1921 Centre vs. Harvard football game

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1921 Centre Praying Colonels vs. Harvard Crimson football game
1 2 3 4 Total
Centre 0 0 6 0 6
Harvard 0 0 0 0 0
Date October 29, 1921
Stadium Harvard Stadium
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Referee R. W. Maxwell

The 1921 Centre vs. Harvard football game, played October 29, 1921, was a college football game between Centre College and Harvard University. Centre beat Harvard 6–0 in the game, in what is widely considered one of the greatest upsets in college football history.[1][2]

The prequel[edit]

The teams first met in 1920, at Harvard Stadium in the Boston neighborhood of Allston, with Harvard coming off a Rose Bowl victory and an undefeated national championship season in 1919 (the school's fourth national championship in the prior ten years). Coming into the Centre game, Harvard was also undefeated and unscored upon in the 1920 season. Meanwhile, Centre College, a tiny school of 300 students in Kentucky, had little history of success in football before their current coach, Charley Moran, and star quarterback, Bo McMillin, arrived on campus in 1917.

The Centre Praying Colonels shocked Harvard in the 1920 game simply by taking a 14–7 halftime lead. But, in the second half, Centre withered before the superior Harvard squad, and Harvard won the game 31–14. Following the game, Harvard's captain offered the game ball to Centre's quarterback Bo McMillin, but McMillin declined the ball and promised "We'll be back next year to take it home with us."[3]

The 1921 game[edit]

Bo McMillin scored the game’s only touchdown on a 33-yard run.

The teams met for the second straight season in Harvard Stadium, on October 29, 1921, with 45,000 fans packing the stands. Harvard again entered the game undefeated, and had not lost a game since the 1918 season.[4]

The game was a scoreless tie at halftime. Early in the third quarter, Centre's All American Blocking Back, "Red" Roberts told Bo McMillin, "it's time to score, ride my hump", and McMillin rushed for the lone touchdown of the game. The Praying Colonels' defense held off the Crimson's powerful offense from there for a 6–0 victory. Following the game, students from MIT who came to cheer against Harvard carried McMillin off the field and tore down the goalposts.[5] The Colonels had shocked mighty Harvard, becoming the first school ever from outside the East to beat one of the Ivy League's "Big Three" of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Back in Danville, Kentucky, overjoyed students painted the "impossible formula" C6H0 (Centre 6, Harvard 0) on everything in sight (including a few cows). At least one marking still remains, on the side of the Centre post office.[1] The paint was protected from the weather for decades by the roof of a nearby building. That building was torn down in the 1990s, revealing a well preserved C6H0 from 1921.


Immediate impact[edit]

The Centre victory was a shock, but perhaps not a fluke; the team would finish the 1921 season 10–1, defeating several of the nation's powerhouses including Virginia Tech, Auburn, Arizona, and Clemson. Their only defeat was a 22–14 loss to powerful Texas A&M in The Dixie Classic (forerunner of the Cotton Bowl), Dallas, Texas, on January 2, 1922 (this is the game where A&M's famous 12th man was born). (Bo McMillin got married in Dallas the day before the game, and the Colonels were in the midst of a grueling long distance trip from home by train, having played Arizona in San Diego, California the week prior). Up until their final game of the season the Colonels outscored their opponents by a margin of 314 to 6.[6]

"Greatest Upset"[edit]

In 1950, the Associated Press named C6H0 the greatest sports upset of the first half of the 20th century.[7] In 2005, The New York Times called it "arguably the upset of the century in college football."[2] In 2006, ESPN named it the third-biggest upset in the 138-year history of college football.[1]

On the 75th anniversary of C6H0, Centre challenged Harvard to a rematch. Harvard declined.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "ESPN ranks 1921 Centre-Harvard game among college football's greatest upsets". Retrieved 7 August 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "C6-H0 plays a prominent part in nation's sports lexicon". Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2008. 
  3. ^ Bernstein, Mark (2001). Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-3627-0. 
  4. ^ Harvard Historical Scores
  5. ^ Goldstein, Richard (1996). Ivy League Autumns. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-14629-9. 
  6. ^ "1921 Season". Retrieved 7 August 2008. 
  7. ^ "Centre College Remembers Day When It Was King of the Gridiron". Retrieved 7 August 2008. 

External links[edit]