This Week in Sports History, October 5-12

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Cumberland Blues

October 7, 1916

Cumberland University played regularly against the top Southern powers in the early days of college football: Vanderbilt, Mississippi, South Carolina, Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State), Tennessee, Georgia Tech. In 1903, Cumberland was declared the Southern champion after defeating Tulane, LSU, and Alabama in five days and tying Clemson in a postseason game arranged by Clemson coach John Heisman. But in 1916, the board of trustees decided to eliminate football for budgetary reasons. The student manager was responsible for informing Cumberland’s scheduled opponents, but he somehow neglected to contact Georgia Tech, where John Heisman was now coaching the football and baseball teams.

When Cumberland belatedly got in touch with Georgia Tech to cancel their scheduled 1916 football game, Tech insisted the game be played, or Cumberland forfeit a significant cash penalty. (Tech had lost 22-0 to Cumberland in baseball in 1915, allegedly leading Heisman to swear vengeance.) Cumberland agreed to send a team, and the results were historic. Heisman’s squad scored sixty-three points in the first quarter, another sixty-three in the second, fifty-four in the third, and forty-two in the fourth (despite an agreement to limit the second half to fifteen minutes) for a final score of 222-0. There were no first downs recorded; Cumberland didn’t make any, and Georgia Tech never needed one, scoring on one of its first three plays of every possession. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s play-by-play account, Cumberland’s most successful play was a ten-yard pass completion, one of its two completed passes (in eighteen attempts) on the day; unfortunately, the ten yards came on third-and-18. Tech scored touchdowns on nineteen runs, five punt returns, five interception returns, two fumble recoveries, and a kickoff return.

A book about the game was published in 1983. The book has 222 pages, and took its title from a play in the fourth quarter, when one Cumberland player fumbled the ball yet again and shouted to a teammate to grab it. The teammate’s reply, and the book’s title, was You Dropped It, You Pick It Up!

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