Chapter 50

The Third Quarter

As the teams lined up to start the 3rd quarter, Tom Bartlett was back at fullback, having replaced Hump Tanner, and Dick Gibson was again in a guard position as Bill Shadoan's injury during the 2nd quarter kept him out of the action for the rest of the afternoon.

Jewett Johnson was in at the Crimson quarterback position, and Charles Buell was on the sidelines.

The crowd was on its feet as Red Roberts kicked off for Centre. It was a low but long effort and scooted all of the way to the goal line where it was picked up by Chapin who returned it to the 15.

Harvard ran a fake punt play, thinking that Centre may fall for it with the Crimson being so deep in their own territory, but when Gehrke ran instead of kicking, the Colonels held their ground and the play only netted 2 yards.

Each of the Colonels could hear Uncle Charlie's final words as they had left the dressing room following the halftime break and lined up.

"Play tough! Play smart!"

On 2nd down and 8, the Crimson quick-kicked and Bartlett fielded the ball on his own 48 and returned it to the Crimson 47 where he was tackled by Macomber. A Harvard player was called for tripping and the refs threw a flag. It was a 15-yard penalty, as unintentional as the infraction may have been.  

The Colonels had excellent field position, with first down on the Harvard 32. The ball was positioned toward the right sideline.

The Boston "Advertiser" had a reporter sitting in the Centre fan's section in the Stadium. As the Colonels lined up to begin play, he heard a girl's voice say, "Oh Lord, give him speed!"

A pale little bundle of nerves, yet blazing with excitement, gasped her plea for the success of the mighty McMillin.

Pretty Helen James of "down there in Danville," a typical Southern Belle with soft, drawny voice, did her bit as she tried to pray her team to victory.

Helen had no monopoly on the praying. She was joined by Mrs. Gus Covington, wife of the "Majah, and her daughter, Lucy.

"Oh Lord, give them courage." Mrs. Covington repeated the refrain as she grasped tightly the hand of her husband, or turned and embraced her daughter.

The girl, twisting and squirming, kept up a rapid-fire comment, punctuating her talk with a gasping "aha" or "oh,and wee little shrieks scarcely audible to her mother or to her handsome father.

"Oh Lord, give him speed!" prayed Helen James again. "Oh Lord, give him speed!"

Centre fans with President Ganfield, silver hair, first row with Lucy Covington next to him

Much has been written about the next play. There has even been speculation about whether the play was called by Uncle Charlie from the sidelines.

It was illegal during the era of the Centre-Harvard game for coaching to take place from the sidelines. However, it was known that Centre had a water bucket with the letters C E N T R E painted on the surface. Roscoe handled the water bucket.

Was there movement of the bucket by Roscoe prior to the play? Did Uncle Charlie have certain plays indicated by the direction the letters were being pointed toward the field so that he could have sent in a play to Bo? 

No one knew for certain then, nor has it ever been proven to this day, but the possibility exists and adds to the mystique of the game which has fascinated so many people for the century which has passed since that October 29th day in 1921.

However, when analyzing whether Uncle Charlie had called the play from the sidelines, it must be remembered that one thing that Moran had constantly emphasized to his players over the years was that, "We play hard, but we play clean." Uncle Charlie and all of the Colonels held Harvard in such high regard that it seems inconceivable that there would have been any chance that Centre would have even considered cheating.  

What is known for certain is that Centre opened the second half by running a favorite play which Uncle Charlie had even diagrammed and given to the press earlier when contributing to a publication which described his offensive schemes.

It was called the "Cut In."

The "Cut In" play which decided the 1921 Centre-Harvard game

The ball was centered to the quarterback as shown and the two guards on either side of the center, the X in the diagram above, were to pull out to run inference toward the right as did the other backs. The quarterback then had option of sweeping around the end and continuing downfield, or more frequently, "cut in" to the opposite direction, which is just exactly as the play unfolded. 

Perhaps it is best to simply understand what occurred as it was described by a New York "Times" reporter which was published the afternoon of the game.

