College Football: The Sounds of Silence on the Gridiron
Home upsets deliver the most powerful noise in all of college football, the sound of silence in the stands.
These shockers can take away the energy of a team for the remainder of the season or inspire squads to climb back off the floor ready to face new challenges.
The following is a list of five games from the past five decades with titantic consequences for both winner and loser.
With the turning of the page into a new decade, all of college fandom will wonder, what team will be the next to suffer from what must surely happen?
The Shocking Sounds of Silence: 1960-1969
"Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again" were the words written by Paul Simon in 1964.
It took another year for the subsequent recording of "The Sounds of Silence" to achieve fame for Simon and his friend Art Garfunkel, but the college football season of 1964 needed no delay in providing one of the biggest surprises in college football history.
Going into November the Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked No.1 or 2 in all the polls, sported a 6-0 record, and had given up only 39 total points during the year.
On the first Saturday in November the Buckeyes of Woody Hayes (see pictured) took the field for a home game with an independent school from the East, the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State was coached by Rip Engle, one of the most crafty men to ever walk the sidelines, but the season had started terribly for the blue and white as they lost four of their first five games.
With an overflow house in attendance, Penn State held the Buckeyes without a first down until five minutes remained in the third quarter and snuffed out Woody's vaunted ground game, holding Ohio State to 33 yards rushing.
When the gun sounded the crowd was eerily quiet as they gazed at the unbelievable result on the scoreboard, Penn State 27 Ohio State 0.
Who said you couldn't combine Woody Hayes with Simon and Garfunkel in a college football article?
Decade of Dread: 1970-1979
The 1970s were a time of turmoil for coaches who were used to telling their players what to do and not having to explain why they wanted it done that way.
College players in the 1960s kept their hair cut during the season, chuckled under their breath at the ways of "the old men", and committed their mischief in the summertime when no one was watching.
The 1970's produced conflict both on the field and in the hallowed halls of college administrators.
Some questioned the need for athletic contact sports, various groups contested the racial make up of coaching staffs, and still others attempted to break through the glass ceiling of accepted behavior by "jocks."
For whatever reason, the 1975 season saw the end of one of the greatest relationships in football history, the longtime presence of the brilliant John McKay on the sideline at the University of Southern California.
When Coach McKay left for the NFL in the state of Florida, Oakland Raiders assistant coach John Robinson was given the responsibility to oversee the fortunes of Troy.
To open the 1976 season the Trojans hosted the Missouri Tigers, a so-so outfit from the Big 8 Conference, and USC was favored, favored to end this affair by halftime.
The LA Coliseum crowd watched in horror, and then in stunned silence, as Missouri rushed for 315 yards and passed for 171 in manhandling the Trojans, 46-25.
It was the worst opening game home loss for the Trojans since 1888.
But the grit in people is not to be measured by one instance for there is no snapshot into the soul, other than measuring how one can meet and overcome adversity in life.
Robinson gathered and inspired his troops, resulting in USC winning every game they played during the rest of the season.
Say Goodbye To Normalcy: 1980-1989
See the player in the picture? Can you name him?
Look at the size of his hands, check out those biceps, care to guess how big around are his thighs? Can you imagine those knees hitting you on the chin?
The 1980s saw the coming of the super-athlete, players who were gifted physically beyond anything seen previously.
Sit back while we discuss the performance of quarterback Reggie Collier and his Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the 1981 and '82 seasons.
Reggie Collier stood 6'3" and weighed 210, he could cut on a dime and outrun any player on the field. With his size he could also bowl over tacklers.
Collier was a realtively local fellow from Biloxi, Mississippi who became the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush for over a thousand yards and pass for over a thousand yards in the same season.
In 1981, after the first eight games of the year, the Golden Eagles' record stood at 7 wins, no losses, and one tie.
The tie was from a contest played in Birmingham against Alabama, Paul Bryant's Alabama, who would lose only one regular season game in '81.
Southern Miss rolled into Tallahassee, Florida to take on Bobby Bowden's Seminoles of Florida State in the Eagles' ninth game of the year.
The powerful 'Noles were coming off two straight Orange Bowl seasons and so far in 1981 had beaten Ohio State in Columbus, Notre Dame in South Bend, and LSU in Baton Rouge.
