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Today's Tidbit... Much Ado About Nothing To Nothing
Fordham and Pitt were top Eastern and evenly-matched teams in the mid-1930s, sporting similar records in 1935, 1936, and 1937. Fordham went 6-1-2, 7-1-2, and 8-0-1 during that stretch, while Pitt went 7-1-2, 8-1-1, and 9-0-1, claiming national championships in 1936 and 1937. Fordham's coach was Jim Crowley, one of the Four Horsemen in his playing days. On the other hand, Jock Sutherland was at the helm at Pitt. He replaced Pop Warner in Steel Town, earning as good as or a better record.
Given the strength of the two teams, excitement abounded when they scheduled a series of games to be played at the Polo Grounds. The rain made the Polo Ground’s well-worn field more problematic than usual in 1935, perhaps leading to Pitt’s sophomore-dominated team playing lethargically. Fordham did not play much better since neither team penetrated the other's 20-yard line and combined for 11 first downs. Fordham at least attempted two field goals, but quarterback Andy Palau missed both as the tilt ended in a 0-0 tie.
Most viewed the 1936 game as a battle for the mythical Eastern championship and a possible Rose Bowl invitation. A sunny, brisk day offered more potential for the offenses than the 1935 weather conditions, but neither team took advantage. The capacity crowd enjoyed watching Pitt's ballyhooed sophomore back Marshall Goldberg scoot for 25 yards on one run, but the offenses managed only 17 combined first downs. Pitt threatened once, reaching the 3-yard line in the third quarter, only to have Fordham right guard Vince Lombardi and six other blocks of granite force them to turn the ball over on downs. Once again, the game ended in a 0-0 tie, with Pitt later receiving the Rose Bowl invitation they pursued that day.
A bright, sunny day greeted the 52,000 fans in 1937 as the Panthers outshined the Rams, earning 11 first downs to Fordham's four. Pitt finally scored on a Goldberg run in the second quarter, only to have the touchdown negated by a holding penalty. Despite failing to move the ball, Fordham still attempted three field goals and Pitt one, but all four failed. For the third year in a row, Pitt and Fordham tied 0-0.
As we know, all good things come to an end. Pitt scored in the second quarter of the 1938 game and went on to win 24-13, while Fordham won in 1939 and 1940 by similar scores. Pitt won 13-0 in 1941. The two schools, who first met football in 1935, never met again, leaving their all-time series record at 2-2-3. Fordham deemphasized football after WWII before returning to the FCS level in 1989.
And as much as I would like to take credit for this article's title, that honor goes to Timothy Cohane, then the newly-minted Rams' publicity director who enjoyed a long career as a nationally-prominent scribe.
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