Harold (Red) Grange was having a poor year in 1925 when, on October 31, as captain and quarterback of Illinois he came East to play unbeaten Penn, conquerors of Brown, Yale and Chicago. The rangy, 180-pound redhead had been named All-America the two previous years by Walter Camp, but there was grave doubt he would make it the third time.
Illinois' dismal start in 1925 had included beatings by Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan, and the much advertised Grange had been held to a single touchdown in all three games. What about this Grange, the East was asking, described by breathless sportswriters as the Galloping Ghost, the Flying Terror, the Illinois Cyclone? Grantland Rice wrote: "Grange runs as Nurmi runs and Dempsey moves, with almost no effort, as a shadow flits and drifts and darts." Could anybody be that good?
The East didn't think so. The Quakers, despite the loss of Al Kreuz, their plunging back and great defense man, were heavily favored over the Illini. Penn's chances looked better than ever the day of the game when the teams trotted out on Franklin Field before 65,000 people, for it had been raining hard and the field was a slippery quagmire, made to order for stopping Grange.
But it did not take him long to get going that day. Before the game was five minutes old Red eased through the right side of the line, knifed through the secondary defense and went 55 yards for a touchdown without a hand touching him. Dumbfounded at his speed—there was not a man within 25 yards of him when he crossed the goal line—the crowd rose and gave him a tremendous ovation.
That was only the beginning. Minutes later Red caught a Penn kickoff deep in his own territory and went downfield whirling, dodging and shedding tacklers like falling leaves for another 55 yards before he was laid low. A few more plays and the soggy ball was carried over by Fullback Carl Britton for Illinois' second touchdown.
"There goes the Redhead!" became an incessant chant all through the game as the Illinois wizard rose to new heights. He ran the slippery field as if it were a cinder track and shredded the Penn line. He made three touchdowns and was largely responsible for the fourth. In 36 tries Grange made 363 yards, twice going for 60 yards and he beat Penn almost singlehandedly, 24-2. When it was all over Penn's massed supporters rose and acclaimed him with hearty cheers. Neither they nor anyone in the East had seen anything like him before.
In the press box George Trevor, a hardy sportswriter, was so overwhelmed by the great performance that he could not write a line until an hour after the final whistle. Then he wrote: "Grange is a composite moving picture of the great backs we have seen in the past, with an added something that sets him in a class apart...He has the knack of shortening or lengthening his stride instantaneously; he has the speed to outsprint the fastest defensive back, the guile to side-step the adroitest tackier, the strength to straight-arm the most powerful adversary. Grange, in truth, has everything." Those who saw Red in action that day agreed with Trevor, and so did Grantland Rice, taking over from Walter Camp, who named him All-America for the third straight year.