On to Victory
The November 1902 issue of the New Hampshire College Monthly was full of optimism for the football team that season:
We congratulate Dr. Scannel on the good results he is getting. The victory over Boston College was well earned. He is infusing the right kind of spirit into our men... The development of the college yells under the leadership of Professor Whoriskey and Adams, '05, has been very marked. One would hardly recognize the old 'Rick-a-chic-a-boom.' The cheering has proven a great help to the players and cannot but help them to victory.
Most Valuable Player
In the early years at UNH, it was a challenge to find enough men to play football and have a second team to scrimmage with. It was not unusual for faculty and staff to volunteer for the scrimmage team. One such man was physics professor Artie Nesbit.
Student Wilfred Osgood, Class of 1914, recalled seeing Nesbit, night after night, playing in the line against the students. "It was due to this spirit and encouragement that the early teams turned out as well as they did," he said. "A uniform at that time consisted chiefly of a jersey, a pair of pants, and shoes, and there were hardly enough of these to equip two teams. Any accidents to a uniform meant a repair on the field, at once!"
The November 1904 issue of the New Hampshire College Monthly has this account of a memorable celebration following a football victory over Tufts College:
The news that New Hampshire had won by a score of 4–0 was received about 7 o'clock in the evening Sept. 28, and almost immediately the celebration began. The student body formed in line armed with revolvers, guns, and other noise-making instruments, awaiting the arrival of the team, but it was soon found out that the team would not return until morning.
This, however, did not put a stop to the demonstration, for the line then proceeded to the houses of the different professors, announcing the news to them... The college bell rang out loud throughout the time of the demonstration. The following morning the student body was on hand at the depot and scarcely had the 8:17 pulled into the station and the member of the team stepped out, when each one was seized, cheered, and carried to his room on the shoulders of his fellow-students…
In spite of the rain, which poured during the afternoon and the first part of the evening, a large quantity of wood had been collected and everything was ready for a good bonfire at 8 o'clock. Everybody rallied around the fire, and the noise coming from that spot could be heard in the farthest corners of the town. After the bonfire a nightshirt parade was held and the celebration ended.
Back in the mid-twenties, UNH coach Bill Cowell and Tufts coach Arthur Sampson were bitter rivals on the field but boon companions after the game was over. In '26 the Wildcats defeated Tufts 28–3 and Cowell invited his friend to have dinner with him the following year after the game. He even agreed to shoot some ducks and prepare them at his house.
The game in '27 was all Jumbo; Tufts beat New Hampshire 39–0. Sampson looked up his old pal after the game, saying, "now where are those delicious birds?" To which an irate Cowell replied, "Go shoot your own ducks. And what's more, clean 'em and cook 'em." A 39–0 score stretches even the best of friendships.
A Shot in the Dark
In 1939, George Sauer and his Wildcats played an interesting night football game at Springfield College. The host had rented portable lights of dubious voltage, and after four periods of staggering around in the darkness, Springfield won the game 3–2; a field goal against a safety.
A sports writer covering the game sent in a flash lead with just the score. Before he could start to file his story his editor wired back, "Who pitched?"
In the 1940's, head football coach George Sauer considered going to the movies as perhaps a player's most valuable asset in perfecting his game. A salvaged wind-mill, stripped of its machinery and dressed with a covered platform, allowed UNH photographers to film the action on the fields below. The films were then shown in slow-motion to the team so players could see mistakes and good plays.
Glass Bowl Remembered
After 49 years as a major sport at UNH, football finally produced a winning team worthy of an invitation to the Glass Bowl at the University of Toledo on December 6, 1947.
The newspapers were all abuzz. A year before, in 1946, the football program had just resumed after a three-year wartime hiatus. Under the coaching of J. William "Biff" Glassford, the team ended its second season with a 6–1–1 record and won the Yankee Conference.
The following season, the team came out strong, winning games by resounding scores: 55 to 6 over Northeastern and 34 to 0 over Tufts. After six straight wins, the undefeated team found themselves looking towards the last two games against Boston University, and then their biggest rival, the University of Connecticut. They beat BU 13 to 7 in a rough, tough game. The game against UConn was another slam-bang affair, but they came from behind to win it 14–7.
The Glass Bowl matched the top Yankee Conference team with the Mid-American Conference champions, which that year was the University of Toledo. UNH was the underdog both because the Mid-American was the stronger conference and the Glass Bowl was Toledo's home stadium. The Wildcats fell behind early and lost by a score of 20–14, despite a record-breaking 84-yard touchdown reception by Bob Miksen '50.
It would be twenty-eight more years before UNH would again be invited to play a Bowl Game.
Putting Their Heads Together
During the Glass Bowl era, Coach J. William "Biff" Glassford had two talented quarterbacks, Bruce Mather and Bill Levandowski. Mather was acknowledged as one of the all-time greats in New England collegiate football, hence Bill spent most games on the bench.
Once late in the season, with the Wildcats on the ten-yard line moving into score, Glassford motioned Bill into the game. But not without certain instructions. As the team huddled Bill growled, "Now shut up you guys, the Coach says I'm the boss. I'm running this team, understand?" There was dead silence for about a minute, until Bill timidly mumbled, "Anybody got any suggestions?"
The Glass Bowl expedition, aside from its football aspects, was also a goodwill expedition to the Ohio hinterlands. Representatives for the State Planning and Development Commission seized the opportunity to advance the merits of New Hampshire poultry, among other things. They took with them on the team train a rooster of the New Hampshire breed and staged a contest for the best name.
The winning name, "Rocket Buster" was submitted by Al Juris '50, a lineman, who was awarded the five dollar prize money. "Rocket Buster" was photographed as often as the football team and graced the pages of the Toledo Blade before the game. During halftime, it was presented to the governor of Ohio.