Today, McMillin turned the trick. He dashed through the line to the right, with Roberts interfering for him. Once through the line, he half reversed, saw an opening and dashed off to his left and straight for the side line. Up to this time, he had not even been slapped by a Harvard tackler, and there were only two men between him and the Harvard goal line. These were Gehrke and Johnson. They were at McMillin's right and not very far behind him. Neither had a chance to make a tackle, and so they chased him to the side line.

Bo is just behind Minos Gordy whose head is marked by the arrow. He has "cut in" across the field heading toward the left sideline and is obscured by the official. Bill James is #10.

Bo ( 11 ) heading left directly toward the sideline. He is cutting just behind Minos Gordy who is leading the interference. Red Roberts is not seen as he had provided blocks on the right. Gehrke and Johnson are in pursuit at far right.

McMillin kept going, faster and faster. At the side line, both Gehrke and Johnson threw themselves at him, but McMillin cleverly stopped short, took only a brushing blow from the Harvard men, and then was off like the wind for the goal line, now only 10 yards away. He was overtaken from behind because of the delay, but not until he had crossed the last yard of ground.

Erwin Gehrke ( 1898-1968 ) class of 1924, one of the last players who had a chance to bring down Bo during his sprint toward the goal. 

( Gehrke was the son of German immigrants and had to work in order to be able to afford Harvard. He dropped out of school before the 1923 year began and opened a tea room in Cambridge which was very popular with the students. However, he returned to classes the next semester and received his degree one term late. )

Centre had scored! Bo and his teammates had done it! Not only had Red Roberts flattened the defenders in front of the right end position he had switched to, but the rest of the line had provided perfect interference, clearing Bo's path as he streaked toward the sideline.

As the run unfolded, the spectators in the stands had stood in near silence as the Colonels executed the perfect play. When they saw that Bo hadn't stepped out of bounds as he skirted the sideline and saw the officials with their arms in the air signaling a touchdown, a thunderous roar began which lasted a full 4 minutes.

The little Centre throng danced in the aisles, but there was equal celebration throughout the stands. Even in the Harvard student body section, they were clapping appreciatively.

Herb Covington, from Mayfield, Kentucky, a freshman substitute on the Colonels' team who would play a critical role later in the game, looked where he knew his mother, father and sister, Lucy, were sitting. He saw them bouncing up and down, waving their arms and screaming with joy.

Roscoe, on the Centre sideline, did a little strut, not a full-blown cakewalk, but a spontaneous two steps forward, and two steps back- a strut, that's all you could call it.

Later, when Howard got back home, I asked him to tell me everything about the game, and especially about the play when Bo scored.

Howard told it so perfectly that I felt I was actually there. One thing I've always remembered was what he said about Roscoe.

The Centre bench was wild, with everyone jumping around and slapping each other on the back, pumping their fists in the air, and Howard said he just kept on concentrating on Roscoe who had this huge smile, and he was just strutting, back and forth, back and forth.

There wasn't a person there that day who was any happier than Roscoe. He was the most wonderful fellow, and the greatest fan that Centre ever had.

I was on Main Street in front of Louis Mannini's billiard hall, nervous as I could be. 

Louis Mannini's business was at 303 W. Main Street, next door to The Shop-Perfect ( see Chapter 62 ) which was on the corner of 3rd and Main. Mannini had set up a "wire" to "carry" the game where the results of the plays were shouted out to the throng in the street.

I couldn't stand still. I'd watch the board and listen to the call of the plays, and then have to try to walk around the street for a few seconds, especially if things weren't going well, but it wasn't easy to move around.

There must have been well over a couple of thousand people filling the blocks of Main that were roped off. People were constantly trying to get closer to the chalk board so they could see better, and also so they could hear the results of the plays being called out.

When Centre scored, the street became one mass of cheering, clapping, whistling, nearly hysterical people.

Everybody was shouting, "We scored! Bo scored!"

I was as happy as everyone else, but also, I remembered that we had led the year before, and then Harvard got going and beat us, and there was still a lot of time left.

