November 23, 2017
University of Oklahoma football is nearing a complete and successful one hundred twenty two (122) years of existence. Although pro football now dominates the Thanksgiving Day holiday, there was a better day back in the day when a fresh and new collegiate game was played on this national holiday set aside to give thanks for the bounty of God's blessings.
Within just a couple of seasons past the 1895 birth of Oklahoma (OU) football, such a game was found to be played on Thanksgiving Day in the year of 1897. A now one hundred and twenty (120) year old game that was played against an Oklahoma City town team that, in 1895, literally drop kicked the pants off the 'varsity by a score of 34-0 in the first game ever played by the "Territorial" college team from Norman. A tough way to construct the foundation of what is now one of the greatest collegiate football programs to exist, but, we all know there's a learning curve and a price of sacrifice that comes with success.
As we wipe the blood off our brow and get back to the future of Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1897, we find this 120 year old game was actually and only the fourth game to ever to be contested by Oklahoma's "Territorial" university. A game lost within the historical cracks of modern day high tech Wikipedia driven media but then found lying in an archaic newsprint ditch beside the back roads of a similar high tech cyberspace highway.
Ironically, this one-hundred twenty (120) year old football experience was played out against that same rough and tumble group from Oklahoma City that drubbed the university's first attempt at the game of football. This thrilling re-birth experience of such antiquated gridiron action comes to us courtesy of the November 27, 1897, issue of the Wichita Daily Eagle. As I share the discovery of the Eagle headline "FOOTBALL PLAY AT NORMAN," the life of a game lost in time returns for a brief and glorious moment before it once again dissipates into a blackhole within a vast and uncontrollable cyberspace of the www:
Oklahoma City, O.T., Nov. 26–(Special.)–The most exciting and stubbornly contested game of football ever played in Oklahoma was played on the University campus between the University team and the Boomer team, from Oklahoma City, beginning at 4 o'clock on Thanksgiving day.
The day was perfect, with the light southerly wind and the gridiron was in excellent condition.
Game was called promptly at 4 o'clock by the referee, Prof. Parrington, of the University, and Floyd E. White of Oklahoma City acted as umpire.
University won the toss and Smith kicked off, when Loughmiller got the ball and was downed with a slight loss. By variation of plays around the ends and through the line, Oklahoma finally shoved the ball to the University 20-yard line and was then given ten yards on a foul. Oklahoma lost the ball on downs and Mackey, made a 10-yard run around left end. University gained steadily, until the 40-yard line, and then lost on a fumble by Brown, re-fumbled by Loughmiller. University now worked the Pennsylvania guard's back play until the 30-yard line, when Potter of Oklahoma was laid out and Carson put in. University worked the ball to the 3-yard line and Burrows was pushed over for a touchdown. Mackey missed goal. Time of first half, 22 minutes. Score, 4 to 0.
McCormick kicked off and University worked the ball to the 40-yard line during 8 minutes of play, when time was called.
Score at end of first half, 4 to 0 in favor of 'varsity team.
Referee White called time at 4:43 and McCormick kicked off for 45 yards, when it was returned by Roberts 10 yards, he being fouled by Irvin and given 10 yards more. During the entire half the University used the guards back play and slowly but steadily, across the goal line, the ball was carried three times, and as many times missed goal. The first touchdown was made after ten minutes of play and seven minutes late the second was made. The most exciting and last touchdown was made three-quarters of a minute before time was called. When Oklahoma made the last kick off Mackey made a brilliant run of twenty yards, and during this touchdown the University carried the ball ninety yards in six and a quarter minutes.
The final score was 16 to 0 in favor of University. The Norman people went wild with enthusiasm.
The line-up was as follows:
University Oklahoma City
Merkle ………………Center ………….. White
Howell …………….Right guard ……….Irvin
Hefley ……………..Left guard …………Potter
Barrows ………….Right tackle ……… Holland
J. Merkle …………Left tackle ………… McCormick
Clapham …………..Right end …………Loughmiller
McCutcheon ………Left end …………..G. McClure
Ford ………………Quarterback ……… D. McClure
Mackey …………Right halfback ………Brown
Smith ……………..Left half back ………Chinn
Roberts ……………Full back …………. Herring
The halves were thirty minutes each. Oklahoma lost the whole game when Brown and Loughmiller fumbled the ball during the last part of the first half, after which Oklahoma never had the ball in her possession.
Within a few short years, Oklahoma's university of 1897 had turned the table on their previous and inaugural 34-0 loss to a rough and tough Oklahoma City town team. The varsity's 16-0 revenge win over Oklahoma City was followed up with an interesting take relative to such a contest by the university coach of that time Vernon Parrington. Coach Parrington's post game-like interview was published in the "Umpire" which was the university's official newsletter of the times.
As close as we can get to a post game "College Gameday" experience from this window of time, Coach Parrington shares his one hundred and twenty year old (120) thoughts of his 'varsity team's victory over Oklahoma City:
Within three years of it's 1895 football birth, the 'varsity from Norman had brought it's record from 0-1 to 4-1. Although it took two wins over Norman High School in 1896 to polish the blemish off that first loss, the Thanksgiving Day game of 1897 was a hard earned victory of revenge against a tough foe and led to a second consecutive "all victorious" season for Oklahoma's "Territorial" university.