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1916 Cumberland vs. Georgia Tech football game

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Cumberland vs. Georgia Tech, 1916
1234 Total
Cumberland 0000 0
Georgia Tech 63635442 222
DateOctober 7, 1916
Season1916
StadiumGrant Field
LocationAtlanta

The 1916 Cumberland vs. Georgia Tech football game was played on October 7, 1916, between the Cumberland College Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Engineers on the Engineers' home field of Grant Field in Atlanta. Georgia Tech defeated the Bulldogs 222–0 for the most lopsided score in the history of college football.[1][2]

Cumberland had disbanded its football program the previous year but was still obligated to play this game against Georgia Tech. The Engineers' head coach, John Heisman, had been the coach of Georgia Tech's baseball team when it was defeated 22–0 by the Bulldogs earlier in 1916, and was looking to avenge that game. Heisman insisted that the Bulldogs fulfill their obligations to play the game and threatened legal action if Cumberland backed out. Cumberland tasked George E. Allen, its baseball captain, to assemble a football team for the game; he recruited his fraternity brothers and students from Cumberland's law school to play in Atlanta.

Despite receiving the opening kickoff, Cumberland never achieved a first down in the entire match and opted to punt on multiple possessions; the game's infamous score can be partially attributed to 97 percent of the game's plays occurring in Cumberland territory, with 64 of those plays occurring in its red zone. Georgia Tech, instigated by Heisman, scored on every first down it gained. The imbalance of the teams was so severe that the final two quarters were shortened from their customary 15 minutes to 12 minutes.

This would be the last matchup of any sport between the two schools; Cumberland deemphasized athletics in favor of academic pursuits, while Georgia Tech has continued to compete at the highest level of college sports. Current National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) rules preclude a rematch of this game. After World War II,[citation needed] it became regarded as unsportsmanlike to deliberately run up the score to such high numbers, meaning that college football games of more than 100 points have been infrequent since the 1940s.

Background[edit]

Cumberland College, a Presbyterian school in Lebanon, Tennessee, had discontinued its football program before the season but was not allowed to cancel its game against the Engineers.[1][2] The fact that Cumberland's baseball team had crushed Georgia Tech earlier that year 22–0 (amidst allegations that Cumberland used professionals as ringers) probably accounted for Georgia Tech coach John Heisman's running up the score on the Bulldogs, as Heisman was also Georgia Tech's baseball coach.[1][2] It is speculated that Heisman may have deliberately aimed for a score of exactly 222 as a numerically significant retaliation to Cumberland's 22.[3] He insisted on the schools' scheduling agreement, which required Cumberland to pay $3,000 (equivalent to $84,000 in 2023) to Tech if its football team failed to show.[1][2] In fact, Heisman actually paid Cumberland $500 (equivalent to $14,000 in 2023) as an incentive to play the game; his letter to Cumberland's athletic department read in part:

I hereby offer you the sum of $500 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlanta for your football team on the condition that you honor your contract by participating in and completing the Cumberland-Georgia Tech football game ... However, if this offer is refused ... I shall be forced to demand that your school reimburse the Tech Athletic Dept. in the amount of $3,000 for losses from the projected net gate receipts ...[4]

George E. Allen (who was elected to serve as Cumberland's football team student manager after first serving as the baseball team student manager) therefore put together a team of 12–16 players,[a] most of whom were his fraternity brothers or law students, to travel to Atlanta as Cumberland's football team.[2]

Another reason for Heisman's plan to run up the score was the practice among the sportswriters of the time to rank teams based upon how many points they scored. Since this statistic did not account for the strength or weakness of a team's opponent, Heisman disagreed with the amount of weight the writers tended to assign to it, and he may have unleashed his players on Cumberland to make his point.[5]

The game[edit]

Cumberland received the opening kickoff and failed to make a first down. After a punt, the Engineers scored on their first play.[1][6] Cumberland then fumbled on their next play from the line of scrimmage, and a Georgia Tech player returned the fumble for a touchdown.[1][6] The Bulldogs fumbled again on their next play, and it took Georgia Tech two rushes to score its third touchdown.[1][6] Cumberland lost nine yards on its next possession, and Georgia Tech scored a fourth touchdown on another two-play drive.[2][6]

Georgia Tech led 63–0 after the first quarter and 126–0 at halftime. Georgia Tech added 54 more points in the third quarter and 42 in the final period.[2][6] Several players on the heavily-outmatched Cumberland side suffered serious injuries during the game, including quarterback Charles Edwards, who was thrice carted off with concussions.

Georgia Tech scored a total of 32 touchdowns, and Georgia Tech's left end James Preas kicked 18 extra points.[7] Cumberland's only effective defense was an extra point blocked with a sort of human pyramid known as the "climb-the-ladder" play, topped with Vichy Woods, who suffered a gruesome facial injury on the play.[2] Despite scoring 32 touchdowns, the Engineers did not complete or attempt a forward pass; all their yardage came on rushes, returns or defensive plays.