When Bo fell into the end zone, only 48 seconds had elapsed in the 3rd quarter. There were still 29 minutes and 12 seconds of action left.

The Colonels lined up for the extra point. It was going to be a kick with a holder, not a drop kick. Bo was to be the holder, and Tom Bartlett the kicker.

Ed Kubale centered perfectly to Bo who was so full of adrenaline after his touchdown run that his hands were visibly shaking as he tried to get the ball in position.

The poor placement resulted in Bartlett hitting the ball off-center, and the kick wasn't close.

It was 6-0.

The stands were still buzzing, everyone still on their feet, as the Colonels put the ball on their 40 for the kick-off to the Crimson.

The team could hear Army's words in their minds.

"If they don't score in the 1st quarter, we will win."

Indeed, Harvard hadn't scored. Now, with a 6-0 lead, would the team's captain have been prophetic?

Red Roberts made excellent contact and his kick was picked up by Chapin who was brought down on his own 25.

On the initial play, the fired-up Colonels gang-tackled the Crimson runner, Coburn, for a 2-yard loss. Chapin tried the right side of the Centre line and was brought down by "Baldy" Cregor, who fought off a block by Harvard's Kunhardt. The play resulted in a hard earned 1 yard.

The Centre contingent was joined by over half of the Stadium's crowd in cheers for the Colonels' defensive play.

Gehrke took a direst center pass from Frances Kernan and ran right up the middle, only to be brought down by a solid hit from Ed Kubale after a 1-yard gain.

Three plays and the ball was exactly where it had started, with the Crimson now having 4th and 10 on their 25, and Harvard had to punt.

Chapin's boot was an excellent 45-yard effort and it was covered well. Centre ended up with the ball on its own 30. Snowday got the call and bucked ahead for 1 yard, but a flag was thrown for holding, and the penalty moved it back to the 15. Bartlett picked up 5. Gehrke was injured on the play and replaced by Mitchell Gatwick.

Second down and 20 on the Colonels' 20. Bartlett picked up another 8. Third down and 12 on the 28. Bo then lined up the team to kick but instead sprinted around his right end for 8. He ended up 4 yards short of a 1st down.

Arrow pointing to third quarter action by "Col. McMillin" Bo had been made a "Kentucky Colonel" by Governor Edwin P. Morrow in 1920, thus the "Col. McMillin"

Centre had to punt and Red Roberts got off a decent boot, good for 35 yards. Jewett Johnson caught the ball but couldn't advance it as Army was all over him.

Harvard had 1st down on the Crimson's own 28. Centre was pumped sky high. Every member of the Gold and White was fighting with all of his strength, and cheering each other on.

The Crimson tried line plunges. Chapin got 4 over his right tackle. Coburn got another 4 before Ed Kubale brought him down. Francis Kernan, the Harvard center, was shaken up on the play and Coach Fisher replaced him with Bradford. 

While the substitution was being made, Centre huddled briefly.

"It's 3rd and 2. Give it everything you have. We've got to hold them!"

"Go in low, under the interference. We'll plug the holes. Let's go!"

The Colonels were so eager to stop the Harvard attack that a lineman jumped offside, giving the Crimson a first down on their own 41.

Tiny Maxwell shouted it out. "First down, Harvard!"

Chapin picked up 5 and Harvard had 2nd and 5 on its own 46. As the Crimson lined up, Army glanced down at Macomber's feet. The right end had his shoes pointing outward, and Army felt the play would come his way. Macomber indeed headed toward Army and turned, ready to haul in a pass from Jewett Johnson. Army cut in front of Macomber, timing his move perfectly, and picked off the toss, returning it to the 50 before he was tripped up. Another 5 yards was paced off for what was termed an illegal block, and the Colonels had the ball on the Harvard 45, first and 10.

Captain Armstrong identified with arrow, intercepting

Centre had stopped the mini-drive of the Crimson, and the tide really seemed to be turning in favor of the Colonels.

Many had felt that the Centre score would wake up Harvard and the boys from Cambridge would now begin to turn it on as they had the previous year.

