Chapter 7

Recognition and the Season Continues

There were 3 games left after the momentous win over in Charleston.

Nov. 15    Kentucky                 Danville
Nov. 22   DePauw                   Greencastle, Indiana ( originally scheduled ) 
Nov. 27   Georgetown (KY)   Georgetown 

Centre was 6-0 for the season and had won 16 straight since the October 20, 1917 loss to DePauw. While the win streak commanded attention as did the wins over Indiana and Virginia, it was the victory over West Virginia which began starting the previously little-known Kentucky college to cause sports reporters across the country and the public to take note.

The New York Tribute sent a telegram to Uncle Charlie and asked him to send some remarks about what had allowed such an unknown college to beat the highly-favored Mountaineers.

Moran’s reply was printed as soon as it arrived back in New York.

Centre College has at last gotten what it was seeking for several years- recognition from the larger universities, and from our record, we may get on the schedule of some of the big fellows next year.

The success and influence has largely due to the play and influence of our quarterback, Bo McMillin. If anyone deserves All-American recognition, he certainly does.

Red Roberts, my fullback, has been invaluable to the team, and with Bo and Red in the backfield, there is little worry about the offense.

These two are almost a team in themselves.

I must say a word about my center, Red Weaver, who is the pivot of the line in every sense of the word. He is a bear on defense, a slashing terror on offense, and in the game every second.

My line is composed of tall, rangy fellows, the real Kentucky type. And how they fight! I mean in the football sense. When they first came here, they had the physique and fight but were somewhat awkward in their actions. However, once they learned the game, my work was practically done.

Later, in the article, he addressed the West Virginia game.

First we stopped Rodgers…….Whereas West Virginia depended almost entirely on Rodgers, my eleven played over every inch of the ground as one man. Stars are a big asset to a team, but if stars work in conjunction with others as one man, they make what is nigh an unbeatable combination. 

Later in the week, Uncle Charlie made the point again in chapel as he spoke to the students and faculty.

Eleven men won the victory over West Virginia last Saturday. It is the Centre College way.

Following the win over West Virginia, the public became more aware of Centre due to a nationally syndicated story by Fred Turbyville published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Turbyville had traveled to Danville and spend a day watching a practice and getting to know Uncle Charlie, Chief Myers, and the players.

He was unrestrained in his praise about everything which was going on in Danville, and his story, published in newspapers from coast to coast, was a major factor in Centre beginning to gain the recognition which it was seeking.

The Washington Post sent sportswriter J.V. Fitzgerald to Danville. He wrote- Boasting a team that defeated the West Virginia team which Walter Camp had designated the squad of the season, it is no wonder that Centre is proud, and little Danville mighty cocky. 

Fitzgerald went on to say that the big schools often pat the little schools on the back and say nice things about them, but the little schools rarely get the recognition which they deserve.  

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat requested that George Joplin, a Centre cheerleader and reporter for the Danville Messenger, send over a 300 word story about Centre to fill in the paper’s readers about a school that few had known about previously.

Chief Myers had sought recognition for his alma mater which he felt could lead to Centre being put into a position of getting onto the schedule of one of the “Big 3” eastern powers.

After beating Virginia and now West Virginia, two schools with connection to Harvard and Princeton during their 1919 games, it was beginning to seem that Myers’ seemingly unlikely and previously far-fetched goal could actually become a reality.

Meanwhile, reality at the moment was the upcoming Homecoming game in Danville on November 15 against old foe, Kentucky.

Five starters, James, Weaver, Montgomery, Bell and McMillin were from Fort Worth North Side

The week before the game saw Danville turn into a town dedicated to the Gold and White. Spoonamore’s drug store on Main Street ( still in existence ) along with several other merchants, sold carloads of gold and white crepe paper.