Several myths have developed around the game. Some have written that Cumberland did not have a single play that gained yards; in fact, its longest play was a 10-yard pass (on 4th-and-22[1][2] or 3rd-and-18[6]). The Bulldogs gained positive yardage on at least six plays, though they fumbled on two of them. One page on Cumberland's website says Georgia Tech scored on every offensive play, but the play-by-play account of the game refutes this and suggests a more likely scenario: that Georgia Tech scored on every one of its sets of downs. Cumberland made no first downs in the entire game.[6]

Cumberland purportedly committed 15 turnovers—nine fumbles and six interceptions—during the game.

As a general rule, the only thing necessary for a touchdown was to give a Tech back the ball and holler, ‘Here he comes’ and ‘There he goes.’

Sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote, "Cumberland's greatest individual play of the game occurred when fullback Allen circled right end for a 6-yard loss."[4][8] At halftime, Heisman reportedly told his players, "You're doing all right, team, we're ahead. But you just can't tell what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. They may spring a surprise. Be alert, men! Hit 'em clean, but hit 'em hard!"[8][9] However, even Heisman relented, and shortened the third and fourth quarters from 15 minutes to 12.[9]

Statistics[edit]

The game in action
These statistics are based on the play-by-play transcript and may be incomplete.
Team Rushing Passing Kicking
Att Yards TD Fumb Lost Comp–Att Yards TD Int FGM–FGA XPM–XPA
Cumberland 27 −42 0 9 2–18 14 0 6 0–0 0–0
Georgia Tech 26 922 32 0 0–0 0 0 0 0–0 30–32
1916 Week Two: Cumberland Bulldogs at Georgia Tech Engineers
Period 1 2 34Total
Cumberland 0 0 000
Georgia Tech 63 63 5442222

at Grant Field, Atlanta

Game information

Records[edit]

Prior to the match, the record for a highest score in a football match was a 159–0 score by Newberry against BMI made in 1913, while the highest score in a college game was 144–0 by the Florida Gators against Florida Southern also in 1913. In the preceding 45 years of college football, only 36 games had exceeded 100 points, and only seven those were against teams also from a college.[6]

Since World War II, only a handful of schools have topped 100 points in a college football game. The modern-era record for most points scored against a college opponent is 106 by Fort Valley State of Georgia against Knoxville College in 1969. In the previous year Houston defeated Tulsa 100–6 to set the NCAA record in major college football. In 1949 the University of Wyoming defeated University of Northern Colorado 103–0. The Division III football scoring record was set in 1968 when North Park University defeated North Central College 104–32, using ten passing touchdowns along the way.[10]

Legacy[edit]

The game ball had the score written on it as a memento. It was donated to the Helms Athletic Foundation sports museum by Bill Schroeder, an avid sports collector. When the museum moved locations in the 1980s, the ball was boxed and remained in storage.

In 2014, Ryan Schneider, a Georgia Tech alumnus, purchased the ball in a charity auction for $40,388 ($33,657 without buyer's premium), with the intention of donating it back to Georgia Tech.[11]

In October 1956, a 40th reunion was held for players from both teams, of whom 28 were able to attend.[9] While reminiscing, one of the Cumberland players pointed out one play that saved Cumberland from an even worse defeat; had Cumberland punted as normal instead of running a sneak, the score would probably have been 229–0.[9]

While Cumberland's football team would eventually be restarted full-time (and change its nickname to the Phoenix in 2016), the two schools have not met in any sports since: Cumberland would eventually de-emphasize athletics, and currently competes in the NAIA, while Georgia Tech would go on to be a founding member of the Southeastern Conference before departing the SEC in 1964, and is currently a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In any case, current NCAA rules only allow Division III schools to compete against NAIA schools.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Conflicting sources report anywhere from 12 to 19 players (and of those 19, three got lost in Nashville and missed their train, leaving at most only 16 players).[4]
  2. ^ "George Murphy" may have actually been a ringer named John "Johnny Dog" Nelson, a sportswriter who had previous football experience.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Litsky, Frank (October 7, 2006). "In 1916, a Blowout for the Ages". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Paul, Jim (1983). You Dropped It, You Pick It Up. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Ed's Publishing Company. ISBN 99934-0-444-6.
  3. ^ "Revisiting Georgia Tech 222, Cumberland 0 and how it may have saved the school". October 7, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "A Loss That Lives In Legend Cumberland Crashed In Football, 222-0". August 26, 1990. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  5. ^ Nash, Bruce (1990). Football Hall of Shame. Schuster Merchandise. ISBN 978-0-671-72922-6.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Davis, Parke H. (October 15, 1916). "Yellow Jackets-Cumberland Score Was Record One; Tops the List According to Statistics Compiled Showing All Scores Past the Century Mark". The Atlanta Constitution. pp. A3 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Makes a Record Score". The Washington Post. October 8, 1916. p. S3.
  8. ^ a b Searcy, Jay (September 16, 1990). "220-0-the Infamous Cumberland Gap". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 9, 2014. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d "A Monumental Victory". October 6, 2006. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  10. ^ North Central College Football Record Book ("Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)).
  11. ^ Sugiura, Ken (August 25, 2014). "Tech alum returning 222-0 ball to 'rightful place'". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved May 18, 2015.

External links[edit]