The Crimson fans had great belief in the Harvard "System" which had produced such consistent results. Percy Haughton, the greatest coach in the history of Harvard  football, had introduced a systematic approach to produce winning teams, and Coach Robert Fisher had continued the evolution of what Haughton had begun in 1908.

The two men had a combined record of 93-7-7 going into the Centre game.

The famous sports writer, Grantland Rice, spoke of "The System" in his "Sportlight" column.

In the first place, just what is this mysterious ingredient that is known as the "Harvard System?"

It is the winning menu which Percy Haughton devised over 10 years ago, and which, because of its inherent soundness, had endured under the capable direction of Coach Robert Fisher.

Its main groups follows:

1.   The development of quarterback generalship to a high degree.

2.   The complete use of the quarterback for putting the generalship into effect upon the field, where the day's strategy may be almost his permanent assignment.

3.   Almost perfect use of every moment of practice for the development of fundamentals and team play. All waste has been removed.

4.   Special preparation for the kicking and passing game.

5.   A mixture of deception with power and speed.

6.   The type of preparation that doesn't over train, but leaves each man keen for the contest, rather than weary of work.

In this way, Harvard comes as close to getting 100% out of its material as any university in the land.

It is all perfect organization, psychologically and instructively in the soundest manner.

Individual Harvard material may at times be ordinary, but there have been no ordinary Harvard teams for over 10 years.

When Harvard is beaten, it is by a better team. She has developed no habit of beating herself.

Crimson fans had come to expect a victory when they entered the Stadium as their team had only suffered 4 losses in the Stadium since 1908- once to Yale, Jim Thorp's Carlisle, Tufts, and Brown. The fact that Centre had scored and was up 6-0 wasn't really that alarming, at least not yet.

With the penalty marked off, play resumed with Centre having 1st and 10 on its own 45. On the first play, with several defenders clutching at him, Bo evaded the rush and hit Terry Snowday over the middle. Snowday leaped high in the air and snagged the ball and fell to the ground on the 37. Red Roberts was shifted to fullback and plowed forward for 7 yards, easily getting the 1st down. The Crimson defenders never got Red to the ground, but the whistle was blown when they stopped his forward motion.

It was 1st down on the Harvard 30.

The small Centre contingent danced around the stands as the Centre "5" played a snappy march in short segments. Each time the little jazz band stopped, the Colonels' fans would shout, "Fight!" Then a couple more bars and, "Fight!"

Soon it appeared that half the Stadium crowd was joining in.


The Crimson team tried to regroup as time was called by Centre for a moment to get Frank Rubarth into the line, replacing Dick Gibson. It was third freshman that Tiny Thornhill and Uncle Charlie had used at the guard position. Bill Shadoan had started. He was replaced by Gibson, and now Rubarth reported in to Tiny Maxwell.

Frank Rubarth

Bo shouted out the signals above the roar of the crowd and a quick charging Friske Brown broke through from his right guard position and cut Bo down 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. A flag was thrown for offensive holding and the ball was marched all the way back to the 48.

It was now 2nd and 28. Bo tried to get the lost yardage back by going to the air. He ran right and pulled up and fired a pass toward Tom Bartlett, but Bradford cut in front of the receiver and intercepted the throw. He was brought down on his own 35, but another penalty on the Colonels, this time for 5 yards, resulted in the ball being placed on the Harvard 40-yard line, 1st and 10, Crimson.

Harvard now sent in Henry Grew to replace left guard Charles Hubbard, the coaches wanting fresh legs across from Frank Rubarth.

Centre played even more ferocious defense as Harvard tried to mount a drive. Gatwick was hit hard and could only pick up 2. Coburn fired toward a hole between his center and left guard. Rubarth and Kubale, two freshmen, brought him down after another hard­ earned 2 yards. Coburn took the snap again and Bill James rushed over from his right end position and tackled him after still another 2-yard gain.

It was 4th and 4. Centre had held, and held convincingly. The crowd now seemed to sense that they were seeing something special. The little band of Gold and White warriors was playing with emotion and confidence.