A fixture on Main Street to this day

Phone poles were wrapped in gold and white, porch columns were entwined, Centre pennants adorned windows all over the town. The KCW campus not only had its stately buildings’ columns turned into gold and white candy canes, but the tree trunks on the lawn were similarly adorned as far up as the girls could reach. Spoked wheels on automobiles were decorated with gold and white crepe paper. 

The Centre spirit even caught fire far from Danville.

One of the local papers carrier a story written by an “eastern writer” who wrote that Mrs. Richard T. Lowndes had a party in her apartment in the Hotel Taft in New Haven, Connecticut, in honor of her son, Richard III, who was a junior at Centre.

Site of  party held by mother of Centre student, Richard Lowndes III

Attendees were from Princeton, Yale and Columbia. Many had been students previously at Centre. One guest in particular was mentioned, John Sherman Cooper, a student at Yale, who had been a star on Centre’s 1918 team and who had eventually had a long and distinguished career serving in the United States Senate and in multiple positions in the government.

John Sherman Cooper 

It stated that Mrs. Lowndes’ apartment was totally transformed by decorating all of the public rooms with gold and white.

Centre’s Cheek Field had also undergone a transformation. In four weeks since the last game in Danville, new top-soil had covered the field and a thick turf of Bluegrass had been grown.

Additionally, new bleachers were added on any open area around the field so it was felt that 8,000 spectators could be accommodated if those standing around and under the bleachers were counted. 

The Gilcher and Henson hotels were quickly booked as were all of the boarding houses in the area. Kentucky quickly sold its allotment of 1,000 tickets, and Somerset’s 200 were grabbed up immediately so that its citizens could get to watch the boys who had played for their “Briar Jumpers” in the past.

The Southern Railroad added extra coaches for the regular runs from Lexington to Danville so that not only Kentucky fans could head south via train, but connections could be made in Lexington from those heading over from Louisville.

Uncle Charlie had given his team the day off on Monday after the return from Charleston and for the rest of the week the practices consisted mainly of refining plays with minimal contact.

The Colonels had several players with bruises and strains after the West Virginia game, but the main reason the practices were eased up was that it was realized Kentucky wasn’t very good. The Wildcats were 2-3-1.

Kentucky   12       Georgetown  ( KY )   0
Kentucky     0       Indiana   24
Kentucky     0       Ohio State   49
Kentucky     6       Sewanee   0
Kentucky     0       Vanderbilt   0
Kentucky     0       Cincinnati   0

The tie against a fairly strong Vanderbilt team was heartening, but it was obvious that Kentucky virtually had no offense, being shutout 4 times, and registering only 3 TD’s all season, with two coming against a hardly stalwart Georgetown.

The 1919 Homecoming attracted the largest group of old, veteran Centre athletes ever to find their way back to Danville. Everyone wanted to see the team that had beaten Indiana, Virginia, and now West Virginia. Old lettermen were everywhere- trackmen, basketball players, baseball stars from the past, and especially those who had been on the gridiron for the Gold and White.

A large banner had been draped across the back of the Boyle-Humphrey gymnasium which proclaimed- RIGHT THE WRONG OF 1916- a reference to the 68-0 drubbing which the Wildcats had inflicted on the Colonels the year before Chief Myers and Uncle Charlie had arrived on the campus.

Wagering was rampant, but the Kentucky rooters wanted at least 40 points, and as the kickoff neared, the margin had climbed to 50. Even at those odds, Centre fans were so certain of their team’s superiority that they were willing to put their money where their faith was.

Centre won the toss and elected to receive.

Four minutes later, Red Roberts slammed through the line and scored. Red Weaver kicked and it was 7-0.

Kentucky had to punt and 5 plays later, Red again crashed through, Weaver again converted, and it was 14-0, where it stood at the end of the first period.

Centre’s attack slowed somewhat in the second quarter, but this period saw a classic Colonel drive. Bo failed to connect on a pass to Allen Davis, ran the exact pattern again and hit Davis for a long gainer, and then Bo for 6, again for 8, Red for 7, a Bo 10-yard toss to Army, and then Army took a hand-off from Bo and scored.

