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When Red Grange Won a Tie
Larry Keith
November 12, 1973
Back in 1924 the Galloping Ghost led Illinois in its romp over Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa. Then they played Chicago
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November 12, 1973

When Red Grange Won A Tie

Back in 1924 the Galloping Ghost led Illinois in its romp over Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa. Then they played Chicago

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Chicago received the opening kickoff and drove to the Illinois five as Big Bertha, the band's eight-foot, two-inch bass drum, pounded out a cadence. But Austin McCarty fumbled. Illinois kicked on first down, the ball was returned to the Illinois 30, and nine plays later the reprieved McCarty plunged over for the touchdown. Up to then the Chicago offense was doing what it did best, grinding out yardage between the tackles. Grange, who also played safety, would later recall that "every play they had seemed to be planned for five or six yards, and they always got it."

Given the option, Illinois for some reason chose to kick off again, and once more the Maroons marched. The first period ended with Illinois backed up to within six inches of its goal line and the second began with Harry Thomas crossing it. Chicago was now leading 14-0, and the Illinois offense, let alone Grange, had yet to touch the ball.

Chicago kicked off next and finally Grange took charge, moving the Illini to the Maroon four. Then Grange ran to the wide side and scored.

In its next possession Chicago began another upheld grind. Zuppke, hoping to stop the onslaught, put Grange at defensive end, but it was no use. A 27-yard pass and wide gaps in the Illinois line set up an easy touchdown from the five. Amazingly, Chicago was leading 21-7 and a rout seemed imminent.

Illinois returned the following kickoff to its 26 and Grange, rising to the urgency of the moment, reeled off his longest gains thus far, 14 yards and then 12. At third down and two, Earl Britton went into punt formation, but instead of kicking he passed to his right end, Chuck Kassell, who lateraled to Grange. He was brought down on the four. With time running out in the half, Grange fought his way into the end zone. Illinois now trailed 21-14.

The opening offensive series of the second half set the mood for the rest of the game. Both defenses toughened, punts were exchanged and on an Illinois field-goal attempt a brief scuffle erupted. Following a Chicago quick kick, Illinois took over at its 20. Grange carried on the next play and began following a convoy of blockers around left end. Suddenly he cut sharply toward the middle of the field against the flow of Chicago defenders. His long strides took him past midfield, deeper and deeper into Maroon territory, and suddenly it was obvious to every one of the 33,000 fans that Grange was going to score again. His third touchdown, an 80-yarder. Britton's extra point made it 21-21.

The game stretched into the fourth quarter, each team missing a field-goal attempt. Grange ran for another long gain, 33 yards to his own 47, but both teams had drives stopped by interceptions. Finally, with less than two minutes remaining, Illinois took over on its own 11. On the first play Grange broke into the clear and was stopped only when a defender desperately shoved him out of bounds at the Chicago 39. Far down the field, however, a reserve had been caught holding. The run was thus nullified and the ball was brought back to the one. Four plays later the game ended, a bitter struggle reduced to a mutually frustrating tie.

The nationwide impact, however, was tremendous. Camp said of the contest, "It was one of the most wonderful games I have ever seen on any field anywhere." Grange himself, who collapsed from exhaustion during his grueling two-way performance, could later pinpoint this as the toughest game he ever played.

If the outcome was disappointing for Illinois, the game provided a statistical high point for Grange. He had eluded Stagg's keying defense to gain 196 yards in 27 carries. He had completed five of 10 passes for 86 yards and caught two more for 40. The 322 yards in total offense was to stand as a record for his college career.

Finally, as the redhead recalled on his retirement from football in 1935, "I had teeth marks all over my legs when the game was finished. It was the only time I was ever bitten."

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