Fifty-six years ago, Wildcat faithful made the rather unremarkable 156-mile trip north to Wichita Falls for an important game with Midwestern State University in the middle of an important season for the Wildcats. Only they didn't do it in carpools or like the Big Purple Band today, in a comfy travel bus.
In 1953, 800 students and fans paid $1 for a game ticket and $5.90 for a round-trip train ride to and from Wichita Falls on Saturday, Oct. 3, for a tilt with the Indians.
Like last week's 15-13 ACU loss to MSU, the 1953 team found itself in a defensive struggle, only it prevailed, 13-7, in a game where all the points were scored in the first quarter and then the two teams played to a draw in the final three quarters. Freshman QB Leondous Fry scored ACU's first TD in the 1953 game on a 58-yard run (the PAT was missed), and then FB Gene Boyd ran 26 yards for the winning TD. Like the stingy 2009 version of the Wildcat defense, the 1953 contingent held MSU to 75 yards rushing and only 7 first downs.
While we're comparing things, an ACU win today means the Wildcats travel to play one of the nation's top NCAA Division II teams – Northwest Missouri State – in Marysville, Mo, for the second round of the national playoffs. The 1953 team also faced a formidable road trip in its next game – Florida State University in Tallahassee (ACU beat the Seminoles, 20-7).
The Wildcats went on to a 7-3 record in 1953, winning the Texas Conference. Current head coach Chris Thomsen would like his team's season to end in Florence, Ala., with a handsome piece of hardware of its own.
Thanks to Dr. Charlie (’55) and Peggy (Gambrill ’55) Marler for saving the tickets to the 1953 game, a trip which marked the beginning of their longtime romance. They rode the Love Train, by the way.