The clock showed 8:33 remaining in the third quarter when Reggie Collier left the game. His Golden Eagles led 44-0.
USM went on to shock the Seminoles, 58-14.
Not much opportunity for the home crowd to perform the war chant.
Collier rushed for 150 yards, threw for two touchdowns, and set back FSU football so far the 'Noles would not return to the Orange Bowl for 11 years.
The following season Reggie led the Golden Eagles into Tuscaloosa where he performed his everyday miracles again, stunning Alabama and their home crowd into silence, 38-29.
You want shock? It was Alabama's first loss in Tuscaloosa in 19 years!
You read it right, 19 years, from 1963 to 1982.
It would also be Paul Bryant's final home game, a loss to Reggie Collier and Southern Mississippi, to close out the Bear's magnificent coaching career on the field in Tuscaloosa.
Reggie Collier, he quieted Bear Bryant and Bobby Bowden before their home crowds. Now, that is a man.
Decade of the Dynasty: 1990-1999
Miami ruled college football from 1983-1994 and didn't care who knew it.
Fueled by incredible talent, legendary speed, great coaching, and a physical style of play that intimidated many opponents into early defeat, the Hurricanes of this era stand out like Baseball's Gas House Gang in 1930s St. Louis.
They would lose, yes, they lost some titanic clashes. But, they always came back. The Hurricanes survived when those who had pricked them like a pin had long since faded from the championship picture.
In 1994 Miami was working toward another national championship showdown when they put their 58 game home field winning streak on the line against the outmatched Washington Huskies.
Led by such ferocious defensive stars as Warren Sapp (see pictured) and Ray Lewis, the mighty Hurricanes were favored over the Huskies who came to the Orange Bowl stadium with one win and one loss on the season.
Three hours after kickoff the crowd filed out following a startling 38-20 upset win by Washington.
It was the sound of silence.
The Silence Is Unbearable: 2000-2009
The first decade of the 21st Century brought fans and followers several surprises.
Certainly, the 27-21 upset of Southern California by Oregon State in 2008 ranks among the most shocking.
Likewise, the 31-30 Ole MIss upset of Florida in the same season (see pictured) had people scratching their head all over the country.
The 34-32 defeat of Michigan by Appalachian State in 2007 stunned fans everywhere and became one of the most celebrated examples of the underdog pulling off a surprise in pigskin history.
All are worthy but, the truth is Ole Miss went on to win the Cotton Bowl, Oregon State went on to win the Sun Bowl, and Appalachian State was the defending national champion in their division and went on to win the national championship again during the 2007 season.
These were not little sisters of the poor. Not when all was said and done.
From this viewpoint, the most mindbending experience in college football during the past decade was the 2003 upset victory by Northern Illinois over Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The 19-16 final score did not indicate how effectively the Huskies from DeKalb ran the ball and moved up and down the field.
Talking to the Crimson Tide through the television set, the incredible feeling of "how can this be happening?" continually was mouthed at the inanimate object and all the little people running around in it.
"It's a fix, has to be" was the common wisdom for those not prepared to see such a spectacle and end result.
It appeared that it was literally impossible for the Mid American UNI to come into Tuscaloosa and perform as though they were the team of legend.
It still is shocking to this day.
The UNI team went on to lose just twice during the season, by 16 points to Bowling Green and by 19 points to Toledo.
The Crimson Tide entered the game with a record of 2-1 with only a tight seven point loss to Oklahoma as a blemish.
2003 should have been a good season for Alabama but they didn't recover from the UNI debacle, finishing with nine losses on the season.
For better or worse as a result of this game, the Crimson Tide gathered itself by decade's end to become national champion once again.
The Northern Illinois Huskies proudly marched back into the outskirts of the Windy City where they have played around .500 ball (45-39) since that night in Alabama.
As competitve as the MAC has always been, the players and fans must treasure the miracle win in Tuscaloosa as one of the high points of conference history.
The Coming Decade: Who Will It Be Now?
The question now must involve identifying the most powerful programs and possible home losses for those schools in the upcoming season.
If someone actually knew to whom and when this event will happen, they would own quite a secret.
Looking only at the 2010 schedule, a team with much to lose from an early home loss could include the Oklahoma Sooners who face the dangerous Florida State Seminoles on September 11.
But then, that would be a secret ..............
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