Harvard, mighty Harvard, had been stopped and momentum definitely seemed to be with the Colonels.

Later, Bo was quoted as saying, "We could just feel it. After we stopped them cold, after the interception and penalty, we felt we could keep them off the scoreboard. To a man, we just had that conviction that we were going to win."

Harvard lined up on its own 46 and Chapin got off an excellent punt. Centre wasn't able to make any yardage on the return, and the Colonels found themselves deep in their own territory, on the 17.

Vinton Chapin, star back, Harvard 

Army had been hit hard on the punt, and got up slowly with a pronounced limp. Time was called. The Centre captain tried to stay in the game, but he was having such pain in his hip that he couldn't continue.

The officials conferred with the Centre bench, and it was determined that Bo would be acting captain until, or if, Army could return.

Freshman Herb Covington, a fast 5'6" halfback weighing 155 lbs., from Mayfield, in Western Kentucky, also Bo's backup at quarterback, reported into the Centre lineup.

Herb Covington

Uncle Charlie had the choice of several experienced backs to send in for the injured Colonels' captain. However, he saw that Covington was already warming up as Army was being helped from the field.

Later, the Centre coach stated, "I picked Covington because I could see how much he wanted to go in. He was warming up and ready. It just seemed like the smart thing to do."

Covington's parents  had taken the Illinois Central Railroad from Mayfield to Louisville and then traveled to Danville via the Southern Railroad through Lexington to join the train carrying the team and fans to Boston. Covey's younger sister, Lucy, a senior at K.C.W preparatory ( high ) school in Danville, had accompanied her parents on the trip. 

Herb Covington was appearing in only his 3rd college game, and now he was in the most important contest that Centre had ever played. There were 50,000 people who watched him sprint out onto the field. No one was more nervous and excited than Lucy who had become somewhat of a celebrity in Boston since her arrival.  A photograph of her taken with one of the green Centre blankets wrapped around her, with the gold letters clearly spelling Centre, appeared in the Boston "Post." Lucy had her gloved arm raised and was smiling into the camera.

The caption read, "Who wouldn't play football for a maid like her?"

The "Post" also published a photograph of the Centre fans in that same edition. The Kentuckians were posed in front of the Lenox, and of course, Lucy was right in there with the crowd.

In front of the Lenox. Lucy Covington, center front, with blanket with Uncle Charlie on her right.

Not to be outdone, the Boston "Herald" had a composite photo, 4 columns wide, with the Centre eleven and Uncle Charlie at the top and Lucy, below, smiling and holding a spread-out Centre blanket. The heading above the picture was, "Centre's Lineup, and One of the Incentives."

Lucy had almost cheered herself hoarse since the game began. She stood nearly constantly, if jumping about can be called standing. Her voice was raspy, but sometimes she could get out a loud squeal.

With Army out, it would be up to her brother, "Herbie" to his sister, to pick up the slack.

Army hadn't run up a lot of impressive statistics. He'd only carried the ball a couple of times, neither time for significant yardage. His defense and intercepted pass had been important, but it was in his overall quiet, confident leadership where he excelled.

Army played without any desire for glory. It was always for the team. If a hole needed to be plugged on defense, Army would plug it. If a block needed to be made, Army would get it done.

Often it was said of the team's captain that he did more with less apparent effort than any man who had ever worn a Centre uniform.

Now, it was expecting a lot to send a freshman out into the big stadium and hope that he was up to the task of replacing Army Armstrong.

On the first play from Centre's own 17, Herb Covington stepped up to the plate. The little speedster streaked around the left end for 10 yards, just enough to pick up a 1st down. On the next play, Covington's number was called again and he raced around the opposite end for 8 before being tripped up.

Herb Covington, freshman speedster, bottom left with arrow

It was 2nd and 2, on the Colonels' 35. Lucy Covington squealed, danced, jumped and hugged anyone she could reach.

"Herbie! Herbie! Go, Herbie!"

A 3rd straight effort by "Herbie" picked up 1 yard. 

Third down and 1.

