson was considered the best in the Atlantic Coast Region while Cumberland was the best team in the western part of the southern region. Played at Oak Park in Montgomery, Ala., the game was to begin at exactly 3 p.m. and end at exactly 5 p.m. The Cumberland Bulldogs dominated early, jumping to an 11-0 lead. After halftime, the Tigers’ John Maxwell took the ball at his own 10-yard line and raced 100 yards for Clemson’s first touchdown (the fields were 110 yards then). Clemson took advantage of a Cumberland fumbled punt late in the game, and halfback Fritz Furtrick scored the tying touchdown by running up the middle as time expired. Clemson’s extra-point ended the game in an 11-11 tie, and the teams were co-champions of the south and the SIAA. The game marked College Football Hall of Fame coach John Heisman’s last game at Clemson as he took the Georgia Tech head coaching job later that night.
Nov. 30, 1916
Penn def. Cornell, 23-3
The Cornell Daily Sun aptly called Penn’s defensive line “a stone wall” and the offense “a veritable Gatling gun” on the morning after the Big Red fell to the Quakers, 23-3. Cornell quarterback Fritz Shiverick had a rough go in Philadelphia as the Penn Quakers bullied him in the backfield all game long. Fourteen of Penn’s 23 points came after two blocked Big Red punts by Penn captain Neil Matthews and defensive tackle Henry “Heine” Miller. The victory over Cornell snapped a three-game losing skid for Penn in the rivalry. With the win, the Quakers earned a berth in the Third Tournament East–West Football Game, now known as the Rose Bowl Game, losing to Oregon and finishing 7-3-1 on the year. Cornell’s season ended with a 6-2 record.
Nov. 26, 1936
NYU def. No. 3 Fordham, 7-6
New York, N.Y.
With the Fordham student body chanting “From Rose Hill to the Rose Bowl,” a crowd of more than 50,000 showed up at Yankee Stadium to witness history in the making. The No. 3-ranked Rams looked to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl Game, but it was New York University that made history. In what Vince Lombardi, then an offensive lineman for the Rams, called “the most devastating loss of my life,” the Violets stunned Fordham, 7-6, ending its quest for a trip to Pasadena. NYU finished the season 5-3-1 while College Football Hall of Fame player-turned-coach Jim Crowley’s Rams finished 5-1-2.
Nov. 27, 1947
Corn Bowl: Southern Illinois def. North Central (Ill.), 21-0
Billed as “The Greatest Thanksgiving Event in the Midwest,” the first-ever Corn Bowl took place in 1947 with the Hybrid Seed Corn Breeders of Illinois and the American Legion as co-sponsors. The game pitted Southern Illinois, champion of the Illinois Athletic Conference, versus North Central College (Ill.), champion of the College Conference of Illinois. A crowd of 5,500 at Bloomington High School’s Fred Carlton Field braved the frigid conditions as Coach Glenn Martin’s Salukis dominated from start to finish in a 21-0 shutout. Those listening at home were able to enjoy Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Brickhouse on the radio call. Southern Illinois finished the season with a 7-2-1 record while the Cardinals ended 1947 at 7-2.
Nov. 22, 1973
No. 5 Notre Dame def. Air Force, 48-15
South Bend, Ind.
Playing at home on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1921 to accommodate a national television audience, the No. 5 Fighting Irish jumped out to a 28-0 lead over Air Force in the first 12 minutes. Notre Dame converted three first-quarter fumbles by the Falcons into 21 points as it coasted to a 48-15 win. The announced crowd of 57,236 was 1,800 short of capacity, making it the only non-sellout of a Notre Dame home game since 1966. College Football Hall of Fame Coach Ara Parseghian’s squad would go on to defeat No. 1 Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, claiming an undefeated national championship.
Nov. 26, 1992
No. 2 Alabama def. Auburn, 17-0
With a national championship hanging in the balance, the Crimson Tide defeated rival Auburn, 17-0, at Legion Field. Alabama cornerback Antonio Langham stepped in front of Auburn quarterback Stan White’s pass, returning it 61 yards to break up a scoreless tie in the third quarter. The Alabama defense ruined the final game of Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye’s career, recording five sacks and limiting the Tigers to 139 yards. The victory sent College Football Hall of Fame coach Gene Stallings’ Crimson Tide to an SEC and national title after defeating top-ranked Miami (Fla.) in the Sugar Bowl. Auburn finished its season 5-5-1.
Nov. 22, 2007
No. 11 USC def. No. 7 Arizona State, 44-26
In a clash of Pac-12 heavyweights, the Trojans defense flattened Sun Devil signal caller Rudy Carpenter for six sacks and stifled the ASU offense in a 44-26 upset victory. USC quarterback John David Booty threw for 375 yards and four scores, while defensive end Lawrence Jackson collected four sacks, the most by a Trojan since 1989. With the game tied at 17 after Arizona State placekicker Thomas Weber booted a 25-yard field goal, USC head coach Pete Carroll watched his offense score 24 unanswered points to put the game away. USC and Arizona State would share the Pac-10 title as co-champions that year. The Trojans romped Illinois in the Rose Bowl to finish No. 3 in the country at 11-2 while the 10-3 Sun Devils finished at No. 16 after a loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.