Mount Union stands alone today, atop a mythical divisionless college football landscape, 42 years after Oklahoma set the standard for winning streaks.
Oklahoma's 47-game record was overtaken at bucolic Mount Union Stadium in northeast Ohio, where a record 7,132 fans crammed into a structure built to hold a couple thousand fewer on a day in which professionals usually gather gear to photograph splendid sunshine and colorful leaves.
Mount Union tried to make the game a sideshow, even after a 44-20 victory over Otterbein in an Ohio Athletic Conference game that not only made the Purple Raiders 6-0 on the season, but 48-0 over the last four years.
The catch was, Oklahoma accomplished its streak from 1953 to '57 in Division I. Mount Union, which has not lost since the national semifinals in 1995, plays in Division III.
"We're not trying to downplay what we accomplished," Mount Union Coach Larry Kehres said. "We did this at our level. They [Oklahoma] did that at their level. Division III football is not Division I."
The atmosphere is not the same, either. Mount Union's drum major dressed in coveralls and a straw hat leading his band--playing a few notes of "Oklahoma" in tribute--on the field. Everyone was polite, even once the players arrived.
"We tried to handle this as best we could," Kehres said. "It's very difficult not to have it on your mind."
Mount Union, coming off three straight national championships, tried to treat the game merely as part of the process of earning a fourth.
"This was just one of our steps in our goal to win the OAC championship," said quarterback Gary Smeck, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Yet he knew the Purple Raiders were headed toward a considerable streak even before the season.
"Every year on our [championship] rings, it says, '28-0, 38-0,' " Smeck said. "We knew about it."
Kehres had it in the back of his mind, too, especially when he reviewed the television tape of last season's national championship game. The announcer mentioned Mount Union had won 42 straight games and the national record was 47. Kehres contends he didn't immediately check his schedule, although he knew the pitfalls.
"We played a team we played twice last year, Albion, and except for their missing a [34-yard] field goal [in the first round of the playoffs], they would haven beaten us," Kehres said. "That was our opening team this year. That was much more important than addressing Game 6."
Albion fell this time, 38-0. In Game 4, at John Carroll, the Purple Raiders had to go three overtimes to win, 57-51.
Against Otterbein, Kehres wanted to get off to a quick start. The Cardinals had the ball first and punted. On Mount Union's first play, Smeck connected with Adam Marino for 39 yards to the Otterbein 44. Had the ball not been overthrown, Marino would have kept his feet and gone for a touchdown.
As he was, he pulled in nine passes for 209 yards. Chuck Moore ran 26 times for 180 yards. Mount Union scored the first four times it had the ball.
"Throughout sports history, people are remembered for something--that, rather than their career," Kehres said. "When you win a national championship, it's a culminating achievement for a season of hard work. I don't think this is quite that."
Kehres is 139-16-3 at Mount Union, the best record of a football coach across any division. He is 109-6-1 this decade, with four national championships.
Now he has done something to be remembered by.