Bo called a play with a fake to Covington, but this time Bartlett took the ball and hurled himself at the Crimson defenders. The Centre fullback wasn't to be denied and got the yard with just inches to spare after the chains were brought out for measurement.

It was 1st and 10 near the Colonels' 38-yard line.

Bo brought his team out of the huddle, having observed that Harvard still seemed to be employing a spread-out defense, always continuing to protect against the possible pass. Bo lined up the Colonels in a passing formation but instead sent Tom Bartlett through the left side of the line, through a big hole opened by crunching blocks by Minos Gordy and Red Roberts.

Bartlett wasn't touched as he raced over the Colonels' 40, cut slightly left and crossed midfield, then avoided a Crimson defender with a slight shift to his right. It looked like he was going all the way to the goal when a last gasp, diving tackle by a Harvard defensive back brought the Owensboro, Kentucky native down on the Harvard 30.

The run had been good for 32 yards.

Tom Bartlett,  far right, dragged down on the Harvard 30 after a 32-yard sprint. Rubarth ( 9 ) Kubale ( 8 ) James ( 10 )

Covington picked up a quick 5 yards on the next play, and Centre had 2nd down on the 25.

Coach Fisher and the Harvard staff ran in some replacements. Their team had been on defense most of the 3rd quarter, and it was decided to get a couple of linemen replaced. Richard Field came in for left end Covington Janin, and Benont Lockwood relieved Philip Kunhardt.

( Remember the name Richard Field. He later plays a HUGE role in the outcome of the game. ) 

On the next play, Bo called one of the few trick plays of the afternoon for his team.

Again, there was speculation that Uncle Charlie may have called the play with Roscoe sending in the signal via a turn of the water bucket, but no one ever had any proof.

Bo took the center from Ed Kubale and Tom Bartlett faded out to the left flank. Bo hit Bartlett who never took another step but rather turned and faced downfield, spotting Terry Snowday 10 yards down on the right side. The Harvard secondary had momentarily headed toward Bartlett, expecting him to run after having caught the pass, and Snowday was left open.

Bartlett fired a bullet across the field. Snowday caught it and tucked it in safely and streaked toward the goal. Philip Coburn raced over from his halfback position, dove under Snowday, and brought him down on the 11.

Everyone was on their feet when Tiny Maxwell, again sounding like the title of the Ralph Paine novel, placed the ball a yard back from the 10-yard marker and shouted, "First down, Centre!"

The whistle blew to end the 3rd quarter with the ball resting on the 11.

Centre had totally dominated during the period. People were buzzing. How could this be happening? Centre wasn't expected to be able to play competitively with Harvard. The pre-game predictions had been that Harvard would win easily, and even be able to rest the starters in the second half, saving then for the upcoming Princeton game. But the Colonels were not only playing equally, they were somewhat manhandling the Crimson.

Harvard had never been able to get past Centre's 50 yard line in the entire 15 minutes. The Colonels had gained 139 yards during the quarter, Harvard, a mere 21.

Centre picked up 4 first downs. Harvard had but one, and that was aided by a penalty. But most importantly, Centre had scored, and after 45 minutes of play, it was 6-0, Colonels.

Again, the question was being asked, "Who are these guys, anyway?"

Howard said it was the greatest quarter of football he'd ever seen. Both teams fought with all of their might. There were no easy tackles. Even with all of the cheering going on, you could hear leather on leather popping as pads hit pads.

One thing that Howard said really stuck with me, and has to this day. Whenever a Colonel was tackled, a Harvard hand was there to help him off the ground.

Whenever a Harvard player was tackled, a Colonel was there to help him to his feet.

If someone was slow in getting up, the players on the other team wouldn't just stare off into space like most teams do when an opponent is injured. Instead, they'd gather around, as close as the refs would let them, hoping that the injury wasn't too serious.

When Army had to leave the game, several Harvard players came over as he was limping off the field and patted him on the back and told him how well he had played and hoped he'd be able to return. 

It was that kind of game, and both teams were made up of those kinds of guys.