It was 21-0 at the half after Weaver kicked successfully again.

Kentucky was totally ineffective against the Colonels’ defense, picking up one first down in the half.

Kentucky fans felt fairly confident with their team just being down 21-0 at the end of two quarters, especially those who’d gotten 50 points.

The Centre and Kentucky bands took turns providing music for the students from both schools who danced on the field at the half. It was a festive Homecoming occasion.

The second half started slowly and in the first minutes, both teams basically ran 3 plays and punted. Finally, Kentucky got a little offense going and picked up 3 straight first downs, getting into ball into Centre’s territory, but the Colonels’ tightened it up and the Wildcats had to punt.

Several plays later, Bo dashed into the end zone from the 8, Weaver was good, and it was 28-0 as the third period ended.

Kentucky fans were feeling even more confident. Centre would have to score twice and convert once to beat the 40-point margin, or score 3 times with conversions plus a field goal to surpass the 50 points that many Kentucky fans had received.

What Wildcat fans didn’t realize was that Uncle Charlie didn’t just want to beat Kentucky, he wanted to beat them by more than they had been beaten by Ohio State on October 18 in Columbus.

He knew that there were those who felt Ohio State had the best team in the country. The Buckeyes were 5-0 with the following record-

Ohio State   38   Ohio Wesleyan   0
Ohio State   46   Cincinnati   0
Ohio State   49   Kentucky   0
Ohio State   13    Michigan   3
Ohio State   20   Purdue   0

In addition to wanting to top Ohio State’s margin over Kentucky, some of the Colonels admitted later that they knew many of their supporters had put some serious money on the game. They didn’t want to see any of it going back to Lexington.

Almost unbelievably, Bo and his teammates put 28 points on the board during the last 15 minutes.

Terry Snowday capped a 7-play drive by scoring. Weaver again- Colonels-35-0.

On the next possession, Kentucky could only pick up 4 yards, punted, and 6 plays later, Bo went in from the 12. “Mr. Automatic” Weaver made it, 42-0.

Kentucky fans who had 40 points had to open their wallets.

After the hapless Wildcats met the impregnable defense of the Colonels again, Bo had 2 incompletions, hit Red Roberts for 35, and after another pass failed, decided to run it in himself from the 8.

Weaver again, and it was 49-0, matching the Ohio State margin over Kentucky. But there was still some unfinished business.

Kentucky supporters who had 50 points were on their feet imploring their team to do anything to keep the Colonels from scoring again. They knew the game was long lost. They were pleading for their solvency.

There were just 15 seconds left when Centre gained one more possession. Bo called “time-out” and gathered the team around him. All week, he and Lefty Whitnell, a speedy end from Fulton, Kentucky, had practiced a route which required perfect timing and a pinpoint pass.

Bo told the team that they were going to run a play where Lefty would streak directly down the field and never glance back until he got 40 yards past the line of scrimmage. Bo told Lefty to then look over his right shoulder and the ball would be there.

Whitnell ran the route just as Bo had planned it. When he glanced back right, the ball was spiraling down, and he latched onto it without breaking his stride, covering another 15 yards and crossing the goal line.

Weaver made it 56-0, the greatest margin over Kentucky since the 1894 game, when Centre won, 67-0.

Centre’s fans were delirious, and many felt it was the greatest play they’d ever witnessed.

An overwhelming display by the Gold and White

That night, after the game, a huge dance was held in the Boyle-Humphrey Gymnasium. The floor was covered with the petals of the gold and white chrysanthemums which fell as the young beauties from KCW danced away the evening with their Centre College heroes.

Centre was 7-0 for the season and the win streak was 17.

The Colonels had outscored their opponents, 352-16, during the season.

Centre was like a machine, with two away games to go- DePauw in Louisville, and the traditional Thanksgiving game to be played at Georgetown.