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Scoring 5 Points in a Game, and How to Research College Football

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Could I have done this differently?

How do you research historic college football?

I struggled with that on Saturday as I clicked through the college football landscape. During the second half of the Tulane win over Louisiana, it was brought to my attention that in the FCS Playoffs, Eastern Washington was taking YOUR Maine Black Bears (the best kind of bear, natch) to the BLOOD FIELD woodshed, 37-5, deep in the third quarter.

Degenerate that I am, I instantly realized that history could, possibly, be in the making.

You see, Maine played the Central Michigan Chippewas early this season, falling by a gritty score of 17-5. It is what we dream of in college football—a weird-ass score! So rarely do we even get #FUNFWATCH at halftime, and here we were, with it as a potential final score! If results held and the Eagles continued to stifle the Black Bears’ offense, moreover, Maine could score 5 points in an entire game yet again. Twice in one season! Surely, I thought, this would be a first for modern college football.

But how to research it?

My go-to for modern college football research is, like most people’s, Sports Reference’s Game Finder tool. Under “Additional Criteria” I chose “total points” “=” “5”, searched, and got a lovely panoply of terrible scores.

These results, though, weren’t enough! The drawback to Sports Reference for college football, of course, is its limitation to results from 2000 and beyond. So I turned, as I usually do, to the JHowell college football scores index. It’s what I use for simpler things, like head-to-head records between two schools.

Going deeper, though, required a visit to UW-Madison computer programming professor David Wilson’s historical scores by year database. (He, in and of himself, is worth reading about.) To access it, go to #26 on the list.

Beginning in 1999, which I got to by changing the URL to “cf1999gms” and so on, I would have to just brute-force search each year. While these aren’t compiled, searchable, or sortable, they are in .txt format, meaning a score of “5” would have a space around either one. So a ctrl-F for [space]5[space] would reveal scores like so:

Screengrab of 1998 college football scores from David Wilson’s website.

From there, I just had to keep track. And that revealed...

You can fall down the rabbit hole that I fell down by following my tweet (or by looking for other weird college football scores yourself—a whole thread on teams scoring “4” would be great!), or you can click the link and follow it yourself.

But people have, apparently, used this method! One enterprising Twitter-user created a Scorigami board for all of college football—including, evidently, a 35-1 game and a 4-4 final!

Brilliant. Numbers are something. The ability to wield those numbers...even more so. I’m not gifted with these things, but I’m thankful people are—because look at that! I aspire to a fraction of that brilliance. And so I recommend you play around with these things! Check them out!

This could, of course, be a totally moot or stupid article! Maybe there are excellent, easy ways to do all this research with just a couple clicks and searches. That’s why you all are here—to tell us Off Tackle writers why we’re morons for stimulating your thoughts on college football.

Either way, I’m curious to learn how you all do your own research on college football history and college football scores! Let me know in the comments.


How do YOU get your college football stats?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    I use Sports Reference and just give up before 2000.
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    JHowell and Associates
    (3 votes)
  • 53%
    I let the crack staff at OTE do the research for me.
    (55 votes)
  • 38%
    (40 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now