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Today's Tidbit... The Kangaroo Kicker Had Some Punch
Football had many neutral site games in big cities before WWI because that is where the large stadiums and people were. The 1899 contest matching 8-1 Wisconsin and 8-1 Michigan at West Side Park in Chicago proved that point by attracting an estimated 22,000 fans, one of the largest crowds to see a football game in Chicago that century.
Wisconsin lost to Yale earlier in the year, and Michigan had fallen to Penn, but the two teams had run through their Midwestern competition. Wisconsin had a solid team and an absolute star in Pat O'Dea, an Australian nicknamed the Kangaroo Kicker. O'Dea played Australian rules football before enrolling at Wisconsin and was a star of stars when the foot was still the most important element of football. In Wisconsin's 1898 game against Northwestern, O'Dea dropkicked a record-setting 62-yard field goal and had a 116-yard punt. Big kicker, the Aussie. Long.
So it was no surprise that the first score of the Wisconsin-Michigan game came on an O'Dea dropkicked field goal. The next points came when O'Dea’s punt sailed over every Wolverine head, and a fellow Badger recovered the punt for a touchdown. On that play, however, a Michigan player roughed O'Dea, leading O'Dea to throw a punch. Laurie Bliss, the umpire and former Yale player, saw only the punch and tossed O'Dea from the game. (Another Yalie, "Pa" Corbin, umpired the game. He centered for Eli when centers still snapped the ball with their feet.)
Alas, the Badgers dominated without O'Dea, winning 17 to 5. Unfortunately, they lost the following week to the 16-0-2 Chicago Maroons, who claimed the Western Conference title.
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