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Throw Back Thursday: this week in Rutgers football history, Week 13

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Thanksgiving plays a bigger role in RU football history than you might realize

Turkeys Raised On California Farm Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Happy Thanksgiving! It is a great day of the year, a truly American holiday. A time to give thanks for the bounty we have. And we’re celebrating on this Thursday with a slightly different approach as we offer our last installment of:

This Week....in Rutgers....Football....History (*echoing* history...history....history)

First off, colleges do not - with rare exceptions - play on Thanksgiving. In New Jersey, high schools play (or they used to) on Thanksgiving. When Phillipsburg and Easton (PA) play today on Thanksgiving it will be the 111th time; that is tradition.

But colleges don’t play on Thanksgiving, although Rutgers tried it in 2004. Yuck!

Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, 2004: I still have a bad taste in my mouth on this. From scarletknights.com:

Tres Moses caught his way into the records books as Rutgers lost to Connecticut 41-35, on Thanksgiving morning at Rutgers Stadium. Moses, who finished the game with seven catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns, finished the 2004 campaign recording one of the best individual seasons in Rutgers history. Moses finished the year with 81 catches and 1,056 yards, both the most in school history. His stellar numbers this season also rank among the best in BIG EAST history, as he finished the year with the second-most catches and seventh-most receiving yards in a single-season in the history of the conference.

From that opening paragraph, you’d almost think RU won. No, they did not.

In front of 20,224 fans at Rutgers Stadium (and we all know how those numbers work) on Thanksgiving morning, Rutgers went down to UConn, 41-35. And I wasn’t the only one who thought this game was, well, just a mess. Our Aaron Breitman actually listed it among the worst RU losses he has ever witnessed. I agree!

I wondered, though, if Rutgers had ever played on Thanksgiving before that awful day in ‘04. So, I looked....just for you folks, I researched. And I was very surprised to find - if the site I used for dates of Thanksgiving is correct - more than a couple of Rutgers football games on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, 1915: Seek and ye shall find. Apparently, on Nov. 25, Rutgers traveled to the Bronx (there was no Yankee Stadium yet) to play NYU. And I take all that stuff back about not playing on Thanksgiving. In a 7-1 season, losing only to Princeton, the Scarlet topped NYU, 70-0. You read that right. And that wasn’t even their largest score! Earlier in the year, Rutgers beat RPI, 96-0.

Thanksgiving, 1920: A trip to Detroit on Nov. 25 proved to be a not-so-successful venture as the Queensmen dropped the contest to the University of Detroit Titans, 27-0.

Thanksgiving, 1937: The last game of the last season that Nelson Field would be the home of the Scarlet. It’s November 25 and Brown comes to town and leaves with a 7-6 over a Rutgers squad that would go 5-4 on the season.

Thanksgiving, 1947: It was Nov. 27 and Brown - again - hosted the Scarlet in Providence. It was a good day for the visitors, Rutgers winning, 27-20.

Thanksgiving, 1963: Nov. 28 and RU was on its way to a 3-6 season. Just six days after the assassination of President Kennedy, Columbia came visiting and took home the victory, 35-28. If there was ever any question that Rutgers had an Ivy League perception, look at some of the teams it played in ‘63: Princeton, Harvard, and Penn joined Columbia on that schedule.

Thanksgiving, 1976: Almost forgot this one. The second undefeated season in school history, the game was moved to Giants Stadium on Thanksgiving night and televised on ABC. The Raiders entered the game at 8-1; Rutgers was 10-0. And a controversial call late in the game kept Rutgers in possession of the ball and they went on to win, 17-9. The bells rang that night as the New York Times reported:

Back at the New Brunswick campus, celebrants began ringing the bell in Old Queens, the most hallowed building on the Rutgers campus, denoting the completion of a perfect 11–0, won‐lost season. It was the second time in eight months that Old Queens's bell rang out because last March the Scarlet basketball team completed an undefeated regular season.

Until 2004, that glorious 1976 game was the last Thanksgiving day game for Rutgers. And let’s keep it that way. Tonight, Ole Miss visits Mississippi State. Good for them. Hope they enjoy it. I’ll be watching the Giants and Redskins.

Okay, boys and girls, that does it for the season. I hope you enjoyed the history lessons; I had fun writing....

This Week....in Rutgers....Football....History (*echoing* history...history....history)

Go Knights!