A Quartet of Power and Speed, and a Ghost
It was a spectacle of gridiron talent that kept fans on their feet in anticipation of the next big play that was certain to come. Big plays that left scorched earth in their wake. Two games played on the same day over 800 miles apart showcased two of the greatest moments in college football history.
The date: October 18, 1924
“In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction, and death”
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame took the train to Upper Manhattan and Coogan’s Bluff to take on the mighty Cadets of Army at the iconic Polo Grounds.
Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne had gone into the heartland of America and recruited an offensive foursome that would be the most immortalized of the era. Their birth names were Harry (Stuhldreher), Jim (Crowley), Elmer (Layden), and Don (Miller).
Against the Cadets, Layden and Crowley each scored to give the Irish 13–0 lead. Late in the game, Army finally found the end zone to get on the scoreboard.
Final score: Notre Dame 13 — Army 7
Grantland Rice, the preeminent sportswriter of the time, wrote about the game and anointed the Notre Dame backfield with a biblical moniker:
“Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again.
“In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.”
You Can’t Tackle a Ghost
The Fighting Illini of Illinois took the field of their newly built Memorial Stadium in Champagne against the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan was coming off an undefeated season (8–0) in 1923.
That season, the Wolverines pitched five shutouts, including four in a row to start the season, outscoring those opponents 99–0. They allowed only 12 points scored against them all season.
In 1924, Michigan picked up where they left off in ’23 by shutting out their first two opponents 62–0. Then came the Illinois game.
The Illini were led by a shifty back from Wheaton named Harold Grange.
His friends called him “Red.”
Sportswriters called him “The Galloping Ghost.”
On this day, Grange put on a performance for the ages. Illinois received the opening kickoff. Grange fielded the kick at the 5-yard line. He galloped his way through the Michigan defense 95-yards to paydirt to give the Illini an early lead.
Grange scored three more touchdowns to raise his total to four touchdowns scored…in the first 12 minutes.
The Ghost later returned another kick for a touchdown and also threw a TD pass.
Grange totaled 409 yards of offense and accounted for six touchdowns, arguably the greatest performance by one player in college football history.
That season, Grange earned consensus All-American honors and was named the MVP of the Big Ten Conference.
He proved that even the mighty Michigan Wolverines couldn’t tackle a ghost.
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